The generally reliable Tartan Asia Extreme collection this
time brings us three separate and unconnected tales of horror,
each lasting around forty minutes. Three Extremes showcases
the talents of three well-known East Asian directors: Park
Chan-Wook, who brought us Lady
Vengeance, only recently released on DVD; Miike
Takashi, veteran of the disturbing Audition
and the acclaimed Visitor
Q; and Fruit Chan, director of the full movie
version of Dumplings.
kick-off with the shortened release of Dumplings (Chan)
which contains specially shot new footage as well as that
used in the full film. In this one, a female ex-TV star seeks
to regain her youth and the affections of her disinterested
husband. Over a period of time she visits an unorthodox doctor
(who is pretty close to being a witch doctor woman) who works
from home and claims her dumplings are the answer to eternal
youth (yeah, that's what I thought!). However, in this case
Japanese dumplings are finely-chopped meat in cooked dough
bags. She claims to have a secret ingredient. When the patient
displays dissatisfaction at the slowness of the transformation,
the doctor proposes a speciality. When she learns that she
would be eating an aborted foetus from a schoolgirl the patient
is horrified, but soon returns desperate for results.
tackles the taboo subject matter of cannibalism and the lengths
someone will go to in order to recapture their youth. There
is even an added twist at the end. Using an everyday object
or event and turning it into something to be feared is often
effective, but is this case the horror element is not violence
or the unknown but rather the realisation of its origin.
Cut (Chan-Wook) a film director is assaulted in his
home and wakes up on the film set of his house, bound by an
elaborate elastic construction. His wife is tied using a multitude
of rope cords between the walls and the piano, her fingers
are superglued to the keys. It materialises that the captor
is a film extra who has always been treated well by the director.
It's anathema to him that a rich person can also be nice,
and he is determined to reveal the dark side of the director's
personality by cutting off his wife's fingers and trying to
make him kill a little girl.
This is a bizarre one, to say the least. The structure is
similar to that of Funny
Games, which I reviewed recently. Only in this
one there's a motive (however small and crazy) for the psychological
and physical torture, whereas there was none at all in the
aforementioned film. The twist at the conclusion to Cut
seems pretty nonsensical to me, but I can understand why it
was done. It certainly doesn't detract from an eminently watchable
In the final segment, Box (Takashi), a woman has a
recurring nightmare about being buried alive in a small box.
A back story shows her and her twin sister as little girls
who dance as a carnival act. The culmination of their performance
has them, as contortionists, fold themselves into small boxes
which are then padlocked as part of a disappearing extension
to the show. The showman, their guardian, appears to favour
her sister over her, praising her act and even gifting her
a necklace. When her sister is practising her act, jealousy
overcomes her and she can't resist locking her in the box.
But there is a disaster and a fire erupts, burning down the
marquee. She is seen running away. Ever since that time she
has been plagued by apparitions of her dead sister. Now she
receives an anonymous letter inviting her back to the scene
of the tragedy.
is easily the best of the three. The pace is slow in places
and lighteningly quick in others, and there's more atmosphere
created in the scenes. Takashi cleverly places the viewer
in an uneasy limbo of never quite knowing what is real and
what is a dream right until the end when it becomes clear.
And, yes, there's a twist at the end.
hour-long Making of Documentary concentrates on each
segment separately, but edits them all together, when I would
have much preferred to have selected each from the menus.
On the whole though, an experiment which works quite well
by marketing more directors and actors.