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Three…Extremes (2004)

November 10, 2009

VERDICT:
8/10 Sick Minds

Well, it sure lives up to its name.

Three…Extremes is a collection of three short Asian horror films by accomplished directors from China, Japan, and Korea. One’s about a woman who eats gross shit, another is about a good guy being forced to sin, and the last is about a girl in a box. I’ll elaborate in a minute.

It’s been a while since I went through my Asian horror phase, but thanks to a recent conversation with my co-worker on the subject, I figured it was about damn time I jumped back in and gave this movie a watch after having it on me Netflix queue for years now. Wasn’t expecting a whole lot from this, mostly because I’m usually not big on short films, but, man, I forgot how good J-horror (and apparently C-horror and K-horror) movies are.

Western directors really don’t make ’em like this; just look at all the bastardized J-horror remakes that have come out like gangbusters since The Ring in ’02. Not the most impressive track record.

Anyway, let’s get down to the…extremes.

First off, there’s Dumplings by Chinese director Fruit Chan (whose other efforts I’m completely unfamiliar with, and you’d think I’d have heard of someone named “Fruit” by now). The story here follows that of an aging actress trying to find the fountain of youth through the secret recipe in Bai Ling‘s dumplings. I leave it up to your imagination to figure out what the secret ingredient is, all I’ll say is that, unfortunately, you’re on the right track.

This is easily the most extreme entry of the bunch for a number of reasons. Part of it is the dumplings themselves, part of it is the effing sound of the woman savoring these things one by one, but mostly it’s because the woman knows damn well what she’s paying for and keeps on coming back for more. Taps into some pretty hairy shit in regards to the depths of vanity and the depth of the human soul. It’s the least impressive from a stylistic standpoint, but succeeds as the most horrifying of the three.

Next up is Cut by Park Chan-wook, director of Oldboy (which I really need to watch again, this time without those abysmal English dubs). This one’s about a nice guy movie director that gets kidnapped by a hard-knock extra from his films and is forced to choose between strangling a child he doesn’t know or having his wife’s fingers chopped off one by one every five minutes – the kicker being that his wife’s a pianist. Extreme on a different level, somewhat Saw-esque, but also goes into that whole depth of the human soul thing.

The great thing about this segment is that it’s actually really fun; well, not so much the finger-cutting, but everything else is a blast to watch. All the credit in this regard goes to director Chan-wook’s wild directing style and ability to maintain a lighthearted tone in a life or death situation like this. It gets comical and surprisingly funny at times, but it’s a welcome sense of humor that sets it apart from the otherwise grim contrast of the other directors’ segments. Might not be as extreme as Dumplings, but is arguably the most original.

And rounding out this trifecta of messed up shit is Box by Takashi Miike. This man’s name might have raised an “Oh, fuck” eyebrow for some of you out there, and rightly so. For those who don’t know Miike-san, he’s the crazy bastard behind such J-horror family favorites as Audition and Ichi the Killer (both of which I’ll get around to reviewing soon enough). And while Box doesn’t reach the same degree of brutal sadism that Miike’s name has become synonymous with, this was the only segment that really gave me chills as I inched away from the TV screen while reminding myself, “It’s just a movie.”

Box follows a reclusive woman trying to unlock the mystery behind a recurring nightmare of hers where she finds herself being buried alive while trapped in a box. I know, vague description, but that’s kind of the appeal. You’re not really sure what the hell is going on for a while, and I’m not really sure what the hell was going on by the end either, but that actually seems to be the norm with Miike’s movies. It’s weird, but you just gotta go with it. Regardless, it’s beautifully filmed and Miike does a great job of building up the tension without throwing in cheap scares to dull the overall effect. Really impressive and truly eerie throughout.

The thing I like most about Three…Extremes is that every segment succeeds on its own and they don’t need gimmicky commonalities to tie them all together, like in the recent Trick ‘r Treat for example. Despite their running times, they’re extremely effective as horror movies and the benefit of watching them in sequence is that it gives the audience a real appreciation for each director as a unique storyteller. Three…Extremes isn’t for the weak of heart, stomach, or mind, but if you’re looking for a horror movie that starts with a bang and keeps on firing off rounds right to very end, say hello to these three crazy bastards.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. November 10, 2009 4:11 pm

    Damn, another DVD that’s just sitting in my pile! Need to start beating you to these.

    Sounds good, Oldboy’s my favourite film OF ALL TIME (as Kanye would say) so looking forward to seeing that one particularly. Can’t really go wrong with the heavyweight directors!

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