MSRP: $27.98
RUNNING TIME: 125 Minutes
Full Length Version of Dumplings
Making of Featurette for Dumplings
Miike’s Commentary on Box

The Pitch

"It’s Tales From the Crypt with the balls that Masters of Horror promised (but didn’t deliver)!"

The Humans

Bai Ling, Tony Leung Ka Fai (Both in Dumplings), Byung-hun Lee, Won-hie Lim (Both in Cut), Kyoko Hasegawa, Atsuro Watabe (Both in Box)

The Nutshell

Three of Asia’s biggest horror directors were given a budget and free pass to make, what Miike describes as, their own assessment of what a horror movie should be. Fruit Chan delivers Dumplings, an interesting take on the pursuit of the fountain of youth; Chan-Wook Park throws is hat in the ring with Cut, a little glimpse at a socio-economic class struggle and Miike rounds out the list with Box, a tale of two sisters that is more engaging in it’s 40 minutes than Tartan’s A Tale of Two Sisters was in it’s entirety.

The Lowdown

This is one of those flicks that I was excited about without knowing anything besides the premise and the title. I’m not going to throw out hyperbole and say that Asian Horror is always great, as we’ve all wondered to ourselves what was so scary about little wet Japanese girls, but when an Asian Horror Flick is titled Three… Extremes, it tends to make us horror fans a little giddy. Of course, it didn’t get a theatrical run in my little section of BFE, so when the opportunity came to review it, I was more than happy to do so. Question was would it live up to my expectations (even as shakily founded as they were)?

Never, ever make eye contact.

Dumplings (The Hong Kong Extreme) is the story of Aunt Mei (Ling), a woman who promises to restore youth and vibrance to Mrs. Li (an already beautiful Pauline Lau) and all she has to do is eat Mei’s dumplings. What’s so special about the dumplings? Well I’ll save that for when you watch the film, but this IS a horror story, involving food. So two plus two and all that…

Anyway, even though the main plot point in Dumplings is rather controversial, what really struck me about the film was Chan’s direction. When you’re dealing with subject matter like this, it would be really easy to take a side, or to manipulate the viewer for greater shock value. What Chan does instead is shoot this film without any stance on the subjects at hand, subsequently leaving out any manipulation you’d find in any other film of this sort. He leaves the decision-making strictly up to the audience and I think some people will be surprised about what they discover about themselves. Both characters do evil things but at the same time you’re presented with facts that make you sympathetic to their situation and you’re left to decide for yourself how you feel. Personally, I was surprised that I was far more disturbed by Li’s transgressions then Mei’s and it’s that freedom of experience that makes this such a wonderful film and the best offering on this disc.

Up next is Cut (the Korean Extreme). Remember when I said that Miike described these little films as each director’s idea of what horror should be? Something tells me Park Chan-wook missed that little part of the meeting, because Cut is as generic as it gets. Byun Hung-lee is a very young, very successful Korean filmmaker who endures a night of torture and ostracism by an extra in one of his movies.

What makes this film so hard to watch (and easy to forget) are the extra’s motivations. He’s from the lower-class side of life and envies the upper crust for their lavish lifestyle and abundant wealth, while he can barely make ends meet. If they had left it at that it would have been fine. Instead, Hung-lee isn’t an asshole – he’s a genuinely nice guy and that shatter’s our intruder’s world view. Nice guys can’t be rich! Rich guys can’t be nice! Does not compute! Does not compute!

So what we have here is a guy who’s decided to torture another guy and his wife because he’s too nice. Give me a break. I would be willing to give the crappy a drama a pass if the torture scenes were nice and brutal, but all we get are a few chopped off fingers and a convoluted sort of twist ending that doesn’t do anything to serve the story. You’d probably get better enjoyment of Park’s work watching Oldboy or Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance.

When good Punk'ds go bad
Ashton & Co. looked on in horror as their latest Punk’d went horribly, horribly wrong.

Last, but definitely not least is Takashi Miike’s Box (the Japanese Extreme). In keeping with traditional Miike style, this is one weird little flick and the lines between fantasy and reality are never far from blurred. The story centers on a woman named Kyoko – a novelist who has dreams of being buried alive and is haunted by the ghost of her dead sister, Shoko.

See, when they were kids Kyoko & Shoko were contortionists who performed for a circus. When Kyoko becamse jealous of all the attention their "boss" gave Shoko, well, she locked Shoko in a box and (accidentally) set her on fire. But, again in traditional Miike fare, there’s a whole lot more to it than that and you really don’t get the full effect of what’s being said until the final moments of the film. There’s good and bad to that however, as this movie is incredibly tedious until the pseudo-twist happens. But when it does and everything gels, there’s a wonderfully deep and emotional commentary on the need and desire for isolation.

The Package

The artwork I’m not happy with. The Three Head poster (while not really selling anything specific in the film but was much more disturbing and had an iconic quality to it) has been replaced with the black-streaked face of the wife in Cut in a move that seems either lazy or scared on LGF’s part. But it is LGF after all, so I’ll say lazy. Oh and just so you know going in, it’s all obviously spoken in each of the films’ respective languages (but they sound great in that DTS 5.1 track) so if you’re not into subtitles don’t even bother with it.

Feature-wise, on Disc 1 there’s Miike’s commentary over Box (in Japanese). I really like the guy and love his movies and even though he had some interesting things to say, he was sort of boring. There were a lot of silent parts and it sometimes came across like he didn’t know what to say. The meat however, is on Disc 2 with the full-length Director’s Cut of Dumplings. I’m actually sort of torn on this, as the things that were added in for the full-length really had no place. The entire third act didn’t fit at all and just felt like fat (which was thankfully trimmed for the abridged, 40-minute version). However, that said, I really prefer the ending of the full version as opposed to the abridged. At any rate, I’m glad they included it and just a little FYI – the Region 1 DVD of Three Extremes is the only version that has both the abridged and full versions, so that’s cool. There’s also a Making of Featurette for Dumplings that’s a fun watch at least once anyway.

Looks like Barbie got some updates.

In the end, this would make a great addition to any horror fan’s collection and if you already have it and are a fan, keep April 25th marked on your calendar, as that’s when Three… Extremes – Vol. 2 streets.

8.0 out of 10