#190 -- Three...Extremes (2004)

Rating: 4 / 5
Directors: Fruit Chan, Park Chan-Wook, Takashi Miike

It'll be no surprise that I enjoyed this movie. I've yet to find an Asian horror movie that I didn't like, and this is no different. It's a nice little anthology, with three thirty-minute (ish) short films from different regions that will frighten and disturb. The last of the three is called Box, and was directed by Takashi Miike. I think every horror fan knows his name, and it's no wonder why. He directed one of my favorite movies of all time (One Missed Call) as well as Ichi the Killer, and Master's of Horror episode Imprint.The other directors I had not heard of before, but they seem pretty promising. While most Asian horror is terrifying, this one seems to just aim for disturbing. And it does not fail to deliver. These shorts will make you question morality, humanity, and sanity. The first you'll feel bad for enjoying, the second you'll feel bad for relating to, and the third....you'll just feel bad. I think I can now honestly say that Takashi Miike is one of my favorite directors, and I'm looking forward to checking out some more from Fruit Chan and Park Chan-Wook.

Dumplings--This one comes from China. An ex-actress, Mrs. Li, with an unfaithful husband is feeling pretty lousy about herself. She's getting older, her skin is starting to sag, and she just doesn't feel beautiful anymore. She feels that, if she looked the way she did when she was on television, it will save her marriage and make her husband love her again. Mrs. Li seeks out a woman called Aunt Mei, who is rumored to make the best dumplings in town. They're expensive, but they're well worth the price. These dumplings are supposed to rejuvenate and restore youth and beauty. Aunt Mei says that she is her best advertisement, as she is much older than she looks. Sounds too good to be true, right? Well, the problem is with the ingredients used to make the dumplings: aborted fetuses. Most of the fetuses are girls, because, as Aunt Mei says herself, boys are never aborted in China. So imagine both Mrs. Li and Aunt Mei's excitement when a young girl, carrying her own father's child, seeks out Aunt Mei for the abortion of her son. Only that's not enough for Mrs. Li. When she discovers she is pregnant, she figures that her own child would provide more nourishment and rejuvenation than someone else's, and she will stop at nothing to remain young and beautiful.

Dumplings is actually available as a full length movie, as well, and I believe it is available on Netflix if you're interested. I am definitely interested, because I understand that it's a lot more complicated than this shorter version. It goes deeper into Mrs. Lei's background, and it has an alternative ending that sounds much more disturbing than the one they went with here.

Cut--From South Korea--A brilliant director finds himself in a sticky situation when an extra from his movies abducts him and his wife. This guy is angry because, even though he's been in all of his movies, the director cannot remember him. This kid grew up poor with a bastard for a father, and he turned into a bastard himself. But the director grew up rich, stayed rich, and he's a good man. He's jealous, and he doesn't think it's fair that this man should have everything. So he's seeking to prove that the director isn't as good a man as he seems. He wants a confession: a confession of some kind of sin that will prove to him that this man is not perfect. He has him tied up and rigged to something (it never really went into what it was, or what it could do), and he had his wife's arms tied up and glued to her piano. Every once in a while he would cut off one of her fingers, which is devastating for a pianist. There was also a child tied up in the room with them. The director was to kill the child if he wanted to save his and his wife's lives. Some dark-ish secrets did come out, but they really weren't all that bad. The ending kind of confused me--I wasn't sure if the director had gone crazy, or if things just weren't as they seemed at first. But I still enjoyed this one too.

Box--From Japan--This one is definitely filmed beautifully, and it looks better than the rest. It's about a young novelist named Kyoko. When she was a child, she and her sister Shoko were a part of a little circus act. They were contortionists, and they would curl up into the little boxes, their partner (an older man) would lock the boxes up and re-open them only to find big bouquets of flowers. The girls were equally good at what they did, but Shoko got all the recognition and rewards for it. Kyoko was jealous. One night, she locked Shoko up in one of the boxes. I think she planned to pretend to be her sister for a while, just to see how the recognition felt. But their partner showed up, and there was a struggle that ended in a fire. Shoko was stuck in the box, and she died that night. Now, all grown up, Kyoko has nightmares about being locked in a tiny box and buried. At some points, it's hard to tell if it's a dream, or if her worst nightmares are coming true. While this one is beautiful, and directed by Mr. Miike, I wouldn't say it's the best of the three.

To me, Dumplings was the best of the bunch. It was the most disturbing to me, and it really made me question things. First of all, I am 100% against abortion, so it was disturbing right from the get-go. But to think of someone actually devouring aborted fetuses? There can't be anything worse. And the fact that she did it for the vainest of reasons just really irked me. And then she ate her own child to boot. So this one was definitely the most disturbing. We know that there are people out there who are obsessed with their image, so it wouldn't be very hard for me to imagine someone actually doing something like this. I think that makes it even more disturbing, if that were possible.

Overall, this was a very enjoyable anthology, with three wonderful short films directed by some very talented men.

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