Three Extremes

Dir: Fruit Chan, Park Chan-wook, Takashi Miike
Star: Miriam Yeung, Lee Byung-Hun, Lim Won-Hee, Kyoko Hasegawa

These three, entirely unconnected, stories form a horror anthology, that covers the three main sources of "Eastern horror": China, Korea and Japan in that order, but are a distinctly mixed bag. The first, Dumplings, sees an actress (Yeung), who is concerned about her fading looks, who hears of the rejuvenating power of dumplings made by a woman in a block of flats. It isn't long before the audience discovers exactly what goes into the food (think: Motel Hell), and things pretty much go downhill from there. The second, Cut, has a film director (Lee) taken hostage with his wife on a set by a disgruntled extra (Lee), who presents the director with a stark choice: kill the child sitting on the sofa, or watch his piano-playing spouse lose her fingers, one by one. The finale, Box, has a writer (Hasegawa) who is plagued by nightmares of her youth, when she and her sister performed as part of a magic act with their father, until tragedy intervenes. Or does it? Or is this just a product of her over-active artistic imagination?

Dumplings was also expanded into a feature of its own, but it's hard to see why. It's really a horror movie with a single element of horror, and once you've come to terms with that - creepy though it is - the film doesn't really have anything else to offer, despite some creepy actualization of that concept. Chan's lack of experience in the genre is likely the main problem here. Cut was the strongest of the three in my opinion: it poses some interesting questions about how far you would be prepared to go, to save someone you love (or maybe don't), and generates a fair degree of tension, even as if almost all takes place in a single location. Box is... just strange. We reached the end, and couldn't really be sure what we'd just seen. It didn't feel like one of Miike's more impressive efforts: he works best when there is some grounding in the real world, on which to base his story, and that isn't present here. Overall, only Cut lived up to expectations, and as "extremes" go, this doesn't.

[May 2010]

Cut-rate box
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