Review by Derrick Carter
Running Time: 2 hours 6 minutes
MPAA Rating: R for Strong Disturbing Violent Content, some involving Abortion and Torture, and for Sexuality and Language
(Cantonese/Mandarin/Japanese/Korean with English subtitles)
Directed by: Fruit Chan, Park Chan-Wook & Takashi Miike
Written by: Lilian Lee, Park Chan-Wook, Bun Saikou & Haruko Fukushima
Starring: Miriam Yeung, Bai Ling, Lee Byung-Hun, Im Won-Hee, Kang Hye-Jung, Kyoko Hasegawa & Atsuro Watabe
3 EXTREMES is an Asian horror anthology that unites three accomplished directors in their attempt to scare the shit out of audiences across the globe. Though I haven’t seen any of Fruit Chan’s other work, Takashi Miike and Park Chan-Wook are both big directors in the international filmmaking scene. 3 EXTREMES contains a trio of stories that mostly live up to the title’s promise of being extreme. Though the stories range in quality (much like pretty much every single anthology movie ever made), the end result is a fun, gruesome, and disturbing piece of genre storytelling. Much like the other anthology reviews on my blog, I’ll be grading 3 EXTREMES’s individual segments before giving my thoughts on the film as a whole.
DUMPLINGS: Hong Kong director Fruit Chan crafts this anthology’s most disgusting story. Aging actress Li (Miriam Yeung) wishes to rejuvenate her once-youthful looks. In an effort to do this, Li decides to chow down on unique cuisine from strange Aunt Mei (Bai Ling). It turns out that Mei’s delicious dumplings are doing the trick for Li’s looks, but they do have a nasty secret ingredient. This story’s major plot twist is obvious from the get-go, but that doesn’t exactly prepare you for truly stomach-churning moments and dialogue that you never thought/hoped you’d hear in any film ever. To make matters even more disturbing, there’s apparently some sick real-life truth to his horrifying tale. Some plot elements are a tad rushed, but Fruit Chan attempted to remedy this by creating a feature-length version of this story (simply titled DUMPLINGS and I’ll eventually get around to covering that movie). In its shortened form, this is gross and highly effective stuff. B+
CUT: 3 EXTREME’s best segment comes from South Korean director Chan Wook-Park. A big film director (Lee Byung-Hun) and his wife (Kang Hye-Jung) are taken captive by a psychotic extra (Im Won-Hee) who wishes to make the “good” director commit an evil deed. Almost the entirety of this story takes place on a movie set and features an escalating conversation between two people. Chan Wook-Park milks tons of tension out of this twisted set up, but also injects spurts of insanely dark humor. Won-Hee’s character is ridiculously funny during certain moments, while also flying off the bloody deep end in a matter of seconds. CUT’s conclusion is bound to split people, but I personally loved the dark manner in which this story closed out. While DUMPLINGS was disturbing and disgusting, CUT is the most stylish and entertaining part of this film. A
BOX: Of all the directors here, one would expect legendary Japanese filmmaker Takashi Miike to deliver the most twisted, messed up, and insane story of the bunch. Imagine the disappointment when Miike creates a tale that starts with eerie build-up and strange nightmare logic, but falters in its clichéd conclusion. This third/final story follows novelist Kyoko (Kyoko Hasegawa) as she tries to come to terms with her traumatizing past. As nightmares plague her, Kyoko discovers that her sanity may be shattering or something more sinister is afoot. There are beautifully shot scenes and creepy images, but BOX falters under tedious pacing and an eye-rollingly clichéd ending. The end result is the most disappointing tale of the three. B-
Like almost every other horror anthology in existence, 3 EXTREMES has high points and low spots. However, this triple-threat Asian horror anthology succeeds in being gross, fun, and otherworldly. Each segment offers its own individual strengths and weaknesses. The best of the bunch arriving with Chan Wook-Park’s excellent CUT and the worst being Takashi Miike’s underwhelming BOX. DUMPLINGS sits in the middle of the 3 EXTREMES totem pole, by being both effectively disgusting and deeply disturbing. If you’re into Asian horror that doesn’t involve twitchy long-haired ghost girls and don’t mind stomach-churning content, then 3 EXTREMES will likely satisfy you…at least for 2/3rds of its running time.