Saturday, May 7, 2011

Review: Three Extremes

Here we have an anthology horror flick brought to us by three different and extraordinary talented Asian directors. First we have ’Dumplings’ by Fruit Chan representing Hong Kong. Next we have 'Cut' by Park Chan-wook hailing from South Korea. Finally we have 'Box' by the brilliant Takashi Miike out of Japan. The film runs in at just about two hours, which as you'll see, was plenty of time for each segment to develop thoroughly and tell their horrifying tales in bloody fashion. Three Extremes is a movie that lives up to its namesake in every way. Extremely frightening, bloody, and strange as you shall see.

*Some Spoilers Below*

                   Ummm this dumpling looks......strange...and fleshy. Yummy

Let us start at the beginning of course. 'Dumplings' from Fruit Chan. How to describe this one? Hmmmmm. Well, if you have an aversion to food and horror, you may want to skip to the next segment. Here is the tale of the rich and former actress Connie (Tian Meme). She is starting to feel her looks are fading and she sees her husband is seeking comfort elsewhere. In order to get her youthful looks and husband’s affection back, she'll do whatever it takes. And I do mean whatever. She hears tell tale of a woman named Mei (Bai Ling) who makes 'special' dumplings that can takes years off your looks. So off she goes to visit Aunt Mei (as she is apparently called) in what appears to be the poor part of town. I can never tell in China. Sorry. After some brief conversation about how to make 'good' dumplings, she reluctantly agrees to eat them without really knowing what's actually in them. Not the best idea is it? After a couple more beauty sessions, Connie soon finds out that Mei has her own special ingredient to add to the dumplings and things take a bizarre and horrifying turn.

                             Aunt Mei showing off some dough handling skills.

The acting is pretty decent all around here, but really Bai Ling (Mei) is really the shining star. She exudes charisma and sensuality, with just a dash of craziness for good measure. I must say I'm not the biggest fan of food and gore either, although the director did a good job of not just focusing on that particular gross aspect entirely. There are some scenes that make you cringe, such as the sounds of bones crunching and unholy bloody vagina's. I know, scary huh? There was also one laughable love scene between Connie and her husband. It involves water in the'll just have to watch and see. Overall I liked the subject matter, story, and gore, but it was definitely the weakest segment for me. Make your own conclusions ultimately. Interestingly though, Fruit Chan released a 90 minute uncut version of the segement. I haven't seen it, but it could fill in some gaps and questions I had.

                                            Fingers need a choppin'

Next up is 'Cut'. As the name implies, there is plenty of that going on in this segment. This tale is that of a famous and wealthy director played here very nicely by Lee Byung-hun. But for all of his wealth and fame he is still a very nice and down to earth guy. He seems to have it all......but does he? After another hard days work, he shows up back home to get some rest. Well that isn't going to happen because there is a deranged man that wants to have some words with him. The director and his lovely wife are captured by this weirdo, brought back to the studio lot, and subdued in some quite elaborate ways. There is also a random little girl tied up as well, but that is a whole other thing all together. So this hilariously awesome psycho turns out to be some disgruntled extra that has worked on all of the directors movies, yet the director still has no effing clue who he is. He soon tells the director that for every five minutes he doesn't get the answers he wants he's going to cut off one of his wife’s fingers. By the way all of her fingers are super glued to her piano. That much easier to cut off. Oh yes, the blood will flow. Any way, he also gives the director the alternate option of killing the little girl tied up instead and this will horror can all be ended. Will such a nice guy be able to do such a horrible thing and is he really so good after all? Check it out and see. You will be pleasantly surprised.

  You might lose some fingers but rest assured you'll keep that hairdo. Torture enough.

I must say that this segment was my favorite by far. It really had it all. Great acting, blood 'o plenty and an interesting plot. The standout here though has to be the crazy and disgruntled extra played by Lim Won-hee. His mix of physical comedy and serious psycho calm brought a whole new depth to an otherwise generic character plot. Mention must go to Lee Byung-hun though as well. His character arc from nice to crazy is very well acted. The director Park Chan-wook managed to capture a surrealism and dream-like quality to this segment that entrances you and doesn't let go. The blood and gore wasn't overdone here. It was used in all of the right spots and I must say I was quite impressed by the practical special effects. Very nicely done.

                           I'm not sure where one ends and the other begins.

And last but not least we have 'Box' from beautifully insane director Takashi Miike. I must say this one is the hardest to describe properly. We have a young writer name Kyoko (Kyoko Hasegawa) who is having strange dreams / visions of her young sister Shoko and a masked man named Yoshii. In this segment you will see everything from strange tiny boxes, burnt corpses, creepy dead girls, midgets, Siamese twins, and contortionists. Yeah, you heard me right. Really that's as far as I'm going to go with this one. Sorry. One must really see it first hand it for their own interpretation. Yes, it's that strange. I do feel like I'm somewhat coping out on this segment review, but I'm not even sure what I just watched!!

                                             Why hello there! I see you........

Now don't get me wrong, I really liked this segment. My second favorite in fact. And I definitely love pretty much all of what Miike does. His movies always have a very strange dream like / hallucinogenic state to them that really suck you in and let me tell you this segment is no exception. The acting is good, the story while very strange, is strangely compelling. At Miike's direction we are shown a masterful, artistic, and haunting story. While it's probably the least 'horror' filled segment, it does have a very creepy vibe to it. More akin to a ghost story than anything else, while actually not being a ghost story. Again, well done, but ultimately I found it a little jumbled and strange. Just watch it!

I really miss horror anthology movies. I grew up with the Creepshows and Tales from the Darkside movies and I loved them. Three Extremes brings me back to those times, and I hope it brings you back as well. While all three segments are very well done and have their own distinct flavors of horror and gore, they all still share a somewhat dream-like quality to them. I'm not sure if that was planned or just coincidence. Either way it just serves to enhance the overall surreal experience of watching this film. I've said it before and I'll say it again. If you want well done horror movies, we must turn our heads East ever and ever increasingly. I would definitely recommend this film and I hope to see many more like it in the near future. 4/5 skulls.

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