Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Asian Horror: Three Extremes, Thirst, Dumplings, Audition

Halloween is just around the corner, so over the next few weeks I'll try to add some horror-themed entries.  Today we start with the Asian horror omnibus film, Three...Extremes, and follow up with other films streaming on Netflix Watch Instantly by the same directors of that film, Chan-wook Park, Fruit Chan, and Takashi Miike.

Three...Extremes is a reasonably successful omnibus film, although you may want to check out other films by the directors if you're not familiar with them first.  In my opinion the strongest of the three is Park's audacious "Cut."  But the other two shorts have their memorable moments, and will appeal to fans of Chan and Miike.  I have not seen the follow-up film Three...Extremes II with three other directors (Nonzee Nimibutr, Ji-woon Kim, and Peter Chan) but it is also streaming on Netflix (as are other films by those directors)

Three...Extremes (Fruit Chan, Takashi Miike, Chan-wook Park, Hong Kong/Japan/South Korea, 2005, 126 minutes)
Netflix: Three Asian masters of horror spin twisted tales in this terrifying trilogy that begins with "Dumplings" by Hong Kong's Fruit Chan, in which an aging actress's obsession with recapturing her youth leads to an unnatural diet. In Korean filmmaker Chan-wook Park's "Cut," a movie extra with a grudge torments a successful director. Japan's Takashi Miike directs "Box," in which sibling rivalry and jealousy reach disturbing new heights.  Netflix link.

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Chan-wook Park's Thirst is an appropriately gory vampire film, and perhaps a proper corrective to the recent trend in teen/romance vampires.  It is certainly far more cynical and bleak than the recent pop vampire films, perhaps a bit too bleak by the end.  It's tone may wear you down in part due to it's length, but overall it provides an interesting twist on the genre.  Unfortunately Park's Oldboy is no longer streaming on Netflix, but a few other of his films remain: Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance (2002), Lady Vengeance (2005), and the romantic comedy, I'm a Cyborg, but That's Okay (2006)

Thirst (Chan-wook Park, South Korea, 2009, 133 minutes)
Netflix: When the smoke clears from a failed experiment to find a cure for a fatal disease, a devout priest finds himself forever changed. Specifically, he's a vampire -- but that isn't the only thing that's different. Now he's also willing to commit adultery with the wife of his childhood friend, a sin he never would have considered before. Kang-ho Song, Ha-kyun Shin and Ok-bin Kim co-star in this horror offering from Korean director Chan-Wook Park.  Netflix link.

Fruit Chan's Dumplings is the full-length version of the story told in short form in Three...Extremes.  I have put it in my queue along with Chan's remake of Don't Look Up (2009) which seems to have divided critics and audiences alike into love/hate camps.

Dumplings (Fruit Chan, Hong Kong, 2004, 90 minutes)
Netflix: Hoping to hang onto her unfaithful husband (Tony Leung Ka Fai) by looking younger, retired television star Mrs. Lee (Miriam Yeung Chin Wah) eagerly begins eating Aunt Mei's (Ling Bai) famous rejuvenation dumplings, but her increasing appetite for these rare delicacies leads to unsavory complications. Fruit Chan directs this disturbing horror film that features a gruesome look into the dumplings' secret ingredient: human fetuses.  Netflix link.

I mentioned Miike's most recent film, 13 Assassins, in a recent post, and a few of his other films are currently streaming on Netflix Watch instantly: the infamous Ichi the Killer (2001); his contribution to Masters of Horror, Imprint (2005), and his recent spaghetti western-inspired Sukiyaki Western Django (2007).  But instead I'll include another film that I need to catch up with and have put in my queue, Audition from 1999.  If you're not familiar with Miike's films, be warned, they are not for the squeamish.

Audition (Takashi Miike, Japan, 1999, 115 minutes)
Netflix: Director Takashi Miike fashions an explosive drama in Audition. Shigeharu Aoyama (Ryo Ishibashi) has lived as a widower for too long and decides it's time to marry again. But how will he find a wife? When a friend suggests he hold a fake audition to pick the right woman, he takes him up on it -- only to realize that his choice may be a better actress than he bargained for.  Netflix link.  Note: Expires 10/20/11.

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