Movie Title: Three… Extremes (Saam gaang yi)
Directors: Fruit Chan (Dumplings), Park Chan-Wook (Cut), Takashi Miike (Box)
Date Released: August 20th, 2004 (South Korea)
Date Seen: January 25th, 2013
Part 1 – Spoiler Free Quickie Review
I feel like I should review the three segments separately, but will give an overview real quick of what I thought of the short “trilogy” as a whole. I like that the three films are very different, because it makes it more likely that everyone will have “their” type of horror represented in the movie. I do feel like one of the segments was a clear step below the other two, but that’s my personal opinion. Reviews I’ve seen online seem fairly mixed about which film is the “worst” of the three, so it could very well be personal preference. Overall the movie is kind of long, at a bit over 2 hours. Because of this, and the structure of the movie, it would be an easy one if you only had about 45 minutes to waste – sit down, watch just one of the stories, and then pick up later with the next story when you have more time. Or if you wanted to skip a story, easy to do (though, I’d still say watch them all). I would have liked the movies to have some type of a common theme or unifying item – rather than just being from “three accomplished indie directors”. It would have made it feel more like a horror anthology than just three short films stuck together under one title.
DUMPLINGS – Fruit Chan
Definitely the most grotesque of the three films. But also, I felt to be the “worst” of the segments. This is because the Dumplings segment didn’t feel like a short. It felt like someone took a movie, chopped out everything but the bare necessities, then put it in this movie. Oh wait…. that’s what Fruit Chan did do. Yes, there is a full 90 minute version of Dumplings, also available on Netflix for your viewing pleasure. Not having watched the full feature, I definitely felt like I was missing parts, didn’t connect to the story, and really didn’t care about it. It was disgusting, yes, but crazy predictable. Because of this, the big “shocker” moment, wasn’t shocking at all (but still disgusting). I didn’t like this segment mostly for just how chopped up it felt and the predictability.
CUT – Chan-Wook Park
My favorite of the three segments, because I love Chan-Wook Park’s directing style. I like his weird absurdities that happen, the crazy set ups, and how he always keeps you guessing. This seems to be the most discussed segment on imdb.com, but I’m not sure why – because I found it clear cut. Maybe because I watch a lot of Chan-Wook Park’s stuff, I’ve just come to accept his insane realities. Because that’s what they are, realities. Cut and dry you are seeing what is happening (with occasional hallucinations… ants on a train anyone?). But anyway, I loved this segment. It was beautifully shot, darkly humorous, and trippy.
BOX – Takashi Miike
Don’t ask me what happened in this segment, because hell if I know. A girl sees the ghost of her sister, we see flashes of when they were kids, then there’s a weird part at the end… I have no idea. I keep going back over it in my head (and will probably watch it again) just because this segment was so strange. It was the creepiest of the three segments I thought. Takashi Miike is good at throwing disturbingly simple images at you that can scare the pants off of you. I enjoyed it for that reason.
Part 2 – In Depth Spoiler Ridden Review/Lazy Synopsis
DUMPLINGS – Fruit Chan
There’s not much of a synopsis. The lady goes to Aunt Mei (Bai Ling) for her special dumplings. What are they made out of? Baby fetuses. The lady wants to look younger, blah blah, eats dumplings, gets grossed out once when she actually sees a fetus… keeps eating dumplings… ends up getting pregnant… aborts herself and makes dumplings out of her own aborted baby fetus.
It was stupid. And predictable.
CUT – Chan-Wook Park
First a little quick plot overview. The segment opens with a director filming a vampire movie. He heads home and we see that the set he was filming on is pretty much exactly like his house. The lights go out, someone knocks him out, and then he wakes up back on set. His wife is tied up with piano wire to the piano, with her fingers glued down. Behind her across the room is a little girl on a couch tied up. The director is held to another wall (between the child and the wife) with a kind of strong rubber cord. Across from him is a disgruntled extra who is pissed at the director for being a nice guy. The director and extra are opposites and the child and the woman are opposites as well. There’s a whole lot of symmetry going on. Shit happens, and the extra tells the director that he must prove to him (the extra) that he (the director) is not a nice guy – by strangling this random little girl. Or else, every 5 minutes he will cut off one of the directors wife’s fingers (she’s a pianist). The extra is clearly a demented person. He says that this morning he killed his own wife, tried to kill his son but couldn’t. More shit happens, the director reveals that he actually kind of hates his wife because she’s boring, self absorbed, stupid, and annoying. He says he’s been having an affair, and the extra just kind of laughs saying everyone does that, you’re still not a bad person…. After the wife loses about 3 fingers, the director strangles the kid. But as he does, he sees the child’s hair fall off… wait, it’s not a little girl, it’s the extras son. Ah. The extra goes over to see if the child is dead, no he isn’t, he just passed out. The extra blows up, decides to fuck with the couple even more, takes the wifes cut up fingers and blends them up in a blender – so no way can they ever reattach them. Then everything kind of goes crazy, the director tries to strangle the kid again, the extra slips and falls on the piano wire, giving the wife the chance to attack him (with the only thing she can… her mouth), and she bites through his neck (again, symmetry – reflecting the beginning of the movie, with the vampire scene) killing him. Then the extra dies, the child is alive saying he is going to “get his revenge”, and then the director kind of goes crazy… and strangles the wife.
The debate has been a lot about whether or not everything was real or a dream. Having seen a lot of Chan-Wook Park’s other stuff, it’s real. He doesn’t do the dream thing. He just does some hallucinations occasionally. The other debates center around what happened with the director at the end. I just saw it 100% as he snapped, got confused around all this symmetry that has been going on (the set vs house, extra vs director, child vs wife, wife vs lover, etc.) and is totally broken and does think the wife is the child. He doesn’t register that the extra is dead. But other people think that he does realize what is going on but just thinks of this as a perfect opportunity to get rid of his wife. Apparently he does say something about “this is your revenge”, meaning he could be talking to the child, but I didn’t notice it. Either way what happened, I still loved it.
There was a beautiful shot I want to point out. There’s a scene where the camera is placed behind the piano. So we see the woman all tied up in the piano wire, with the extra behind her, kind of like he’s entangled in this web. The child is seen then in the back of the shot, and the director is now completely desperate after having embarrassed himself in front of the extra (again, symmetry – earlier the extra told a story about when he got embarrassed during one of the directors movies). But anyway, the set up of the shot was beautiful and I wanted to just freeze frame on it because it was so perfect.
BOX – Takashi Miike
This one is so hard to do a synopsis for… even a little simple stupid one. Because I have no idea what was going on. I’ve read a number of opinions/thoughts/theories online.
The jist of the story, surface level – ie literally what is being shown to you, is we see a girl, Kyoko who is haunted by her sister, Shoko, in what appears to be the present. Kyoko is like 30 maybe, and the Shoko ghost is 10. We then see flashes throughout the whole movie of someone burying a box, and Kyoko being covered in plastic. We also see an “early” life story where Kyoko and Shoko were working at a circus. Shoko was the better of the sisters in their contortionist routines. We see an image of her lying with the circus master one night to sleep. It doesn’t look sexual to me at all. Also, the director has stated that the circus master is NOT the girls father. One day Kyoko locks Shoko in a box while she is practicing her routine. The circus master sees this, gets angry, Kyoko stabs him, he falls, knocks over a gas stove, spilling the gas everywhere which then lights on fire. Shoko burns to death obviously. Kyoko runs off into the woods. Now we see the 30 year old Kyoko getting an invitation – she goes to the circus building, sees a burnt box, it kind of moves, the old circus master is there, they awkwardly make out, then he grabs her and puts her in plastic, drags her outside and buries her while saying “Shoko and Kyoko, a perfect pair, can’t have one without the other.” Then, we see 30 year old Kyoko waking up saying “the dream always ends there…”…. a 10 year old (not ghosty) Shoko is next to her saying that she had a strange dream too. The movie ends with them getting out of bed and being revealed to be Siamese twins.
So wtf happened. Is the Siamese thing a metaphor, saying that Kyoko always feels her sister, Shoko there with her? Are they really Siamese twins and the haunting segment and the box segment were the twins respective dreams? Idk. I can’t figure it out. Most people online lean towards the Siamese twin thing being reality and everything else being them dreaming of a life on their own, without the twin. I just don’t know though. Bleh.
Dumplings – 4/10 Too predictable. Too choppy.
Cut – 8/10
Box – 7/10 It just needed a BIT more explanation to support either theory. I don’t care which one. Just SOME more hints at what happened. Mystery is good. But too much mystery and people get annoyed.