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Three... Extremes (2004)

DVD Cover (Lions Gate)
Directors:
Fruit Chan Fruit Chan
Takashi Miike Takashi Miike
Chan-wook Park Chan-wook Park
Starring:
Bai Ling Bai Ling
Pauline Lau Pauline Lau
Tony Ka Fai Leung Tony Ka Fai Leung
Meme Tian Meme Tian
Miriam Chin Wah Yeung Miriam Chin Wah Yeung

6.6 / 10 - Overall Rating

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Genres: Horror, Horror Anthology, Psychological Thriller
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Review by Chad
Added: October 08, 2005
Three of Asia's finest directors each contribute a forty minute horror short in this anthology, and they certainly don't disappoint. For the uninitiated Americans who may not recognize these three names, let me put it like this... imagine if George Romero, Sam Raimi, and John Carpenter teamed up on one movie. Yes, that is how big this pairing is for the Asian cinema fans, and it's a collaboration that won't soon be forgotten. I'm going to break this review down into three sections, one for each of the included shorts. I'm basing my review off of the Hong Kong DVD release (Red Sun), so the upcoming theatrical release and American DVD may have a different order to the segments and may have edited some material out. Keep that in mind.

"Box" - Takashi Miike
The opening offering from this trilogy is a gorgeous piece of cinema, but it's certainly hell for this poor reviewer. By that, I mean that it's quite difficult to put my thoughts into words, and that I don't think that I can write a summary that will do it justice. You see, this is one of those movies where you can't merely say "so, here's what happens..." imagine trying to explain a film like Pulp Fiction to someone who hasn't seen it. Sure, you can give the gist of the storyline, but depending on how far you go with it, you'll either make the movie sound incredibly dull ("These two guys, they sit in a diner and talk! And one of them goes dancing!") or spoil the entire thing. It's a tricky situation to say the least.

So, I won't write my normal summary for this piece. However, I will say this: the segment involves ghosts, hauntings, a shady past, and one terrifying dream. Oh, and if you're expecting the typical long-haired little girl type of ghostly haunting, think again... this segment is way beyond that and is unlike anything that you have ever seen. I guarantee that.

The strength of this segment, in my eyes, is something that I would normally consider a weakness. Up until the end, things aren't explained and you're left wondering what is going on with these characters and why is this stuff happening. You see the reactions and you see bits and pieces of the storyline, but you can't put any of it together or make sense of anything up until all is revealed. At that moment of revelation, everything fits together like a puzzle and you're left with just one word escaping your mouth: "wow." I absolutely loved how everything was slowly revealed and how it all came together at the end, which is odd considering how much I normally hate that type of thing. This just goes to show how well Miike can tell a story, and it also goes to show why I will time and time again state that Miike is one of the best directors of our time.

Fans of Miike should know what to expect here, but for those who may be unfamiliar with his work (shame on you), the man is either insane or brilliant depending on your view. He has no problems dealing with taboo subjects that other directors wouldn't dare touch, he is a masterful storyteller, and he has an uncanny eye for detail. When you see the way that everything is set up, how everything is in place, and how everything looks so god-damned good, you truly realize that you're watching a master at work. Just watch that scene in the snow for an example... check out the usage of colors there, and then watch for the symbolism found in the other scenes as well as the subtle things that happen in the background.

"Dumplings" - Fruit Chan
The second offering comes from Fruit Chan, a man that I've heard a lot about and who has put out a number of critically-acclaimed movies... but up until now, I've never had a chance to see any of his work. His segment here is a shortened version of his full-length movie of the same name, and although I haven't seen the uncut version, the man definitely lives up to the hype. Dumplings tells the tale of a middle-aged lady that is starting to look and feel her age. She's getting small wrinkles, her face is getting flabby, and she desperately wants to restore that youthful look. So, when she hears about a lady that makes these special dumplings that will restore youth, she immediately heads over to her apartment to see if there's any truth behind the rumors. She soon finds out that there is indeed some truth behind them, but looking old is nothing compared to what's to come...

This one is a bit easier to explain than Miike's "Box", but it's still difficult in its own way. You see, there's a huge revelation in the middle of the segment, a revelation that I don't wish to spoil here. The second half of the piece revolves around that and the implications behind it, but explaining all of that is impossible without spoiling everything. I will say this about the storyline, however... if, like me, you think you know the twist prior to even watching the movie (yeah, some other descriptions of this piece kind of give it away), you may indeed be correct. However, there's so much more to the storyline than that, and it still manages to pull a shock out of even the most jaded of viewers. If you're easily shocked, you may want to take a bathroom break during this segment... it's definitely not for those with weak stomaches, and it takes the "Extreme" part of the title to heart. I've seen nearly everything when it comes to horror - the Faces of Death films, the Guinea Pig series, cannibals, zombies, and more bloodshed than the average person was ever meant to see. Nothing has turned my stomach quite like this little doozy did, and I honestly don't think that anything ever will.

"Cut" - Chan-Wook Park
The final entry is what many have already labeled as "the Korean Saw." The general premise of the movie is the same, but at the same time, it's completely different. You see, the movie revolves around a big-time director who arrives home from the set, only to find that there's a stranger in his house. He is knocked unconscious, and when he comes to, he finds that he is back at the movie set, he is tied to the wall, his wife is tied up in front of the piano, and that this stranger is laughing at him. The stranger fills him in on what's going on: the director has enough slack in the rope to reach the nearby couch where a young girl is sitting, but there's not enough slack in the rope to reach either his wife or this stranger. The director has to murder this six-year-old child, and if he doesn't, this stranger will chop off one of the pianist wife's fingers every five minutes. Who is this stranger and how will this man get out of this situation are the two key questions presenting themselves as the piece progresses.

The best is normally saved for last, and after watching the previous two segments, I didn't see how that could hold true with this film. But it did. Park weaves an almost Argento'ish tale of devious choices and the normal people that have to make them, and the best part of this segment is the neutral tones to these characters. While it seems pretty cut-and-dry at first, we soon find out that everyone involved has their flaws and that nobody is truly the victim here. Once again, it's hard to explain that statement without giving away too much information, but fans of Argento should know what I mean and will definitely appreciate this route of storytelling. Fans of the aforementioned Saw will also enjoy this one, as it does turn out to be pretty similar in style. However, don't let that discourage you if you thought Saw was a dud... while it does have the similarities, it is also its own movie and definitely has its own strengths.

For the Americans out there, Lions Gate will be giving this movie a limited theatrical run right around Halloween. Fans of horror films should definitely plop down the admission price, but I say that with a bit of a warning. If you've never seen any Asian horror films, this may not be the best one to whet your appetite on. None of these three stories are straight-forward, "here's what happened" segments, and each requires a bit of thought and a lot of attention from the viewer. Those who are experienced with Asian horror should know the style by now, but for those who haven't ventured outside of Hollywood's mindless offerings may be in for a bit of a shock when they have to use that pulp inside of their skulls. If you can deal with that, either get down to your local theater on the 28th or pick up one of the DVD releases... something this good doesn't come along that often. 9/10.
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Cryptorchild #1: Cryptorchild - added 12/12/2006, 10:08 PM
I think Chan-Wook Park's Cut stole the show, at least it did for me. That's my favorite film out of the 3. It was just insane. Takashi Miike showed he could direct a gripping story and stunning imagery without the shock or the violence he's typically known for which I really liked. And while Dumplings isn't my favorite out of the 3, it's by no means bad. I really enjoyed it and was kind of sickened by it at the same time. I really enjoyed this project and I think it's great.
grain of sand #2: grain of sand - added 01/04/2007, 06:03 AM
I recently bought this in a 2 disc dvd set and the second disc has the full feature of "dumplings" and I have to say I'm very impressed with Chan's work, as it is my first experience with it, it'll definitely have the most jaded a little awkward feeling in the gut.

buuut, I enjoyed Chan-Wook Park's story the most, the camera work is so great, and the violence and techniques used to create it are so cool..

ill definitely be giving this more viewing..
danimigra #3: danimigra - added 03/15/2008, 06:10 PM
Just awesome... dumplings is the best so far..!!! 10/10
Bloodwork #4: Bloodwork - added 04/27/2009, 01:27 AM
I watched this the other day. Man was I dissapointed. "Cut" was a big let down as I expected big things from it. But no. And no, I didn't really understand the ending. Did he lose his mind? I just don't get it. And I hate not getting the ending of movies.

After seeing Takashi Miike's short story "Imprint" I was eager to view "Box". Again, dissapointed. Maybe I expected too much from Mr. Miike, but this just left me feeling let down.

The only story here worth my time was "Dumplings". A nice creepy little film, although very twisted. At least it was better than "Cut" and "Box".

I like international cinema, although I feel asian horror films in particular are greatly overratted. This was no exception. Too confusing for my "pulp" im afraid, but I always feel that if you can't put a decent conclusion on the end of a story what is the point of telling a story at all? It doesn't come across as "artistic" as much as it does crap.

2.5/10
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