Three... Extremes (Hong Kong, Japan, and South Korea) - (Color, 2004)
Director(s): Fruit Chan, Chan-wook Park, and Takashi Miike
MPAA Rating: R [Hong Kong: CAT III]
Approx. 125 min.
Z-rating: 8.5 out of 10 stars
This film is an Asian horror anthology comprised of three short segments by three different directors from three different countries. (Each creating their own vision of what true horror is) Apparently this film is a sequel to the movie Three (2002) where three lesser known directors attempted a collaboration. (Strangely enough, that film was released here as the sequel Three... Extremes II)
The first segment of this film is called "Dumplings" and is directed by Hong Kong filmmaker, Fruit Chan. I'm not sure what this guy's horror credentials are but the only other film that I've seen by this guy was Heart of the Dragon, which stars Jackie Chan as a cop who has to look after his mentally challenged brother played by Sammo Hung. (who also co-directs) In any case, his segment tells of a beautiful actress (Miriam Yeung Chin-Wah) who wishes to retain her youth and seeks the help of a woman that makes special dumplings. These dumplings are said to have an age reversing effect, however they contain a special ingredient that might be a little... tough to choke down. (Har gow of youth anyone?) This film received a full length 90 minute theatrical release in 2006. Effectively disturbing to say the least, this film is guaranteed to drop a few jaws... even if you've already guessed what the secret ingredient is.
Next up, from South Korea, is director Park Chan-wook's segment entitled "Cut". Probably best known for his Vengeance Trilogy, which are an undeniably AMAZING set of revenge films, Park Chan-wook brings the nasty and shows the world what South Korea's all about. This segment follows a film director, played by Byung-hun Lee, (who was also Storm Shadow, the white ninja, in G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra) and his wife as they're being held captive by one of the extras in his films. Forced to play some sick game, the director is given the choice to strangle a child to death or one of his wife's fingers will be chopped off every five minutes. Bound and restrained by what looks to be elastic, he is given enough freedom to move about without being able to get too far. Very stylishly shot, some of the more disturbing scenes had violence that was implied instead of shown in explicit gory detail. (i.e. While the wife's fingers are glued down to the keys of the piano, and one of the five minute intervals pass, the psychotic extra walks off-screen with the axe and smashes it down into the piano keys. The excruciating screams of the director's wife can be heard muffled through her gag as her bloody wedding ring, now loose due to the lack of a finger, rolls across the floor)
Finally, last but not least, we have Takashi Miike's segment "Box" that hails all the way from Japan. First off, I have to touch a little on Takashi Miike... the rabid dog of Japanese cinema. Known for pushing the envelope on censorship as far as it will go, Miike has directed some of the strangest, most bizarre, perverse, and violent films ever to come out of Japan. (Yet, oddly enough, the guy also has some family-friendly films under his belt as well. Go figure.) The Showtime series, Masters of Horror, was supposedly created to provide safe haven for horror movie directors to express a sense of creative freedom with more 'laxed restrictions on violent and sexual content. However, despite all that, Showtime deemed Takashi Miike's episode Imprint too "disturbing" for the network to air. (Such a reputation cannot be ignored, you GOTTA love the guy!!!) I've already recommended two of his films before for WTF?! Wednesdays due to the bizarre nature of his films. Visitor Q was the first film that I recommended from Miike, the other being Gozu. These are two of my favorite movies to put on just to shock and disturb people. Both films have been a major hit almost every time I've put them on. Now, back to his segment. "Box" is about a young woman that keeps having a recurring nightmare about being wrapped in a plastic sheet, put into a box, and buried alive in the snow. She goes in search of her long lost sister but what she uncovers is even stranger than reality. We soon come to find that the two sisters were formerly twin contortionists performing for some bizarro Japanese circus.
Gore: Multiple aborted fetuses are shown in the segment "Dumplings" as well as the old coat hanger abortion scene at the end. All of the blood from "Cut" was great, one guy actually get a chunk of his throat torn out and the blood that just GUSHES from this open wound was incredibly convincing. There isn't much violence or gore in "Box" surprisingly but Asian films tend to be a lot less visceral than American horror in general. There's a lot of blood if anything but guts, not so much.
Awesome: to the MAX!!!! This is an incredible collaborative effort by three amazing directors to prove that true horror doesn't have any language barriers or cultural boundaries... we all fear the same things as human beings. One thing this film does make abundantly clear though is that we all have different ways of depicting our fears and perhaps our Asian brothers are just a breath of fresh air from the usual blood and guts splatterfests that we're used to here. Overall, this film was absolutely AMAZING because they really aren't three separate movies but 3-in-1. So even though I broke the review down into each segment, I highly recommend this film in its entirety. This is definitely one to rent and play at your Halloween party, there's no doubt that it will be a smash hit once everyone settles in to watch it.