Three ...Extremes 2

Starring: Hye-Su Kim, Sunwinit Panjamawat and Leon Lai
Tartan Asia Extreme
RRP: 19.99
Certificate: 18
Available 25 September 2006

To follow on from the first Three Extremes release, we have another Tartan Asia Extreme collection of three horror film shorts. Again, these are separate and unconnected, showcasing the talents of a further three directors: Kim Ji-Woon from South Korea, Nonzee Nimibutr from Thailand, and Peter Ho-Sun Chan of Hong Kong (who brought us the acclaimed horror film A Tale of Two Sisters).

In Memories (Ji-Woon), a woman regains consciousness on the street with no inkling of her identity and recent movements. Meanwhile, her husband sits at home with friends and relatives, waiting for news. Similarly, he has no idea where she is or why she left. While the woman wanders the streets, regaining through flashbacks just enough memory to recall where she should be, her husband is drawn to the boot of his own car, where a dismembered body is discovered in a large holdall.

Although this short runs to only 38 minutes, you get the distinct feeling it could have been comfortably told in half the time. It takes an age to get going, and then further frustrates by dragging its heels through a predictable plot. The concept is good, the performances are solid, if lethargic, but the pacing is incredibly slow, and it tries to borrow too heavily from The Ring in style. I have a problem with the unlikely premise of both husband and wife separately and simultaneously suffering amnesia, even if the woman is dead.

The Wheel (Nimibutr) follows the realisation of a curse. When a Puppet Master dies it is said that the puppets are imbued with the spirit of their master, and that they go with him. If anyone tries to prevent this happening they are cursed to suffer a painful death. Instructions are left to drown the puppets, but instead it is those undertaking the task who are drowned. When a teacher at a theatrical troupe tries to steal the valuable puppets for himself, a catalogue of disasters befalls the entire troupe.

With very few special effects to talk of; only deft camera work and lighting, and an abundance of weird noises from the soundtrack to keep you on edge - this is a much more effective tale of greed and disrespect. Although there's a lot of white-faced ghosts in Japanese horror (particularly young women), I couldn't help being reminded of the little boy in The Grudge when the two drowned children make a brief appearance. There's a nice twist at the end of this one which, you might remember, was a recurrent plot device in the first Three Extremes.

In Going Home (Ho-Sun Chan), a policeman moves into a tenement building due for demolition with his young son. The boy is left to his own devices for much of the time when his father is working. There is only one other apartment occupied. A strange man, his paralysed wife and their young daughter keep to themselves, but the little boy is terrified of the girl for no apparent reason. After being cornered into talking to her, the boy goes missing. His policeman father bursts in on the other tenant, to demand what he has done with his son. What he finds is the strange man caring constantly for his dead wife, insistent that she will soon awaken.

Now we're talking. This one is worth the money alone; it's sheer quality merely highlights further the shortcomings of the first two tales. There's an awful lot crammed into the short running time, but it never feels rushed. Performances are powerful and characterisation strong. This one has everything. It's creepy, it's sad, and conversely it's also strangely uplifting. Plot strands are uncovered a tantalising piece at a time, and revelations are both surprising and sensible (not simply senseless eye candy). Going Home is this disc's salvation, and gains a extra point because of it.

Unfortunately, there's no Making Of documentary this time. It would have been nice to have viewed behind the scenes on Chang's contribution.

Ty Power

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