“This movie is like a roller-coaster!” That’s the tired phrase that critics sometimes use to describe American horror films. A scary movie might dip into dark territory, but the audience knows that it will eventually be lifted back to daylight, either through comic relief or with a happy ending. But some Asian horror, like this film, is more like a mine-shaft cart: You descend into the depths … and never come back up.
Three … Extremes is an anthology of eerie short films from three of Asia’s top directors: Hong Kong’s Fruit Chan, Korea’s Park Chan-wook, and Japan’s Takashi Miike. All three stories are gloomy and filled with a sense of foreboding. They are not particularly “scary,” but they do suck you in.
“Dumplings,” the first story, features what can only be described as a repugnant plot. But director Chan’s use of glossy photography and soothing piano music lulls you away from the horror of what you’re actually seeing — temporarily.
“Cut,” from director Park, is probably the least effective entry of the anthology. Its revenge theme is nothing new, but the film-studio setting is striking, and Park’s bungee-cord camera shots are flashy.
The last episode, “Box,” is a bit too artsy for my taste, but there are two images that could well give you nightmares. And the twist ending is unsettling, to say the least.
The shorts in Three … Extremes all have social themes — abortion, class warfare, “daddy issues” — but that isn’t what will keep you intrigued. You watch because you need to know what the hell is in those dumplings. And what will happen to the imprisoned director and his wife? And what is up with that mysterious sister?
In most American horror movies, bad things happen to good people. In Asian horror like Three … Extremes, bad things are the people. Grade: B+
Directors: Fruit Chan, Park Chan-wook, Takashi Miike Cast: Bai Ling, Lim Won-hee, Kyoko Hasegawa, Miriam Yeung, Lee Byung-hun, Atsuro Watabe Release: 2004
Watch the Trailer (click here)
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