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Three…Extremes (2004)

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Assembling three of the most prominent and respected directors in the genres of horror and thriller. Three…Extremes is a moody, vicious, and down right disgusting compilation. It features shorts directed by Chan-wook Park (Oldboy), Fruit Chan (Durian Durian), and Takashi Miike (Ichi the Killer), each respectively unleashing their most emancipated efforts. While each short is equal in their monstrosity, individually they work on different levels and aspects of trepidation. The segments are entitled “Box” (Miike’s), “Cut” (Park), and “Dumplings” (Chan). Three…Extremes is consistent and even making it a rare spectacle in horror anthologies. When you combine Miike, Chan, and Park, you know what you’re getting yourself into. Sleep tight…

Dumplings: Fruit Chan.

An actress who is disgusted with her aging visits a woman to help her reclaim youth. The woman makes dumplings infused with a special ingredient that helps regenerate bodily properties. When the actress discovers what the special ingredient is, she is forced to make some difficult decisions on the length she is willing to go to retrieve her youthful looks.

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Cut: Chan-wook Park.

A film director returns home from work one evening when strange events start to occur. When an intruder knocks him unconscious, he wakes on one of his sets with his wife being tied to a piano. The captor then begins to play mind games with the couple. As the stakes are raised, the director begins to crumble under the pressure.

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Box: Takashi Miike.

A shy woman continuously has reoccurring nightmares in which she is buried alive in a box. While she is awake, she begins to see her long lost sister appear. During a series of flashbacks, the woman begins to realize the connection between her nightmares and apparitions.

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I’ve always found it a bit odd that no hostage ever seems to understand that their captor is criminally insane. However, being this insane comes with its fair share of hilarity and apparently Mr. Park thinks so as well. The out of place humour in his short “Cut,” is a wonderful comical contrast. “Cut” is by far the most diabolical and ruthless of the shorts, with its twists, brutal truths, and cringing gore. “Dumplings” by Fruit Chan is the one short I’ll issue a warning for. Deliberately crossing the line and never looking back, “Dumplings” is not for the squeamish. Mixing a smart story with unexplainable acts, literally deplorable, “Dumplings” will leave you turning away in repulsion. Finally, Takashi Miike’s “Box” is the more generic and tame of the three I guess you could say. In no way am I taking anything away from this spine chilling tale. I am just stating that in comparison, “Box” isn’t nearly as physically despicable. “Box” is an excellent scare and will put you on the edge of your seat in fear. With each short working off one another, Three…Extremes is a vomit inducing, psychologically scrambling, eye burning thrill.

Three…Extremes: 9 out of 10.

Stoker (2013)

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With Stoker, Chan-wook Park solidifies that in any language his is the master of chilling story telling and tension. The director of Oldboy and Thirst didn’t miss a step in his transfer to North American filmmaking and brought all of the qualities that make him so relevant and symbolic with him across the ocean. Assembling a cast that is anything but ordinary, Park needed an asymmetrical cast for an atypical film. Featuring Mia Wasikowska as a distant and dysfunctional teen, Nicole Kidman as her unapproachable mother, and Matthew Goode as her isolated and intriguing uncle, the cast of Stoker will collectively put you on an unnerving edge. Stoker is a psycho-sexual thriller that will leave you feeling right for all the wrong reasons.

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India Stoker (Wasikowska) is a secluded teen who’s father has just passed away in a car accident. Now India lives alone with her mother Evelyn (Kidman) with whom she never really got along with. After her father’s funeral, India is introduced to her father’s brother, her uncle, Charlie (Goode). India has never met Charlie before and his sudden arrival after her father’s death is mysterious. When Evelyn allows Charlie to stay with them for a while, India begins to think something is suspect with her new uncle and that he may have ulterior motives under his charming and polite manner.

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You can tell that with every film he creates, Chan-wook Park does his research. He doesn’t want to shelter the audience from any detail, no matter how unrelenting or unpleasant. It’s as if he is saying “These things exist, deal with it.” Again, Chan-wook Park doesn’t tiptoe through his stories, nor does he hit you over the head with them, he simply displays the poisonous breadcrumbs for you to follow. The piano sequence between Goode and Wasikowska is so deathly seductive, it is pure brilliance. Nicole Kidman becomes an openly regret filled parent who by the middle of the film you wish would die, which is the goal she set out to achieve.¬†Goode is both an eloquent, robotic maniac and a psychotic, emotionally unbalanced, and unconsciously sporadic head case. Mia Wasikowska is the nucleus of this bizarre coming of age tale and she deservedly steals the spotlight. Black hair, pale skin, and welcoming attire, Wasikowska is the girl next door. Her dialogue is never expressly long and she doesn’t try to make good, play nice, or save face but she is so perfectly balanced between the cute schoolgirl and depressive outcast that even after all she does, it is impossible not to like her. Clint Mansell composes another spooky score as he did for Moon and it’s cautiously optimistic and epic tones create a dreadful contradiction in the most enticing way. Stoker is another feat for Park and the cast is triumphant in their distress.

Stoker: 8.5 out of 10.