A disturbing, beautiful but sadly, flawed triptych of short films, Three Extremes 2 is nevertheless fascinating viewing. Following the release of the superior trio of short films, Three Extremes (with directors Fruit Chan, Chan wook-Park and Takashi Miike), Three Extremes 2 is in actuality, the first of the series (its theatrical title was Three). Based on the acclaim of Three Extremes, DVD distributors most likely thought it wise to release Three (with directors from Korea, Thailand and Hong-Kong), particularly aimed at the popular cult of Asian cinema aficionados.
But compared to the striking Three Extremes (especially Miike’s gorgeously creepy story), Three is the inferior predecessor. That’s not to say these tales of supernatural horror and existential dread aren’t intriguing—they are—but each vary in their vision and cogency.
The first film, Memories (directed by South Korea's Ji woon-Kim who crafted the creepy A Tale of Two Sisters involves a husband fretting over the loss of his wife. She’s been missing for days and his worries turn to panic as he imagines her in varied horrific situations. While he’s losing his mind, his wife is shown wandering the city with amnesia. She just wants to get home. But what exactly is the real story? I won’t reveal only to say the film is oddly edited, with some powerfully mysterious cuts showing not only the state of her mind but piecing together an especially terrifying puzzle.
The next film, The Wheel (directed by Thailand's Nonzee Nimibutr though lovely to look at and well crafted, is the weakest of the bunch. Here we watch performers in a riverside village compete with one another, leading one faction using a batch of cursed puppets. That the now deceased puppet master warned the performers to stay away from the puppets is of no concern (at first) but in a slow, rather straightforward fashion, the puppets cause death and pain. Pity the film contains little juice given the potential of its material. With historic superstition, talented dancers and puppeteers, a vivid and lush style and, of course, cursed puppets, it should terrify and captivate. It doesn’t.
Making up for the defects of The Wheel is the last and best film, Going Home (directed by Hong Kong's Peter Chan with cinematography by the great Christopher Doyle). Compelling, richly complex, chilling and stunningly perverse, the 53 minute film is a feature in itself. The story finds a nice cop moving into a creepy, decrepit apartment building with his young son. The building looks to be inhabited by no one save for a strange neighbor, a doctor who tends to his deceased wife, believing she’ll be revived. The doctor cares for his wife—bathing her, rolling her around in a wheelchair, feeding her and attempting to talk with the dead woman. After the cop’s son disappears and he begins asking the doctor questions, the doctor traps and handcuffs the father, leaving the terrified man to witness his insane behavior. From the eerie apartment complex to the disturbed acts of the doctor, Going Home is powerful stuff—more realistic than the previous shorts but at the same time, mystical and modernly gothic. It’s also, by film end, extraordinarily moving.
Which is a wonderful way to leave this set of films—on a high note—and understanding that, even with the previous flaws, there’s much more to the pictures than mere shock, horror and depravity.
Unfortunately, there’s not much else to the DVD (the extras only include a set of theatrical trailers) but they are transferred as all gory, terrifying Asian horror anthologies should be—with lots of love.