Friday, February 3, 2012

3 Extremes - A Fun Introduction to Asian Horror

So I have a confession to make - I haven't watched a lot of Japanese Horror. I admit, I'm kinda scared because some of screen shots I've seen online are quite frightening. Also, the American remakes of The Ring and The Grudge are pretty creepy, so I'm sure the original material is even worse. I'm always complaining there isn't enough scare and thrill at the movie theatres, so why not visit the foreign films I've been avoiding. And what better way than watching a little horror anthology titled 3 Extremes.

As the title suggests, this movie is composed of three stories. Now I may be cheating because only one story is Japanese, but if gives a definite cross-section of Asian horror cinema:

1. Dumplings
- This Chinese movie is directed by Fruit Chan. When you get steamed dumplings from the Chinese restaurant, they always taste so good. But have you ever wondered what kind of meat they're really stuffed with? Well, when a beautiful but aging woman is desperate for eternal youth, she's willing to try any miracle cure - Even if it means consuming dumplings filled with dead baby fetuses.

2. Cut
- This South Korean movie is directed by Chan-wook Park. You know that Green Day song, Nice Guys Finish Last? This is truly the case when an adored movie director is kept hostage in his house by one of his psychopath extras. Under the pressure of a ticking clock, the director has two choices of getting out of the situation: Strangle a little girl to death or watch his wife's fingers get chopped off one by one.

3. Box
- This Japanese movie is directed by Takashi Miike. Carnies are scary, but watching little Japanesee contortionist twins perform their act is even scarier. Haunted with memories of locking and burning her sister in tight and compact box, is the grown woman suffering from horrific nightmares or is she really being haunted by her sister's spirit?

Of the three films, my favorite was Dumplings. The story was compelling yet horrific. Watching the woman eat the dumplings was very disturbing and I cringed as her transformation came with a price.

I've previously seen Park's work in Old Boy. Although the story isn't as strong as Dumplings, seeing the decomposition of a man is one of Park's specialties. Mixed with a deranged humor, the other thing I appreciated was the set design. With disproportionate walls, checkered-tiled floors, and a demented piano death trap, it reminded me of something from a Tim Burton film.

Now the film I expected the most scare from was Takashi Miike's. Although I enjoy (yet cover my eyes in disgust) watching Ichi the Killer or Sukiyaki Western Django (featuring Tarantino), Box was my least favorite segment. Don't get me wrong, some of the scenes were pretty scary and the sounds were excruciating to the ear, but the film was more symbolic than entertaining. However, I'm still going to give Audition a try...

So on Death List Five, 3 Extremes ranks #3.

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