After seeing so many insipid Asian horror films lately, I was greatly rewarded by 3 Extremes. It’s an anthology of three short horror stories, each with different directors, Fruit Chan from Hong Kong, Park Chan Wook from South Korea, and Takashi Miike from Japan.
It's also a follow-up to the less successful 3 Memories, made in 2002. Confusingly this trio of ghost stories is about to be released on DVD posing as a sequel, retitled 3 Extremes Vol 2. Anyhow, it’s strange that three different Asian countries should be represented together, but that’s the nature of the West’s perception of Asian horror, I guess.
The first story in 3 Extremes is called "Box", Takashi Miike’s most adult film since the brutal Audition. Artistically beautiful to look at, and impeccably acted, the story soon turns to a dark sexual side that shows just how extreme this film is prepared to be.
It begins with a young novelist, haunted by dreams of being buried in a small box, discovering that she’s being haunted in real life by her twin sister. They used to be a doubles act in a small circus but, jealous that her sister was getting more attention from a magician, she tried to even the score, with tragic results. Mostly taking place in the winter, the snow makes her torment very picturesque.
Miike makes this story effortlessly creepy almost straightaway. It’s also sensual, in a disturbing way, beautiful and distressing at the same time, creepy and alarming — a compelling short film, possibly my favourite of the three.
The second tale, "Dumplings", directed by Fruit Chan, is the most infamous and sickest, becoming so popular that the producers later released an expanded feature-length version. The subject matter is almost incredible but, as the director believes, entirely possible.
A rich but fading TV actress tries to fight off middle-age by visiting Aunt Mei (Bai Ling), a modern day witch who makes the most expensive dumplings in town. What can she possibly cook that will return youthful looks? The answer is pretty awful, and has to do Mei's previous profession as an abortionist.