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Three constitutes an omnibus package of three short horror films made by Asian directors. "Memories," made by Kim Ji-Woon, is about a woman (Kim Hye-Soo) who disappears from the home she shares with her husband (Jung Bo-Seog) and children, and ends up in a futuristic city filled with many disturbing hindrances to her finding her way back home. Nonzee Nimibutr's "The Wheel" contains a puppeteer who is unsuccessful in warning a dance troupe about using cursed puppets. Peter Ho-Sun Chan's "Coming Home" stars Eric Tsang as a policeman who becomes involved with his neighbors, a married couple who are involved in with some mysterious herbal medications.
THREE EXTREMES II flounders as horror but flourishes as drama
After the vast success of "Three Extremes" three other Asian horror savants (South Korea's Kim Je-Woon, Thailand's Nonzee Nimibutr, China's Peter Chan) stepped up to the plate to deliver us a successor.
The original had three tales of distinct horror methods--one of gross-outs, one of violence, and one of psychological maiming. "Three Extremes II" however, seems to have a common theme about all three which is the voyage of the afterlife.
Due to atmospheric and thematic similarities I found the stories a little less engaging when viewed back-to-back. Perhaps this could've been that the first two films of the movie (the first especially) were rather uneventful.
Starting chronologically, the short "Memories" by Kim Je-Woon is South Korea's entry into the anthology. It starts with promise as it shows a man presumably sleeping on a couch and very gradually pans closer and closer to him. Then it shows us more of the room he is in, and immediately Je-Woon strikes a nerve of undeniable creepiness with a huddled women rocking to and from in a corner. This sense of uneasiness quickly dissolves as the story progresses. Nothing really happens throughout. Like I said above it was uneventful--sure people are talking (though there's an odd lack of dialogue in "Memories"), sure they're walking and driving around trying to discover a mystery, but it's a mystery most viewers have probably solved. There's also a woman who seems to have lost her memory, but almost immediately I put two-and-two together and figured out her connection with our main character. Je-Woon uses rather cheap shock-tactics like sudden movements and sharp music to make us jump. Its unfortunate Kim Je-Woon's entry was so weak narrative-wise and predictable story-wise, because he is the director of one of my favorite movies ever "A Tale of Two Sisters". I went in hoping for something exquisite from him but got a rather generic story. I do not dislike the movie, because it does have its pluses like solid acting, beautiful camera-work, and the cutest child you'll ever see in any movie, but I cannot say I liked it either because there was so little story. All-in-all, Kim Je-Woon's "Memories" is forgettable, shiny, and predictable--nothing more than you'd expect from one of Hollywood's J-horror remakes.
The middle segment on the disc is one of Thai origins called "The Wheel" from director Nonzee Nimibutr. Being only briefly acquainted with Thai horror, I found myself excited to see what Thailand had to offer. Many reviews claim this to be the flimsiest entry, but I have to disagree. I think most of "The Wheel" was lost in translation because it is a piece so close to Thailand. It's a cultural short involving Thai beliefs that we North American viewers simply cannot grasp--or at least not appreciate fully. That being said, I personally loved the cultural experience of watching "The Wheel" and felt almost like it was a documentary of rural Thailand. The set design is beautiful and exotic; the costumes and puppets are breath-taking and unique; the entire piece rings with foreign flavor, and was a nice contrast to "Memories" which could've been copied and pasted into any country's film. That being said, while it dealt with horror (spirits, possession and vengeance) it didn't feel like a full-feldged horror. The very opening is chilling but like "Memories" it fades to black rather quickly. Unlike "Memories" I found myself interested by the foreign aspect and the beauty of the setting, from the murky lagoon to the unique houses to the vibrant costumes. The acting throughout is rocky--there's a few actors who deliver questionable performances, and that is probably my biggest qualm with the film. Aside from that it had a very redeeming ending, and in more ways than one.
The closing piece is absolutely and without question my favorite of the three, and probably my favorite out of the original three as well. I think the DVD editors placing Peter Chan's "Going Home" last was strategy, as they started with the most feeble and the "Going Home" segment is powerful enough to make you forget about "Memories"'s weakness and leaves you with a very positive feeling after watching. Had they reversed the order, the haunting touch of "Going Home" wouldn't have survived through the end of "Memories" and my review would be two starts instead of three. That may sound ridiculous but it's all too true. The story starts with a single father and his son who are moving into a new complex, one that looks decrepit and neglected. This dirty setting is awesome for capturing what will happen later. Chan's direction then switches from the father-son relationship and to a much more aberrant relationship concerning a rather shoddy character we're introduced to through the young son and a wife who is seemingly long-dead. This is a ghastly, provocative, touching story of requited love and the testing of lengths one will go through for that love. I will not delve any further into the story--discover this gem on your own. If anything this DVD is worth the $15 for this piece alone--I wish it could've been a feature length film.
Overall, "Three Extremes II" doesn't succeed as horror but are an excellent trio of chilling dramas. It was a disappointing follow-up to "Three Extremes" but the two shouldn't be compared because they are different films with different messages. I picture only a fan of Asian horror liking this DVD, so if you're new perhaps go with something more user-friendly before diving into this piece.
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