Three Extremes is a triptych of horror stories uniting three of East Asia’s most compelling directors, Japanese Cult Fave Takashi Miike (Audition, Ichi the Killer), Hong Kong’s Fruit Chan, and Korea’s award-winning Park Chan-Wook (Oldboy). And what a trip they are.
We start off this fun little adventure with Fruit Chan’s “Dumplings.” Qing (Miriam Yeung), an ex-starlet turned wife of a prominent rich man, is seeking the fountain of youth, and Aunt Mei (Bai Ling) supposedly can help her. Aunt Mei a former abortionist, cooks up a mean dumpling with a secret recipe for rejuvenation, but what is in her special dumplings with an unusual filling. This segment, which I felt was the weakest of the three, is probably not for the squeamish or the Catholic Church is a satirical piece in the same vein as Swift’s “A Modest Proposal.” It’s nicely photographed by Christopher Doyle, but the film drags on and is too obvious for my taste.
Next up is Park Chan-Wook’s “Cut.” Ryu Ji-Ho (Lee Byung-Hun) is a film director who returns home one night to find a stranger has tied his wife up like a marionette to the piano, keeping her alive and gagged for some gruesome torture. Also along for the ride is a kidnapped little girl, who sits bound and gagged on the couch. The Stranger offers Ryu a choice, to kill the child, or to watch his wife’s fingers being cut off, one by one every five minutes. The metronome is ticking while we wait to see if Ryu will give in to this madman’s choice or find another way out of his predicament. This is the best of the three, with Park Chan-Wook showing us once again that he is able to mix extreme tension, black humor and lots of blood into one hell of a flick.
And last, but certainly not least, my man Miike’s film “Box,” about a young author and former circus performer, Kyoko (Kyoko Hasegawa) seemingly haunted by the ghost of her twin sister, who died a mysterious and horrible death while practicing their act. Adding to Kyoko’s trauma, her editor (Atsuro Watabe) is a dead ringer for her old stepfather/ringmaster, who may have perished in the same “accident” that took her sister’s life. A very restrained Miike here, willing to let the story unfold as a surreal mix of waking and dreaming reality, slowly letting the story unfold to the final chilling climax. Miike, mostly known for making twisted tales of the macabre does a 180-degree turn and makes a calm, quiet film that is hauntingly beautiful and psychologically un-nerving.
Well two out of three ain’t bad, so I will give “Three… Extremes” a G for Good Job!
Originally Posted at FilmJerk.com on October 28th, 2005