Hardly to the extreme



There is a current cinematic furor in East Asia known as New Asian Horror. The trend is not unlike previous thriller film fads of the past (Italian splatter and American slasher films come to mind) in the sense that these films set out to go to extremes in blood, guts and mayhem. It's only fitting that the new short horror film compilation by three of the genre's finest directors is called "Three Extremes."\n"Extremes" is not unlike horror collections such as "Creepshow," HBO's "Tales from the Crypt" and most recently Showtime's "Masters of Horror" series, which all teamed talented filmmakers in the thriller genre to make short films. The problem with this kind of cinematic venture is if one film fails, the others tend to go down with the ship, which is the unfortunate case of "Extremes."\n"Extremes" starts out with "Dumplings," a gruesome, disturbing and repugnant little short by Hong Kong's Fruit Chan. The story revolves around a vain woman who seeks out every method of revitalizing her beauty, even going to extreme measures by eating a special kind of "magic" dumpling made with something too gruesome to mention here. This short is undoubtedly the most gory and gruesome of the lot, but not in a good way. It's the kind of film that tries to present a message to the audience about vanity, but ultimately is just unpleasant.\nThe second film, "Cut," is by Korean director Chan-wook Park, who is best known for his twisted revenge tales "Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance" and most recently the fascinating, yet disturbing, "Oldboy." "Cut" does not stray away from the vengeance genre and has some striking moments, but similar to "Dumplings," it tries to go to overboard with the blood and guts instead of mastering a strong storyline. Elaborate deaths and torture don't always bring thrills.\nThe final "extreme tale" is "Box" by Japan's Takashi Miike ("Audition"), probably the best known director of the bunch. The film strays away from Miike's previous sanguinary ventures instead presenting us with a fascinating little ghost story that brilliantly shifts from dream state to reality. "Box" is slow moving, relying on silence, long shots and the haunting physical expressions of the characters. The film is mature in its nature, taking its time with the thrills, building suspense the old fashioned way.\nThe film's two-disc DVD could have done so much in terms of bringing attention to this newfound horror genre, but ultimately is bare boned. There is an interesting commentary track by Miike on "Box," in which he discusses his reasons for making the film. The second disc features a full-length version of "Dumplings" that, while bridging lots of plot points and giving more character depth, still makes the film a harsh (on your eyes/stomach) waste of time. \n"Three Extremes" could have been something brilliant. The players are all top of their game and the story ideas were interesting; however, going to grisly extremes doesn't always make for a good scare.

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