Three...Extremes (2) review by The Grim Ringler

Three Extremes

Three Extremes 2

I give fair warning with this review. The people that love Asian horror will love this film and whatever I have to say is pretty irrelevant. So I will spare you some time, dear fan – yes, it’s weird, yes it’s gruesome, yes it’s gross, and yes it’s beautiful to behold. Ok, now that the nerds are gone, we can get back to business. Myself, I am a fan of films in general and don’t really slavishly follow any world bias. Sure, I watch more American films but that’s because they are easier to track down and generally speak more to me personally. But as you can see by my reviews, I love a lot of Asian and world films. The two friends I spoke with before watching this raved about it. I had never had an interest in the film, despite the solid directors on hand – Chan Wook-Park, Takashi Miike, Fruit Chan – but they thought so highly of the film I felt compelled to see what the what was about. I will totally admit that I didn’t appreciate this film nearly as much as my friends, but that isn’t to say I disliked the film at all. What I say, before I review the film, is that with Three Extremes you have three very good filmmakers producing three very good films that could each have been a feature and done well. These are intense, fascinating films, and for those interested in the cutting edge of horror, this one you will want to track down.

The first of the three films is done by Takashi Miike and tells the story of a beautiful young woman who cloaks herself in the pained visions of her regretful past. Having been part of a team of sisters who performed for a man in a circus it was jealous that broke their partnership apart. Both still young girls at the time, one sister was favored by the circus master and so the other twin decided she wanted to be the favorite and locked her sister in one of the small boxes they were put into during their act. When caught doing this by the circus master the girl accidentally sets the tent and her sister’s box ablaze and the sister perishes, trapped within the box and burned alive. And since that day the surviving sister has been haunted by visions of the dead girl and by dreams of that event and of being buried alive. It would seem that her past is reaching out to her present to drag her back, and, refusing to live with the guilt, she is happy to return to that stage, if but to apologize to her sister and the circus master for their deaths. But just as it seems this is a tale of revenge from the grave, the story shifts, our perspective widens, and we see that this is not a story of one, but of two sisters, and a shared fate that has yet to be revealed.

The second and easily most nauseatingly gross story is from Fruit Chan and is about some special dumplings that are made by a witch-woman and that seem to hold a means to remain young long after you have passed your youth. A beautiful actress who has already lost the lustful eye of her husband and is on the verge of losing the roles she most cherishes turns to this witch-woman and her special dumplings in order to hold onto her youth as long as possible. The dumplings are a huge success and she suddenly has her husband’s attention and the attention of her friends and colleagues again. But when she learns what it is that makes the dumplings so very special she refuses to partake of them anymore, not wanting to be part of such a diabolical operation. But when her age starts to show she must return, now knowing the secret ingredient, and now more than happy to eat the dumplings, so long as she can stay young. But, as with everything, there is a price, and she must ask herself if she is willing to pay the price demanded for looking young for so long, or whether she will learn to be happy as she is.

The third and final episode is from Chan Wook-Park and is a tale of awful revenge. A film director and his wife are taken hostage by a man who claims to know the director but who the director cannot place but who hates him and the life he has made for himself and that he is such a good person. This captor has strapped the director’s wife to the piano she loves so to play and threatens to cut off one finger every five minutes unless the director can prove to the man that he is not a good person. And what plays out is an awful emotional torture in which every last lie and secret is revealed to the unimpressed ears of the captor. So, when all cards have been played, it becomes for the director a case of kill or be killed. He must murder a young child the captor has brought and tied down or he must allow his wife’s fingers to be removed one by one until he decides he’d prefer to just kill her instead. But can this good man become a killer in order to save his life and that of his wife?

The problem I had with the film, overall, was that it is far more interested in creating mood than it is in creating logic or allowing you to easily follow the narrative. I grant you that these are gorgeous films and it’s a shame that more people are not witnessing the works of these talented directors, but again, the narratives are awfully sparse on explanation. The endings to the first and last films are highly debatable and the middle, and strongest of the lot goes on just hair too long, thus ruining what could have been a brilliantly eerie ending. It’s weird, the person I watched these with adored the films and thought they were very well made and very creepy. And me, I just thought they were too vague. And to a degree this is my fault as I am coming at the films as an American and so I need a film to do certain things for me to buy into that world, or to catch what it all means, but these films are less about what it all means and more about how it all feels. More moment than big picture. So my rating is purely personal. Beautifully made, wonderfully acted, and gripping, most horror fans and fans of Asian horror will eat this film up. Me, it was an enjoyable distraction but nothing I’d buy.

Great film if you want dream-like Asian horror. Good if you prefer your movies to be a bit more grounded in the Whys and Hows.




7 out of 10 Jackasses
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