Three... Extremes II (DVD)
Starring Hye-Su Kim, Bo-Seok Jeong, Leon Lai, Sunwit Panjamawat
Directed by Peter Chan, Ji-Woon Kim, Nonzee Nimibutr
Released by Lionsgate Films
For the record, Three...Extremes II isn't a sequel at all, but rather the original Three that kicked off the popular Asian anthology series. But while Three…Extremes went on to win awards and international acclaim, this original film failed to make waves abroad – so Lionsgate has dumped it onto video under the banner of its reputable sequel. There’s a reason for this kind of deceptive marketing: This Three is the initial miscarraige of the series. Mistakes were made which obviously helped shape the follow-up into the first class fright flick it is today.
Bringing together filmmakers from three Asian countries, the first volume features segments from Korea, Thailand, and Hong Kong (for some reason, Japan wasn’t invited to the party), none of which share any real connection, thematic or otherwise.
First on the roster is "Memories", from Korean filmmaker Kim Jee-Woon. Acting as a dual-character piece, this segment follows a husband with suppressed memories while he searches for the reasons behind his wife’s disappearance. Meanwhile, the wife roams the streets in a state of shock. Both appear lost and confused, but they begin to experience supernatural visions that may hold the key to solving their mystery.
"Memories" is beautifully directed and serves as an early testament to Jee-Woon (who later hit a home run with A Tale of Two Sisters). There are some interesting set-pieces and a few nice jolts, but for all its style and meditation, it fails to leave any lasting impression. The decision to shoot the segment with little dialogue is interesting, but the script feels routine and hits a conclusion that most readers most likely have figured out by now.
Blundering its way in from Thailand, Nonzee Nimiburt’s "The Wheel" is the second and easily worst entry in Three…Extremes II. The story (if you can call it that) is barely worth mentioning: A group of theatre performers who come into possession of cursed stage puppets that wreck havok on their production. While the Zuni dolls in Trilogy of Terror instantly springs to mind, this is nothing of the sort. We don’t see a single puppet run amok, only boring sequences as non-characters react to unseen supernatural forces. Nimiburt is obviously striving for some sort of historical morality tale, but this mish-mash of religion and culture doesn’t make a lick of sense and is dreadfully boring to boot. This might be a first in the world of anthologies– a segment so bad, it soils the entire feature.
Series producer Peter Chan directs the final hour-long episode, "Going Home" from Hong Kong. After his son mysteriously disappears, a desperate father is himself abducted when he stumbles into the abode of a strange neighbor. Bound and helpless, he watches as the man nurses the corpse of his wife, with the promise that she’ll rise again in three days time.
Given the quality of the other two, it’s a bit of a shocker that this segment (which takes up half the running time) turned out as good as it did. In fact, it’s one of the most impressive shorts you’ll ever see in an anthology. The story perfectly toes the line between drama and horror, and features a cast of enthralling, complex characters. Unlike its bretheren, this segment nails you with a truly disturbing and thought-provoking coda – the real essence of the horror vignette. Boasting an inventive screenplay, air-tight direction from Chan, and gorgeous visuals by cinematographer legend Christopher Doyle, "Going Home" emerges as a gripping experience and is hands down the best of the bunch. It’s just a shame that it’s in such poor company.
Like Fruit Chan’s "Dumplings" in Three…Extremes, "Going Home" was shot as a feature length film and then edited down for this anthology. Considering Lionsgate released the former uncut in an impressive special edition, it would’ve been nice for them to once again include the full version or, better yet, release it as a stand-alone disc. Alas, it’s obvious the studio didn’t put any time into this one, as you won’t find anything in the way of DVD extras, either.
Even though Three…Extremes II doesn’t work as a whole (which the producers obviously realized when hiring the dream team for its sequel), the final segment is strong enough to still make it worth your while. Just skip over the first two limp episodes and bask in the glory of Peter Chan’s triumphant piece.
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