As I said in my review for Three... Extremes, Lions Gate, in a horse before the cart moment, decided to release the anthology horror film Three (2002) on DVD after the semi-sequel Three... Extremes. Thus Three has been retilted Three... Extremes 2. It is one of those strange marketing maneuvers that makes zero sense to me and remains one of the (numerous) reasons I'll never get hired by a movie distribution company. If I was there the day somebody pitched the idea to retitle Three as a sequel film, I'd no doubt forget my filter and blurt out, ‟What, are you fucking stupid?‟ and promptly get handed my walking papers.
But retitling is just a minor mark that doesn't affect the content of the film. With Asian horror being on a serious hot streak, it was a natural idea to produce a collaborative effort with a cross pollination of directors from the different countries that helped add to the spark. In Three's case we have Korea's Ji-woon Kim, Thailind's Nonzee Nimibutr, and Hong Kong's Peter Chan.
First up is ‟Memories‟ by Kim Ji-woon. A husband (Hye-su Kim) is suffering from a dissociative disorder because his wife suddenly went missing. He cannot remember much about her or why she disappeared and his complex is furthered by disturbing visions of her, all of them gruesome. Meanwhile, the wife (Bo-seok Jeong) is lost, wandering around the town in a daze, amnesiac?, trying to find her way back home.
Kim Ji-woon is a fantastic director of commercial films, heavy in style, with a distinctly black sensibility when it comes to violence and humor. He is responsible for the likes of The Quiet Family, The Foul King, A Tale of Two Sisters, and A Bittersweet Life. Cinematography by Hong Kyung-Pyo, who lensed Tae Guk Gi, Il Mare, Save the Green Planet. I know my description is scant, but this story is mainly a mysterious, abstract, visual affair, lots of creepy imagery, jump cuts, missing frames, and a solid nightmarish tone. It is pretty easy to figure out, and, by the end, all is revealed as to why each spouse has become dislodged from their memories- and the reason ain't pretty.
Next comes ‟The Wheel‟ by Nonzee Nimibutr. In Thai culture, Hun Lakorn Lek is a sacred performance art involving puppets. Because the puppets represent deities, they are considered both valuable and potentially dangerous because if they are handled by anyone other than a master they have the power to curse and cause misfortune. The gravely ill Master Tao feels his puppets have gone bad, and his wife and child die while trying to drown his puppets in the river. He then burns up in a fire, and the greedy Master Tong (Pongsanart Vinsiri) digs the puppets out of the rubble. It doesnt take long before some deadly bizarre occurrences begin to happen, and Master Tong and Master Tao's apprentice Gaan (Suwinit Panjamawat) must try to stop the powerful curse.
Nonzee Nimibutr is one of the emerging talents from Thailand. It is a cinema scene that has gotten an increase in international attention over the last few years. He has shown his nack for horror and melodrama in films like Nag-Nak and Jan Dara. Having said all that, I really didn't like this segment. It has everything wrong, rudimentary direction, amateurish acting, and a very weak concept that is sloppily scripted to boot. I assume if you are Thai, the story might have some extra cultural significance and creeps. But for unfamiliar viewers, it is just your standard cursed doll fare and not even the cheesy fun kind like Child's Play or Trilogy of Terror where you get to see a puppet run around trying to hack people at the ankles. Instead , the villagers keep trying to ditch the dolls and people keep going nutters and getting voodooed to death because a little girl keeps digging the dolls up. Hell, put em' on a high shelf or something.
Finally, we come to ‟Going Home‟ by Peter Chan. Single father and police officer Chan (Eric Tsang) and his young son move into a virtually abandoned apartment building. When his son goes missing, Chan searches through the empty apartments and investigates the only other resident Mr. Yu (Leon Lai), who promptly takes Chan hostage. In an act of desperate, demented romance, Mr Yu has successfully preserved his wife's (Euginia Yuan) dead body by soaking it in Chinese herbs, awaiting the time when she will, somehow, perhaps by sheer force of will, miraculously return to life. Mr. Yu claims to have no knowledge of Chan's missing son, and Chan is forced to try to reason with the madman so he can get released and find his boy.
Peter Chan is an odd choice for the Hong Kong representative in a horror anthology because he is best known for light fare, comedies and romantic films like Comrades: A Love Story and He Ain't Heavy, He's My Father. In a strange case that would be repeated in Three... Extremes ‟Dumplings‟, this segment was conceived as a full film with cinematography by Christopher Doyle (2046, In the Mood for Love, Hero) and then edited down into a shorter running time for the anthology.
‟Going Home‟ was my favorite story of the three. At first it appears like the little boy is going to be the star, but then veteran character actor Eric Tsang gets to take over. Mr Yu is another part of long line of bespeckled loner creeps in HK cinema, the role very well could have been intended for Anthony Wong. The fine line the film has you questioning is wether Mr. Yu is a well-intentioned, heartfelt creep or a felonious, deadly creep. The story has plenty of spooky bits and, surprisingly, plenty of heart. It works on both levels, be it the eerieness of the rows and rows of open doors leading to the vacant apartments, or poor Officer Chan, chained up, trying to reason with a man who has lost all reason.
The DVD: Lions Gate.
Picture: Anamorphic Widescreen. The image varies from segment to segment, country to country. ‟Memories‟ looks the slickest of the three, ‟Going Home‟ the most lush and moody, while ‟The Wheel‟ is mostly murky and the least impressive technically. From a transfer standpoint, I did not detect any faults, no compression problems or glitches like ghosting, aliasing, or edge enhancement. Really the only problems seemed to be source/production-based, like the softness and dull contrast of the photography in ‟The Wheel.‟
Sound: 5.1 or 2.0, Korean, Thai, and Cantonese languages. Optional English or Spanish subtitles. Solid sound. Of course, being horror, you need to have some solid atmospherics and score to give your viewer some shivers and shocks. The disc delivers some good surround and, while not exactly beefy or jaw-dropping, it certainly does a fine job. Again, the only problems seemed to be source-based, like some occasionally weak levels on the dialogue for ‟Going Home‟ and ‟The Wheel.‟ The subtitles were excellent.
Extras: Trailers. A little over ten minutes of Lions Gate trailers, an even mix of Asian horror acquisitions and direct-to-video horrors.
Conclusion: Well, in terms of extras, it is disappointing Lions Gate didn't put as much effort into the release of Three/3 Extremes Vol 2 as they did Three... Extremes, but at least buyers/renters will get good audio and visual quality. Like nearly all anthology films, some stories work better than others, but two out of three ain't bad. The first story is okay, the second a disaster, and the third is memorable, giving the cumulative effect of seeing a fair film. Asian horror fans should certainly consider picking it up either as a purchase or a solid weekend rental.