Though shadowed by its more successful and more popular followup, Three.. Extremes, Three.. (to my knowledge) started the trend of the Asian omnibus horror film. At its barebones, I love the idea of a film being directed by multiple directors, even if its just going to be a collection of shorts. However, as with any such anthology, some segments drastically outweigh the others, which cripples the film as a whole. Here, unfortunately, they all weigh each other down…
The first of the three; a rough way to kick it off…
The elegantly worded title cards relate the supernatural bond that forms between performers and their puppets and that were a puppet not to be destroyed after its master’s death, a great curse would befall those who adopted said puppets. Which is exactly what happens in this rural town after the death of one of the puppeters.
A very generic story, which is wholly uninteresting, save for the oddly hypnotic cinematography. The characters seem to have absolutely zero motivation, as they keep going back for the puppets. It has only been a day since I watched Three.. and while I can remember everything that happened in the Wheel, I can’t exactly remember why it all happened. Briefly scary, rarely thrilling, barely exciting.
It feels the most episodic of the trilogy – it would fit right in with some kind of Asian “Tales From the Crypt” – but by film standards I expected more from you, Thailand.
The only short of the three whose director I’m familiar with. A Tale of Two Sisters has a dreadfully suspensful and often times scary as hell first half, but dives head first into a sea of confussion and incoherence as it tries to correlate all of its oddities together, leaving it practically unwatchable (but man, the cinematography is the best any horror film has seen since The Shining). A Bittersweet Life, however, was actually on my top 10 of 2005, so the man is capable of making a very strong film which is universally so from begining to end. Memories, unfortunately, is far too like Two Sisters than a Bittersweet Life.
The opening sequence is a perfect blend of surreal horror; Our helpless main man awakes on a giant purple couch to a barren living room, met only with the cold gaze of a staring doll, a spinning balloon which floats at chest height, and a girl rocking back and forth in the fetal position. It is a superb sequence, tightly edited, tightly shot with a great degree of subversive imagination that would fit right in with something like Eraserhead.
If only the rest of the film kept that same level of quality. My problem isn’t that the rest of the film isn’t as surreal or as freaky, I’ve just grown tired of memory loss stories. They rarely hold any interest in me, here is no different. I don’t like the broken narrative they all use. I don’t deny its hard to make a whole story out of intentionally fragmented pieces, but I’ve just got more respect for a movie that doesn’t use a memory loss schtick for its mysteries.
The man on the couch can’t remember why his wife left him. The wife wanders the streets trying to dial a phone number to reach her husband. The disassociated memories get progressively re-assembled, but to little satisfaction or originality. Kim tries to make up for its tideous narrative with genuine bits of shock, but its actually too groteseque that it doesn’t fit in with the rest of the story. The image of a woman fingering an open wound in her head, spilling out blood and tiny chunks of brain just doesn’t help piece the puzzle back together. Its just gross. And it isn’t the only scene that does so, which shouldn’t be the case in a film that is only 50 minutes long to begin with.
If Ji-woon Kim cut after the title credit, it’d be a flawless film. But he didn’t and it isn’t. At least I have a new appreciation for his benchmark that is A Bittersweet Life, having seen his stumbling roots. It is the best of the bunch, but that isn’t saying much.
It opens very ominously as a man and his son arrive at their new (and depressing) apartment complex. The bold and hair raising score in the begining may make you think you’re in for more a more other-worldly affair, but you’d only be decieved. By opening the film through the view of the child and how ghostly desolate the apartment building is, one should resonably expect a ghost story, but there is no such intensity here.
The story revolves around the father, who is held prisoner by one of the other residents after discovering the dead body of said resident’s wife. The man is convinced that his wife is simply paralyzed from the waste down and that he can find some way to cure her, so he treats her like she is alive…bathing her, grooming her, kissing her…
It has the potential to be a very emotional, very moving story, but it just doesn’t soar. If its any reflection of how impactful the segment is, the most enjoyment I got out of it was simply from seeing Eric Tsang (who plays the father) on screen again. He always looks so content. Like if Homer Simpson was real. And Asian.
It has a dead body in it, but that’s not nearly enough to call this end to the trilogy a horror film. Its too timid in that regard.