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International - // Unrated // November 7, 2003 // Region 0
List Price: $12.99 [Buy now and save at Yesasia]

Review by Mike Long | posted June 8, 2005 | E-mail the Author
(NOTE: This DVD is an Hong Kong import, but it is an All-Region coded DVD, and therefore will work on most players.)

The Movie

Writers such as Edgar Allan Poe, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and H.P. Lovecraft became known for their terror-filled short stories, and thus this medium was transferred to film, as horror anthology movies have been a staple of the genre for years. From 1945's Dead of Night through the Amicus films of the 1960s and '70s up to modern classics such as Creepshow, horror films made up of brief stories have certainly left there mark on movie history. But don't think that this format is limited to the Western world. Three is a film which brings together three Asian directors to try their hand at making concise, yet scary films. The results are promising, but decidedly mixed.

Unlike many Western horror anthologies, Three features no wrap-around story or host, nor is there any overriding theme running through the stories, save for the fact that they deal with death.

"Memories" from South Korea, written and directed by Ji-woon Kim -- A husband (Bo-Seok Jeong) is grieving over the sudden disappearance of his wife (Hye-su Kim). Despite support from a doctor and his relatives, the man is still shaken by his wife's absence. Meanwhile, the wife awakens on a strange street and apparently has no memory of how she got there. As the wife attempts to make her way home, the husband is tormented by a series of disturbing images.

"Memories" comes from A Tale of Two Sisters director Ji-woon Kim and as with that popular film it shows a lot of promise and a keen ability to create visuals with are creepy on a nearly sub-conscious level. But "Memories" has the same flaw as Ji-woon Kim's feature film -- it tips its hat far too early. I was certainly intrigued by the look and overall presence of "Memories", but as I figured out the ending early on, I also found myself getting bored. He does a fantastic job of using the barren suburban landscape to drive home the point and the emotions of the story, but the short film is too long and the shock ending feels like a dull thud.

"The Wheel" from Thailand, directed by Nonzee Nimibutr, written by Nitas Singhamat -- "For generations, a select few skilled in the art of hun lakorn lek have staged magical performances using elaborate puppets, telling stories of gods, heroes and demons. Theirs is a privileged life, one of wealth and recognition. In contrast, on the crowded streets, the khon performers hide behind masks to tell the same stories, yet their life is one of poverty and lowly social status. And so the khon performer covets the precious puppets, despite the dreaded rumour that each puppet is protected by a curse, and only its rightful owner can bring it to life..."

And thus begins "The Wheel", where khon practitioner Master Tong (Pongsanart Vinsiri) brings his grieving wife to the home of Master Tao (Komgrich Yuttiyong) so that she may attend the funeral of her sister. Hun lakorn lek performer Tao has fallen ill fallen the tragic accident which took the lives of Nuan (Kanyavae Chatiawaipreacha) and Dang (Tinnapob Seeweesriruth). Tao's assitant, Gaan (Suwinit Panjamawat) informs Tong that Master Tao has been raving about a curse, and that many members of the troupe have left. However, Tong doesn't believe in any curse, even after a tragic event befalls the community. Tong decides to destroy Tao's precious puppets and promote the khon discipline. This leads to many mysterious occurrences and ghostly figures inhabiting the village.

One of the dangers of watching foreign films is that things can often get lost in translation and "The Wheel" is a perfect example. As a Westerner, when I saw the words "puppets" and "cursed" together, I thought that I was in for a "doll on a rampage" good time. But, "The Wheel" is far more interested in exploring moods, as it examines the jealously and guilt between the characters. Some ghosts do appear, but the short is never scary. The realization of the title is well-done and the film is beautifully shot, but "The Wheel" comes across as something that would be more at home in a collection of art-house films.

"Going Home" from Hong Kong, directed by Peter Ho-Sun Chan, written by Matt Chow, Jo Jo Yuet-Chun Hui -- Police officer Chan Wai (Eric Tsang) and his son Cheung (Ting-Fung Li) move into a dilapidated apartment complex which is scheduled to be demolished. Cheung notices a mysterious little girl (Tsz-Wing Lau) wandering the halls of the building and often follows her. While looking for his son one day, Wai meets the only other tenant in the building, Yu (Leon Lai), a nervous man who claims to be caring for his wife (Eugenia Yuan), a woman who appears to be dead.

Of the three segments in Three, "Going Home" feels the most like a horror film, as it features an undeniably creepy setting and the kind of visuals that we usually associate with Asian horror. And while the story throws us the requisite twist ending that is a staple of anthologies, the real twist comes in the middle when the story veers away from being a simple haunting and becomes a study of love and devotion driven to severe extremes. The problem with "Going Home" is that it's too subtle for its own good. The ending is quite shocking, but Chan has decided to present it in an understated way which may confuse some viewers. (As for the very, very end...well I'm not sure what that's about.)


Three comes to DVD courtesy of Panorama Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 1.85:1 but the transfer IS NOT enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. In this day and age, this is practically unacceptable, especially when one considers that most modern DVDs from Asia show a high level of technical quality. For what it's worth, the image is sharp and clear, showing basically no grain and few defects from the source material. The colors look good and there is no oversatuation of the hues. The picture's brightness is well-balanced for the most part, although things get a bit dark during "The Wheel". On the whole, the video isn't bad, but the fact that it isn't anamorphic is truly disappointing.


The DVD contains the original Cantonese/Thai/Korean soundtrack for Three presented in a Dolby Digital 5.1 mix. For the most part, this track sounds very good, as the dialogue is clear and audible, and there are no signs of distortion. The audio really comes to life during "The Wheel" as the thunderstorm sound effects fill the surround speakers and give the subwoofer a thorough workout. However, those used to the bone-rattling booms of the current spate of DTS releases from Asia may be let down.


The only extra on this DVD are biographies for the three directors. These bio are presented in both English and Chinese. Oddly, there are English words scattered throughout the Chinese text that do not appear in the English translations.

While Three isn't a total failure, it is a disappointment. The gathering of these three directors had the potential to produce great things, but instead we get two mediocre stories and one which feels out of place. Those looking for the shocks associated with Ringu or Ju-on will be disappointed by the low-key stories presented here. Patient viewers will find something to like in "Memories" and "Going Home".






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