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 ...
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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.
As a post-Halloween presentation, Titus Brandsma Center, a Carmelite-run service organization here, held a screening of 3 Asian horror films:Higuchinsky's 'Uzumaki'(Japan), Youn-Hyun Chang's 'Tell Me Something'(South Korea) and 'Three', a trilogy of shorts by Ji-Woon Kim(S. Korea), Nonzee Nimibutr(Thailand) and Peter Chan(Hong Kong). The conceit behind the event was to "run along the same vein" as 'The Ring', a trend-setting, box-office hit Japanese spine-tingler(recently shown on Philippine television in a tolerable Filipino-dubbed version).
OK, 'Uzumaki'(which translates in English as "spiral" or "vortex")is a bizaare study in communal fixation and paranoia, with any swirl-shaped object as the ubiquitous motif. This debut film by Higuchinsky(who worked before as a director of music videos)succeeds in conveying the sense of collective disturbance and fear that grips the small community of Kuzouguchi, its distinguishing claustrophobic quality brings to mind the kind evoked by David Lynch in 'Blue Velvet'--it's only that the Japanese director takes one step further with his really, really fantastic and grotesque turn of events. But I guess that to fully enjoy the film, one should take it AS IT IS, with any "interpretation" of the purported "metaphorical" significance of the spiral following later(in my case, much, much later, if ever).
While 'Tell Me Something', bad luck of all bad lucks, was the much-maligned film in the line-up--with good reason. For despite its fair share of gore and tension, and a good-looking lead pair(the lieutenant and the lady under surveillance), a stubborn fact still shows up:that the film is another jaded offspring of the jaded serial-killer genre(it doesn't really take a lot of mindwork to guess, about 45 minutes--or even less!--into the film, who the murderer is;now, even this is a jaded remark!). Strangely though, on 2nd viewing, I began to find 'Tell Me Something' to be kind of interesting(it appeared that it wasn't really that bad), for at least, it scored a few points in the following:having a toned-down tension, evoking a noirish atmosphere with its rain-drenched urban locale at night and going against the "obligatory" fate of the lead pair being eventually romantically or sexually involved with one another(never mind the lack of a well-defined motivation, anyway, the two are as aloof to each other as they are to the viewers)--sigh, even this is a jaded indulgence!
But I still believe that Korean Cinema is one of the exciting film industries that we have, serving us with a good number of brave and provocative films in recent years, among them, Chul-Soo Park's '301/302', Jin-Ho Hur's 'Christmas in August', Ki-Duk Kim's 'The Isle' and 'Address Unknown', Jung-Ji Woo's 'Happy End' and Ji-Young Chang's 'The White Badge.'
Thankfully, the best was saved for the last, for 'Three' was the clear favorite of the audience(including myself). To be noted particularly are the 1st and 3rd episodes:Kim's 'Memories' and Chan's 'Going Home'(I wish I could say the same for the 2nd short). What I'm interested is how did these 2 episodes work upon the emotion of fear, as it's a given fact that such feeling is the one that films of the horror genre want to arouse mainly from the audience.
In 'Memories', where does fear spring forth? As it turns out, it's from the husband's(Bo-Seok Jong)"ghost of his own making", so to speak, as there's a terrible secret that he tries painfully to conceal. He may have succeeded in keeping it from other people's notice, but definitely not from the prodding of his own conscience, thus the hallucinations and nightmares(even if it appears that these don't seriously bother him at all!).
As it should be, the viewers don't completely have any idea about this "secret" at the start of the film, but through Kim's skillful interweaving of the husband's and the "lost" woman's(Hye-Suk Kim)respective scenes--he, as he confronts his terrifying nightmares;she, as she wanders through a barely-inhabited city, where various omens singularly happen to her--all told with little use of dialogues, it little by little builds up toward the grisly revelation, its utterly nightmarish quality is like Franz Kafka and Edgar Allan Poe have joined forces for the modern times.
The director may have relied on "old tricks" to scare the audience(anyway, it worked), but the best thing is that we can make sense of the fear thus evoked, we can "connect" with it. And this, the fear of having done a terrible misdeed and of having to face up with the nightmares(or "bad memories")that consequently spin out of one's own sinful act--whether one gets away with it or not.
On the other hand, watching 'Going Home' is like watching an assortment of 'Psycho', 'Awakenings' and 'The Sixth Sense.' However, it's of such a potent tragicomic quality that the viewers are still put under the spell, brought into force by a marvelous confluence of terrific performances(with Leon Lai at the forefront)and astounding mood photography(predominantly slimy green)by Wong Kar-Wai's "recording angel", Christopher Doyle.
Going through my files, I came upon my few notes on an early work by Chan, 'He's a Man, She's a Woman'(featuring the late Leslie Cheung), a hilarious comedy of errors-cum-ugly duckling tale-cum-gay film. Having this film in mind as I try to recollect 'Going Home', it makes sense why odd humor shows up from some nooks and crannies of this otherwise poignant and eerie tale of the transgressive power of love. Handled foolishly, this uncomfortable blending of humor and horror might've churned out another low-grade and campy shocker('Starship Troopers' and 'The House on Haunted Hill', anyone?).
Whenever the emotion of fear is aroused in us by this awarded episode, it's FOR Leon Lai's bespectacled, agonizing character--for his not being able to bring up the kind of family that he deserves, for his failure to achieve what could've constituted his happiness in this temporal life(the episode's title, in fact, implies "being with one's family"). And so, as in 'Memories', the "fear factor" here makes sense.
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