POSTED BY JASON FETTERS, October 30, 2011 Share
I love horror anthologies from Creepshow back in the 80's to Tales from the Crypt (1973) and whatever may have preceded the 70's. Short films have a special charm because you can catch a glimpse of a particular director's work before plunging into deeper waters. For this Halloween edition of Asian Aperture, I decided to watch Three...Extremes, which deserves a spot alongside the best Western Horror anthologies. This is the perfect way for the movie fan to see what directors are capable of doing to scare an audience. If you haven't seen any Asian Horror at all, then watch Three...Extremes and you will be able to see what you want to watch next. One of the best things about Three...Extremes, beside currently streaming on Netflix, is that you can sample the horror of Hong Kong, South Korea, and Japan in exactly 2 hours. A Whitman's sampler of the macabre that will seep into your dreams and twist your mind.
The first short movie is Dumplings by Hong Kong director Fruit Chan, who is an independent director who accurately portrayals how Hong Kong people really are. In Dumplings an aging actress visits a special dumpling restaurant, off the beaten path, that will grant the consumer a youthful appearance. However, there is a great cost involved. You may not want to be eating Chinese takeout when you see the secret ingredient that goes into these dumplings. When I found out, I decided to avoid Chinese food for a few days. Chan builds up the tension as the woman keeps going further and further into darker territory just to make herself look good for her husband. Dumplings convinced me to be happy at whatever age you are and also to avoid any attempts at rejuvenation. It is just not worth the trouble. Dumplings is a savory appetizer for the next dish.
Next up is the main course called Cut, which is a South Korean short in the same vein as Saw. A young and sexy vampire is sucking the blood dry out of a man who has been frozen for some time. The perfect TV dinner that you can really sink your fangs into. Then the director yells cut on the movie set. Lee Byung-hun is a horror director who returns home one night. Suddenly all the lights go out. When the lights come back on all it not well. Lee's wife is confined to her piano. Strings are attached to her fingers and limbs making escape impossible. A bitter extra, with a huge chip on his shoulders against anyone rich, shows up. Lee is trapped by a cord that he can't break free of. He is forced to play games with the extra. Each time Lee makes a mistake, his wife loses a finger. Then goes on for some time until his wife's fingers are quickly disappearing which makes piano playing no longer possible. At one point an angry Lee yells to his wife not to worry and that her fingers can be reattached. He watches in horror as the extra puts her fingers in a blender and hits the button with an eerie grin. Just how long will Lee remain stubborn with his wife in dangerous? Cut really works well when you put yourself into Lee's shoes and wonder how you would react to such a heinous situation. At this point after dining on Dumplings and Cut it is time for the sweet sting of dessert.
Easily my favorite of the three is this tale by Miike Takashi called Box. A young writer is disturbed by her dream. When Kyoko dreams at night, she sees herself wrapped up in plastic and stuck inside a box while a man outside is shoveling dirt on top of the box. Further along in the dream is a sequence that sheds some light on the situation. Kyoko is 10 and is dancing on a stage with her sister, Shoko, also 10. They dance together as one. A strange magician stands just behind them. There are two boxes on the stage. Each girl picks a box and steps inside. The magician closes both and works his magic. The viewing audience looks at the stage just as you are viewing the same scene. This could be the past of both Kyoko and Shoko or is it just part of a long dream? Miike doesn't let that secret out. What makes Box so effective is the way that Miike sets up each shot. He makes good use of the snow. He makes you feel like you are being buried alive with Kyoko. Also, Miike causes you to wonder, as Kyoko does, if your dreams are real or not. The scene of Kyoko being buried alive is worthy of Poe. This scene is shown several times throughout Box and demonstrates Miike masterful use of editing. What pushes Box above Dumplings and Cut in the psychological tension that Miike is able to create. He knows how to apply those mental pressure points to make things uncomfortable for the viewer. Just as Poe, Miike keeps you heart racing right up until the end. At this point you can have a second helping if you want. There is a lot more on the Asian horror menu. You just have to look for it.
Highly Recommended Halloween Viewing with 5 out of 5 Stars.
"The Asian Aperture" is ©2011 by Jason Fetters. All contents of Nolan's Pop Culture Review are ©2011 by Nolan B. Canova.
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