Three Extremes, One Movie

In the last post I reviewed one of Asia’s most disturbing films. But Asia has been giving out horror classics for years. Most of the most popular titles come from the island nation of Japan, but China and Korea have their own lust for fake blood and loud screams.

The Asian world of horror perfectly comes together in the collaborative 2004 shock fest Three…Extremes directed by Fruit Chan, Chan-wook Park, and Takashi Miike. The hundred twenty-five minute run time is broken up into three short films, each directed by one of the three directors.

The first is Fruit Chan’s “Dumplings”.”Dumplings” is the tale of an aging woman. She mourns her lost youth and the husband that sleeps around with women much younger than her. Out of desperation she visits a mysterious young looking woman that makes a special sort of dumpling. The dumplings contain a secret ingredient that preserve her beauty and appear to reverse her aging process. However, the dumplings soon become the source of a good bit of suspicion. Our heroine begins getting ill, vomiting blood, having fainting spells, and her skin begins breaking out with red bumps. After investigation she discovers the source of the secret ingredient, which no force on earth could make me reveal!

After the credits roll on “Dumplings”, the next film begins: Chan-wook Park’s thriller “Cut”. The plot follows a Korean filmmaker on his way home from a shoot. He comes home to a horrific scene. He is tied to a chair, his wife is strapped to a piano with her fingers super-glued to the keys, and a grinning psychopath is looming over them both with a timer and an ax. As the film progresses we discover that the killer is an extra that has appeared in every one of the director’s films. He becomes obsessed with the director and begins stalking him. Finally, his deranged behavior culminates in the events of the film. Every five minutes the killer slices off one of the director’s wife’s fingers unless the director proves he is not a good man. The film builds and builds until it reaches another shocking end.

After the one-two punch of “Dumplings” and “Cut” the masterful director of Audition returns to finish the job with his slow-burning short “Box”. “Box” observes the life of a woman who as a child acted as a contortionist in a gypsy-style circus with her twin sister. The ringleader unfortunately had a pedophilic streak and began buying the sister gifts and giving her “special attention”. This inflames our protagonist, who traps her sister in her own contortionist box and leaves her as the theatre catches fire. As the film cuts between past and present (in which she is haunted by the ghost of her sister), we see how her guilt affects every aspect of her life. This leads her to the very spot where her sister died, and to an ending that will leave anyone speechless, it’s not shocking so much as unforgettable.

These three films work in perfect, beautiful, unison. Each working on its own and at the same time serving the entirety of the work. The three directors each understand what horror truly is to them and gives the audience a unique look at three different routes to the same emotional destination. They work together to deliver a vital and beautiful message: no matter where we call home, we all scream in the same language.

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