Three Extremes is a trilogy of short horror films from three of
most celebrated directors and whose films are at the more extreme end of Asian
The first segment Dumplings from
Hong Kong director Fruit Chan is a
disturbing and gruesome tale about a middle aged actress whose husband is
having an affair with a younger woman. She visits seedy back street ‘doctors’
who prescribes her something that she is told will rejuvenate her and make her
more attractive to her wayward husband. The prescription is, wait for it and
get ready to double take, to eat chopped up human foetuses that have been
prepared as dumplings. This is probably the most sick and disgusting idea I’ve
ever seen in a film and didn’t blink for about a minute after it was revealed.
And if you think that is bad, the ending is worse! What adds to the already
horrific nature of the film is that the music used is more reminiscent of a
French romantic comedy that a sick Asian horror. The film is well acted and
directed and has a grimy and seedy look to it which works well. It is a
shocking and deeply disturbing film that I shall not forget in a hurry. The slurping, crunching noise alone is enough to put me off dumplings for life.
With Dumplings setting the tone, the second segment is Cut from visionary Korean director Park Chan-wook (Oldboy, Thirst). The story revolves around a film director and his wife who are kidnapped by a psychopathic extra from his films and forced to play his sadistic games. While not as upsetting as Dumplings, Cut is a deeply unsettling psychological horror with darkly comic undertones. Park is the master of suspense and uses is to great effect here. His use of light in early scenes is also superb. The film additionally features immaculate cinematography and a wonderful tracking shot in its opening scene. The story is twisted and features great acting from Lee Byung-hun (I Saw the Devil) and Lim Won-hie who brings an air of farce to his psychopathic, ogre character. The film looks beautiful and despite an ending which confused me is my favourite of the three.
The final segment is Box from acclaimed Japanese director Takashi Miike (Audition, 13 Assassins). His film is more subdued and sombre than the first two and much less frantic. Its pace is slower and feels more like a feature than a short, despite being only around 40 minutes long. The story is of an ex circus performer who is haunted by the ghost of her sister who she was accidentally responsible for killing as a child. As a child she was jealous of her father’s incestuous relationship with her twin and that caused her to lock her sister in box before a fire. That’s as far as I can go with the plot because I’m not totally sure what is real, a dream or imagined but it gets pretty weird! I was a bit too confused to enjoy it as much as the other two but it is beautifully shot and has an interesting idea behind it.
All three films are worth watching if you can stomach the more extreme end of modern cinema. All three are made by film makers who are masters of their craft and in the case of Park and Miike whose films I am familiar with give you a sneak peek at the sort of films they are making every year.