When Asian horror swept the U.S. in the 2000s after the release of the American version of The Ring, it really brought back a feeling I hadn’t gotten from horror in a long time: dread. Every time I watched a new Asian horror film, I went in unsure of what to expect, but I knew it would most likely be scary, disturbing, visually freaky, and sometimes not even make sense…which made it all the more terrifying. Kind of like looking at the traumatizing artwork on horror paperback novels back in the late 1970s and early 80s.
But of course, even Asian horror found a way to milk its originality and make horror a cookie cutter business—the dreaded girl in the white dress with the black hair down over her face!
Even so, there are still plenty of Asian horror flicks I haven’t yet seen—from the eerie to the fucked up—to give me a thrill when I need a break from slasher movies, torture porn, zombedies, found footage flicks, and Hollywood ghost stories. So popping in horror anthologies called 3 Extremes had the tension gripping the back of my neck. But were 3 Extremes and 3 Extremes 2 gut wrenching experiences?
3 EXTREMES (2004)
The DVD of the first film includes a full-length movie version of the first story, which runs an hour and a half. For inclusion in the anthology, it was edited down to the same forty minute running time as the other stories.
“Dumplings” is about a woman who fears she’s losing her silver fox of a husband to younger women. She starts using a miracle treatment to reverse the aging process—special dumplings from a woman who gets her main secret ingredient illegally. Uh-oh.
This story is filled with themes of fertility and infertility (some nasty egg imagery!), aging and youth, the worth put on a woman’s body and reproductive system, birth, and abortion (the horror of which we are exposed to during a full procedure scene).
Maybe it’s because I have no interest in babies, children, or unborn fetuses, but my biggest fear watching this flick was that I’d never want to eat delicious dumplings again! I can safely say that as much as close-ups of the creation and consumption of slimy dumplings tried to gross out the audience, it didn’t work. More disturbing to me was the part when the husband decides he wants to start eating dumplings too. I didn’t want that gorgeous silver hair going back to black!
I’m not sure what was shaved out of the 3 Extremes cut of “Dumplings,” but it definitely didn’t need to be an hour and a half (provided they didn’t leave out the gross stuff!).
This is my favorite story in the first movie. There’s something comically twisted about it. A filmmaker comes home to find an extra from his films has his lady strung up like a puppet to her grand piano, her fingers glued to the keys. The extra has awful plans for them—even though he says the filmmaker is a good man who always treated him great on set. So what gives, you nobody?
This short has some evil and mean-spirited moments, some delicious twists—and even a dance number! And it never crosses over into gruesome, exploitative territory. It’s also a stylistically slick flick to watch.
The final short hints at a more typical “ghost girl revenge” story. There’s snow, there’s a little girl standing with her back to the camera, there’s a creepy as hell voodoo doll, and there’s daddy love. Oh, and there’s a dead twin in a box.
This one reminded me of a side story that might unfold in one of the Fatal Frame video games. It was just a little to reliant on dream scenarios for me to get into it, and it didn’t deliver the creep factor I expected, but I did like the twist at the end.
3 EXTREMES II (2002)
3 Extremes II was made before the first because then simply given its title for its American release, so it’s not actually a sequel. But really, when you’re talking about horror anthologies, are they ever sequels?
3 Extremes II is essentially the same deal—three Asian horror shorts that run about forty minutes each, giving the full film a run time of over two hours. And you would think it’s a sequel because it mostly sucks!
EEK! It’s a chick with her hair combed over her face! There are some very creepy and atmospheric scenes in this segment (doll that moves by itself, floating balloon, the chick with the hair), but the story is a mess.
From what I can tell, there’s a husband whose wife is missing but he doesn’t remember what happened to her. She’s actually a ghost who also doesn’t remember what happened, so she’s trying to get back to her husband. Unfortunately, the story jumps back between husband and wife, and is told out of order, through flashbacks, and through dreams. It’s too exhausting to try to follow it, so just enjoy the Ringu rip off elements.
Killer doll and puppet segments are always a welcome addition to a horror anthology, but somehow, this short manages to totally blow it!
A bunch of puppet show performers are killed because of a belief that if you use the puppets once owned by someone else, you are cursed! It’s not suspenseful, scary, or gory, and there are no little puppets running around.
This is the strongest story in 3 Extremes II. A father’s little boy goes missing after complaining of the creepy little girl who stares at him from the apartment across the way. Turns out the man who lives there doesn’t even have a daughter…but he does have his wife’s corpse soaking in a bathtub of herbs. He kidnaps the father and tells a crazy story of how he needed to kill his wife to cure her of an illness, and now he’s just waiting for her to be resurrected.
It all sounds like a setup for something horrific, right? Well, in the end, this is actually a more spiritual tale. If there’s a bit of warmth in your heart, you’ll appreciate it. But if you have a horror heart through and through, you’ll convince yourself that the first two stories were not so bad.
There’s really nothing “extreme” about either of the 3 Extremes films. It’s basic stuff, there’s barely a scare amongst the six stories, and only a couple of the stories are compelling enough to be memorable. The Asian Creepshow this isn’t. Heck. There’s not even a wraparound story!