Monday, February 27, 2006

Three Extremes (Saam Gaang Yi)

--Reviewed by Lindy Loo

Plotline: A collection of three short horror films by three different Asian directors. I will discuss each individually and then discuss them as a whole. My suggestion is to go into this film WITHOUT knowing what the three movies are about (in other words, don't read the plotlines below)--it'll be much more fun. But if you just can't bear it, I've described what they're about as well.

1. Dumplings

Plotline: A middle-aged woman comes to visit a "chef" notorious for her age-defying dumplings, hoping that she can woo back her husband by recharging the looks of her youth. You will never look at a Chinese woman eating dumplings innocently again.

Scariness factor: This short film has a much higher uncomfortability and gross-out factor than scare factor, but it definitely is a creepy one.

Gross-Out Factor: Let me just say, I sure was glad that we feasted on sushi and udon BEFORE this movie. I am a mildly-squeamish person, but I can watch a lot without being grossed out. However, when the crux of the movie rests on the palate, apparently it's a much different story. You can remind yourself over and over that it's JUST A MOVIE, but it will be difficult to keep your stomach from churning despite that fact. I honestly was a bit burpy afterwards, and not in a good way. Translation: a high high high gross-out factor; very graphic.

Complaints: As I've discussed with several folks on various occasions, I'm a fan of subtlety when it comes to horror flicks. I'd much rather sit through a movie that scares me than one that just grosses me out the whole time. I am also more of a fan of the supernatural horror movie, rather than the horror movie which focuses on the horror that is twisted human nature. This movie fits into the latter of the two categories. The graphicness is INTENSE. And the movie is not so much scary as uncomfortable and creepy and unsettling.

High Points: That being said, I did in fact like this short film. Gross-out factor was high, and I'm not a big fan. But this short would've failed miserably without it. The key was the intense visceral reaction that it evokes in you. And it does a good job with this. I also left the movie thinking that this was a very well-constructed short. I am not quite sure why, but I felt like they did a very solid, good job with this segment. The acting was very good. It was very believable. And it had a hint of strange folklorishness akin to some of the creepy stuff I used to like reading when I was little.

Overall: This is really a visceral and nauseating short, but it is well-done despite its high gross-out factor. If you are squeamish though, stear clear.

Grade: A-

2. Cut

Plotline: A movie-director returns home from a day on-set to find an intruder in his home. He is attacked and awakes from unconsiousness on the set of his movie, his wife strung up near the piano, and a pressing deadline: he must either choke to death a child tied up nearby or every ten minutes one of his wife's fingers will be chopped off.

Scariness factor: Again, this short film is not so much scary as demented and creepy. But as dementedness goes, it is definitely high. And it has the added benefit of being funny in parts, which also will creep you out because YOU'LL feel demented for finding humor in such fucked up events.

Gross-Out Factor: Fairly high, given the chopping off of fingers and the end of the short. Expect no shortage on blood.

Complaints: I am having a hard time trying to figure out exactly what it is that failed to impress me about this short, but *something* did. Perhaps it was the torture sheerly for the sake of torture. I dunno. Like I said, I'm not a big fan of the torture film. And although there are a good variety of horror flicks that I like whose focus is the revelation of the horror that is human nature (or a deviation from the norm of human nature), they tend to interest me less than other types of horror films. I know people are fucked up and creepy. It is unsettling to be reminded of that. Which is both good and bad, I suppose.

High Points: The humor in this short is definitely its high-point. I found myself laughing throughout, and I felt uncomfortable laughing, but it was downright FUNNY in parts. The intruder/torturer is fantastic in this short--he is both wildly funny and creepy, and damn good playing both. This short also was good in the department of the absurd, which ties into the humor I suppose. But the absurdity of it was fun.

Overall: I wasn't bowled over by this short, but its humor was definitely something different, and it's worth watching for that alone, I suppose.

Grade: C+/B-

3. The Box

Plotline: A woman has a recurring dream in which she is suffocated in plastic, placed in a small box, and buried in the ground. The mystery behind this recurring dream is slowly revealed.

Scariness factor: Unlike the other two shorts which focused more on violence and calling up a visceral reaction in their viewers, this short is more typically what I'd consider my cup of tea: it is subtle and creepy and relies more on atmosphere and spookiness than it does graphic bloodiness.

Gross-Out Factor: Low. The more violent events are understated and nothing that you'll need to squinch your eyes shut during.

Complaints: I didn't get it. And by that, I mean I didn't really understand the end of the movie or what the hell it meant. And in having it explained to me (by someone else who wasn't QUITE clear about it either but seemed to understand it more than me), if they are correct, I still didn't really understand it or get it. The ending, while visually interesting, was disappointing. (I just read through an explanation of the ending of this movie HERE which has made me rethink the ending--I actually really find it quite interesting now, and not at all disappointing.)

High Points: This short is beautifully filmed. Much of the short has that blue early-morning/dusk coloring to it that is beautiful and yet unsettling. And the scenes in the snow are beautiful. The story-line was also entertaining and interesting (up until the end, perhaps) and the shots concerning the twin sisters are really fantastic as well. This short was definitely the best of the three visually.

Overall: I really liked this one, especially now that I've read more about the ending. It is beautifully surreal and interesting, and definitely worth checking out.

Grade: A/A-

Overall Rating for All Three Shorts: B; Dumplings and The Box are on very opposite ends of the spectrum in film-style, content, etc. but both are really quite good and worth watching.



At 11:42 PM, Anonymous -G- said...

I thought the ending of Box was great. I found the intruder in cut to be mostly annoying, especially the way he dragged the last syllable of whatever he said. I thought the most intriguing part of cut was the little boy.


Post a Comment

<< Home