This is the sequel to Three (also known as 3 Extremes II), that was released in 2002. Like the first one, this is a horror collaboration consisting of 3 segments each directed by a different director from a different Asian country. This time, the directors are more established and the content of the segments are more extreme (as the title would suggest). Again, each segment is about 40 minutes long, bringing to total of the movie to about 2 hours long. However, unlike the first one, there is no underlying theme tying the segments together. Instead of seeing how each country would interpret a ghost story, this actually gives a little bit more insight into the different cultures because it shows how each country perceives the idea of horror and what is extreme.
The first segment is called Dumplings, and is directed by the only director I was not familiar with before watching this collection: Fruit Chan from China. Prior to this, he had a handful of movies already released and a lot of critical acclaim for capturing the feel of everyday life for people living in the city of Hong Kong. This is probably the most subtle of the three segments when it comes to the imagery. The real horror is left to the imagination. The story follows an aging actress who is trying to reclaim the beauty of her youth. She hear about some dumplings which are supposed to have that ability. The segment stars Miriam Yeung as Mrs. Li (the aging actress) and Bai Ling who is known for her work in both American and Chinese films as Mae (the women who makes the dumplings). I don’t want to give the secret away so I won’t talk about the plot anymore, but this segment contains moments of drama, romance, dark humor, and a little bit of body horror which is what makes this considered an “extreme work”. I thought it was an interesting choice to start with this one, but I’m glad they did, because it starts the whole thing off with great pacing, an engaging story, and it leaves you hungry (pun definitely intended) for more. This segment was later re-released as a full-length on the Two-Disc Special Edition of Three.. Extremes, which just contains more scenes and content. and it is a very nice addition to this collection.
The second segment is called Cut, and it is directed by Park Chan-Wook of South Korea. One of the most well-known and well respected South Korean filmmakers, he is the one who got me hooked on South Korean films and led me to discover great directors such as Bong Joon-ho and Kim Ji-Woon. Because of this, I am most familiar with the South Korean style of filmmaking than the style of any other Asian country. The premise is simple. A well-known South Korean filmmaker and his wife are captured and forced to play a sadistic game where people will die or lose body parts. Sounds kind of like Saw? On paper, yes, but in delivery they are miles apart. Park Chan-Wook creates and blends tension, twists, dark humor, and surrealism in way that would make David Lynch proud. The use of colors definitely reminds me of Twin Peaks, Lost Highway or Inland Empire. It is a pretty straightforward film until the ending, which forces you to create your own interpretation of what just happened (much like Park Chan-Wook did with the ending of Oldboy). Still, I have talked to a lot of people who agree that this is probably their favorite segment out of the three because of the roller coaster of emotions it goes through in its 40 minute duration.
The final segment is called Box, and it is directed by none other than Takashi Miike of Japan. Takashi has directed over 90 films since he began in 1991, and his films range from family films, comedies, dramas, to horror and surrealistic films. Some of his more extreme films have created controversies for their content, and he is well-respected in certain circles for creating some modern classics such as Audition and Ichi the Killer. I had no idea what to expect for Box, and it ended up being the biggest surprise for me out of the three segments. This is because I was assuming that this was going to be intense in the visual aspect. Instead, this segment is intense in delivery. The film follows a shy woman who is a writer. She talks about a dream she had the previous night. After a while, the narrative becomes much harder to follow. It is hard to tell what is happening in the present, what has already happened in the past, and what is just dreams, fantasies, or nightmares. The movie is very subtle. There is not a lot of dialogue, and the memorable parts are definitely the striking imagery that does not quite make sense yet as you try to put the pieces together. There are also creepy images happening out of the corner of our eye that the main characters do not see, making the amount of tension that much more frightening. The pace moves slowly, making it the hardest segment to get through in my opinion. However, it is also the segment that I have the most respect for because of the subtleties and imagery. The movie ends with a great twist ending that ends the film as a whole on a great note.
All in all, I think these three segments together are much stronger than the three segments from Three (not putting any of those segments down) and I can see why this one is more popular and more well-known. There is a nice sense of diversity and balance and the first two segments move along at a nice pace with the last segment slowing things down and ending it on a much more serious and surrealistic level. The Takashi Miike and Park Chan-Wook segments are essential for any fan of those directors work, and Dumplings is an excellent addition to a well-made collection.