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Three...Extremes (DTS Version)

International - Yesasia.com // Unrated // October 26, 2004 // Region 3
List Price: $14.99 [Buy now and save at Yesasia]

Review by Mike Long | posted June 9, 2005 | E-mail the Author
[NOTE: This is a review of a Region 3/NTSC DVD. This DVD may not be playable on your DVD player. Please check to see that your DVD player can play DVDs encoded for Region 3/NTSC prior to purchasing this title.]




The Movie



The Asian horror anthology Three garnered attention throughout the world and played several film festivals. Thus, it's not surprising that a sequel, named Three...Extremes, was released some two years later. Once again, three directors from various countries have submitted novella-like films to create a trilogy of terror (if you will). As with the first film, the quality of the entries varies wildly, but one thing is certain -- the stories here certainly are more "extreme" than their predecessors.




"The Box" from Japan, directed by Takashi Miike, written by Haruko Fukushima -- Kyoko (Kyoko Hasegawa) is a reclusive author who barely responds to her editor (Atsuro Watabe). As a child, Kyoko had been part of a ballet/contortionist act with her twin sister Shoko (Yuu Suzuki -- the young Kyoko is played by Mai Suzuki), which culminated with the two being locked in very small boxes. Their father (?) (also played by Asturo Watabe), showers Shoko with attention and gifts, leading Kyoko to commit a very desperate act. Her guilt still plagues her in adulthood, as she is tormented by nightmares in which she is wrapped in plastic and then buried in a small box.




Japanese madman Miike brings his twisted visions to a truncated format, but the results are no more disturbing or confusing than usual. "The Box" contains some truly bizarre ideas and the demise of Shoko should get a reaction from even the most jaded audience member. And yet the rest of the piece is a conundrum of symbolism gone awry. Kyoko's experiences shift from dreams to reality to flashbacks and back to dreams until the viewer has no idea which part of the story is "actually" happening. The ending presents a very shocking image, but once again, "what does it mean?". Most of this piece will be open to interpretation by the viewer, and that's fine, but it feels as if Miike and writer Fukushima didn't know what to do with their great premise.




"Dumplings" from Hong Kong, directed by Fruit Chan, written by Lilian Lee -- Aging actress Quing Li (Miriam Yeung) wants to regain her youthful appearance so that she can impress her husband, Sije Li (Tony Leung Ka Fai). She visits Mei (Bai Ling), whose dumplings are famous for their rejuvenating powers. Even after Li learns of the appalling ingredients in the dumplings, she presses on, determined to look young again. Of course, such narcissism comes with a very high price.




If "Dumplings" does one thing correctly, it's that it put the "extreme" into Three...Extremes. The story (which was cut down from a feature length film which was reviewed here ) doesn't follow the classic formula of revealing the contents of the dumplings at the end. The information is given to us fairly early. What the movie does do is continue to up the ante and become progressively more disgusting and revolting. "Dumplings" does bring us one final twist which will take a second to sink in and is truly a punch to the gut. While the film is effective in its mission, it also has the air of a group of adolescents attempting to gross one another out. The movie is interesting in that it features Bai Ling, an actress who is familiar to both Eastern and Western audiences.




"Cut" from Korea, directed and written by Chan-wook Park -- A horror film director (Byung-hun Lee) is abducted and awakens on the set of his latest film (which has been designed to look exactly like his house). He is shocked to see his pianist wife (Hye-jeong Kang) strapped to a piano with a series of intricate ropes resembling a marionette's strings. They have been taken hostage by an actor (Lin-won Hee) who reveals that he's been an extra in all of the director's films and envy's the director's opulent life. The actor reveals that he will torture the director's wife, unless the director agrees to kill a child.




Through films such as Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance and Oldboy, Chan-wook Park has demonstrated himself to be a master of kidnapping and revenge films. He is able to condense this talent with "Cut" and has created a suspenseful little yarn. The story is very simple and to the point, and the secrets which are revealed are the story progresses feel natural and unrushed. The plot also takes some nice twists, considering the fact that the action never leaves the one room set. However, there is one major plot twist which is easy to see coming. My only complaint with "Cut" is that it's too long. As the torment and torture wears on, it begins to be too much. The viewer begins to see that things can only end badly for most involved and they reach the point where they just want everyone's misery to end. The production design and cinematography here are top-notch.




Video



Three...Extremes comes to DVD courtesy of Mega Star Video Distribution. The film has been letterboxed at 1.85:1 and the transfer is enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. The film flows like an anthology, but each segment is treated as a separate title on the DVD. The image varies a bit from story to story, but overall the video quality is very good, with "Cut" looking the best as the colors really leap off of the screen with that one. Grain is kept to a minimum, as is artifacting. The image is quite clear for the most part, and there is no intrusive video noise.




Audio



The DVD features the film's original audio track in both a Dolby Digital EX format, or a DTS-ES format. Both tracks deliver clear dialogue and sound effects. Each story contains a nice mixture of stereo effects and surround sound effects. The bass response on both tracks is good as well, most notably during the climaxes of "The Box" and "Cut". While both tracks are equally acceptable, the DTS-ES track is somewhat sharper and produces better bass effects.




Extras



There are no extras on this DVD.






Three...Extremes is a film which truly lives up to its title. All three stories are very interesting, but none can be considered a classic. (Although "Dumplings" will most likely take on an urban legend-type appeal for some.) The film is better than its predecessor, although it feels as if these were three random shorts that were thrown together as opposed to an organized project. The stories here represent a nice cross-section of just how creepy, gross, shocking, and disturbing Asian horror can be.

C O N T E N T

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