Fans of Asian horror will be titillated, if not actually aroused, by the films comprising Three... Extremes. Three major directors of Asian films—Hong Kong's Fruit Chan, South Korea's Chan-wook Park, and Japan's Takashi Miike—each contribute a piece for inclusion in this mini-anthology. The results, while perhaps only somewhat extreme, nonetheless make for a largely enjoyable, occasionally shocking collection.
"Dumplings" from Fruit Chan (Made in Hong Kong) combines manic hyper-realism with a genuinely unsettling plot. The main character is a modern-day witch doctor who sells dumplings guaranteed to restore beauty and youthfulness to even the haggiest woman. The catch? The dumplings are made from fetuses. Underlying this satisfyingly gruesome narrative is a sly commentary on the demands and price of beauty: As the candy-colored surface of the film contains some horrific images, so is the beauty of its characters preserved by horrific means.
"Cut," from Chan-wook Park (Oldboy), hinges on a rather banal mise en scène—when a famous director is kidnapped by a deranged fan, he's held hostage on the set of his own movie. The director's wife has also been kidnapped, and the fan promises to cut off one of her fingers every few minutes unless the director kills a small girl. Despite the heavy-handed setup, restless camera work and breathless pacing create an irresistible momentum. The result is a self-conscious stylishness that contrasts wickedly with the violence of the storyline.
After the riotous colors of "Dumpling" and "Cut", the snowy landscape and gloomy buildings of the usually visually outrageous Takashi Miike's (Gozu, Ichi the Killer) "Box" just seems bland. The desolate set is populated with a listless rundown of horror movie clichés that have lost the power to disturb—or even mildly unsettle. Light on dialogue and heavy on claustrophobic atmosphere, "Box" follows a beautiful woman haunted by nightmares from her past. Easily the weakest piece, the hackneyed melancholy of "Box" is an unwelcome contrast to the frenetic—er, "extreme" energy of "Dumpling" and "Cut." But hey—two out of three ain't bad.