"'Three...Extremes' is a fanboys wet dream of a team-up of directors..."
Three... Extremes (2004)
Director: Takashi Miike, Park Chan-Wook, Fruit Chan
Writer: Haruko Fukushima, Lilian Lee, Chan-wook Park
Cast: Byung-hun Lee, Hye-jeong Kang, Jung-ah Yum, Mitsuru Akaboshi, Ling Bai, Lee Jun Goo, Kyoko Hasegawa, Pauline Lau, Mi Mi Lee, Tony Leung Ka Fai
Running Time: 118 Min.
Plot: An Asian cross-cultural trilogy of horror films from accomplished indie directors.
Availability: This title is available at HKflix.com
RAGING GAIJIN'S REVIEW: This horror anthology from Hong Kong, South Korea, and Japan is no mere attempt to capitalize on the Asian horror craze. The talent behind the camera is top-notch, including Fruit Chan, Chan Wook-Park, and Takashi Miike, as well as renowned cinematographer Christopher Doyle; and there is nary a long-haired ghost in sight. These stories favor very real human emotions like desperation and obsession over any overtly supernatural happenings. The result is a beautifully-realized and haunting film that should appeal to fans of all three filmmakers involved.
The first segment of this terrifying triptych (sorry, I couldn't resist) is "Dumplings", directed by Hong Kong filmmaker. While many reviews pegged this film as the clear favorite, and it was even expanded into a full-length feature, I have to say this story was the one I least enjoyed. It's interesting, there's no doubt about that, and it is filled with the kind of gross-out horror movie moments that make you wince and gag. Christopher Doyle's photography is gorgeous, as usual, and the acting is superb, including the luminous Bai Ling. However, the story is actually hurt at times by its disgusting nature, as well as its ambiguous resolution. I'm interested in seeing how Chan expanded the short into a 90-minute movie because the story is satisfying in its own right, but compared to what comes later in "Three...Extremes", "Dumplings" is not the most appetizing dish on the menu (couldn't resist that either).
Next up is "Cut" from "Oldboy" darling Chan Wook-Park. While I've gone on record saying that "Oldboy" failed to live up the hype that surrounded it, I'm no playa-hata: "JSA" is one of my favorite South Korean films. I'm happy to report that Chan Wook-Park's segment is superb; from its opening moments as a film-within-a-film, Park plays with the audience's notions of reality, revealing that things are not always what they seem, not only on the silver screen but in real life. Park also manages to balance absurd and comedic moments with instances of extreme violence, in a way that I don't think I've seen since Mr. Blonde started talking into that severed ear. Park's story is gripping, disturbing, and gorgeous to look at; "Oldboy" lovers will find much to enjoy here. While I'm not sure if I enjoyed the sudden dive into the supernatural that the ending makes, "Cut" would probably be my favorite segment of the film…
That is, if Takashi Miike's "Box" wasn't so damn brilliant. While both the first two segments are slightly hampered by abrupt turns into supernatural territory and opaque resolutions, from the beginning Miike presents "Box" as a lucid and dream-like story. At times the film feels almost like an expressionist piece, as Miike uses stylized costumes and unrealistic sets, such as an isolated circus tent in the middle of a barren expanse of snow. Miike utilizes a color palette of gloomy blues and grays to convey a sense of incredible loneliness. The visuals of Japan during the winter are incredibly evocative, as are the make-up and set design. Miike's use of sound is particularly effective as well; the director relies on ambient noises and perfectly timed sound effects that often startle the audience.
Miike's "Box" is a haunting tale of regret and obsession that lingers in the memory long after the film has ended. While "Dumplings" and "Cut" certainly provide plenty of shocks and jolts, its Miike's wintry tale of memory, loss, and despair that truly makes "Three...Extremes" a satisfying whole. Perhaps it is surprising that Miike, once the master of ‘shock cinema', would create the most restrained piece in an anthology of horror films; however, it is just further proof that the man is a truly artist and cannot be easily labeled.
Regardless of which director you prefer from this talented trio, "Three…Extremes" is a fun movie to watch. Really, much of the fun in watching it is just picking your favorite from the three segments. Beyond that, it's a chance to witness three masters of their craft present stories of the macabre that will shock, disturb, and haunt you. "Three…Extremes" is highly recommended for those with even the slightest interest in Asian horror. This is truly one of the best films the genre has to offer.
RAGING GAIJIN'S RATING: 8/10
SLAXOR'S REVIEW: "Three...Extremes" is a fanboys wet dream of a team-up of directors from the three powerhouse countries in the Far East getting together to each compose a horror short.
The A-list set of directors are Takashi Miike, Fruit Chan and Chan-wook Park. Not much is needed to be said about these fine directors so lets get right to it.
Box: Takashi Miike - The best
way to break down Box easily, is basically if HBO's Tales From the Crypt
television show ever let Miike do an episode this would be it. Fans of
the director should be more then pleased with Miike's calm and subtle approach
to the short. For instance a scene plays out over the course of about 5
minutes with little to no sound that is the playing out of a performance
at a side show in the movie and it is just the stuff of genius.
Dumplings: Fruit Chan
- Probably the weakest link in the collaboration is this short. A lot of
the things are ridiculously overdone like the chewing of the dumplings.
Christopher Doyle lends his talent for the cinematography but you wouldn't
even know it without me telling you because the other two shorts simply
blow Dumplings away in that department.
Cut: Park Chan-Wook - After being probably one of the few people on the planet who found themselves disappointed with Oldboy (loved the soundtrack) and Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance, Cut was a breath of fresh air and a renewal in my faith in Park's work.The short plays like a mixture of Sympathy and Oldboy so I guess I would say Park took alot of the elements from the prior two films and finally made them work as a whole in this short film.
The Oldboy elements are the slickness and the direction. The Sympathy element would have to be the "Let's not send ANYONE home happy" ending. What Park manages to do aside from these two things is set an incredible mood and tone to the film and then pull the rug out from under you while your enwrapped in all these great things he's come up with.
Overall if I had to pick a favorite
it would be tuff but I would probably go with Box because I love the look,
tone and just basically everything about the short. Cut was equally as
good but theirs a song and dance number that goes on juuuust a bit too
long for my tastes. Dumplings is good for what it is but some of the horror
moments of the film feel so cheap and I don't mean that in regards to the
Overall one of the best things to come out in the slow and mostly disappointing year of 04.
SLAXOR'S RATING: 10/10