Three, otherwise known as Three Extremes II because apparently it got its American release after Three… Extremes did, is an underwhelming horror anthology that feels so much like a means of showing a series of concepts rather than ideas. I was especially rather excited to check out Three for Kim Jee-woon’s short film but even with my admiration for the director, so many of Three‘s weaknesses came so clear to me and the final results were nothing short of underwhelming. It was never weak enough to the degree that it had pushed me away from watching Three… Extremes but even at a mere two hours, every last idea felt incomplete.
Each of the three short films is set in a different part of Asia: the first short, Memories directed by Kim Jee-woon in South Korea, the second, The Wheel directed by Nonzee Nimbutr in Thailand, and the third, Going Home directed by Peter Chan in Hong Kong. All three of these short films have a link amidst one another when we are to talk of the techniques which they incorporate for how they use the horror genre, but even with the loose connections to be felt there’s another problem that comes along which feels rather common especially for anthology films, some of the ideas are given too little time and it also creates a great feel of inconsistency all throughout.
What did catch me out of nowhere was how of all the shorts, Kim Jee-woon’s Memories is some of the director’s weakest work as of yet and it is also the worst segment in the whole film. Knowing already what Kim Jee-woon is capable of when he’s working around the horror genre has proven itself worthwhile especially when you look at how he’s handled it in films like A Tale of Two Sisters, but compare that to what you’re seeing in Three and it only feels like a warm-up (which would make sense as this came before A Tale of Two Sisters). He’s arguably the most recognizable director to have worked on this effort but if you know what more he can do, it feels like an extremely disappointing effort.
The second short comes from Thailand, and it seems as if it’s a slight improvement but with that said, most of it simply never works. This segment is named The Wheel, and it is directed by Nonzee Nimbutr. While there’s so much to admire given how much tension is crafted within the atmosphere, the problem is that given its incredibly short length, there is ultimately no payoff. It isn’t sooner where it starts to suffer the same problems that had plagued the Memories segment, they have so much to offer visually but outside of there, it feels more as if it relied far too much upon exposition and it also doesn’t help that because of how unengaging it is, the horror feels very weak. It’s slightly more interesting than Memories on the count that it tries to explore bits of Thailand’s culture but it’s very empty.
Going Home, the final segment, is ultimately the best of the bunch. This is where the most creative story in the anthology is present, because it feels like even with a short length, it’s trying to hit upon more emotional beats that actually can drive the characters in its story somewhere. It’s brilliantly paced and it also leaves enough for the viewer’s imagination, but there are moments that certainly feel rather tedious especially when compared to others. Of all the segments in Three, it’s the one that I feel could even make for an interesting feature film, because there are many areas that still feel far too underdeveloped especially under a rather short running time. Add some beautiful cinematography by the always wonderful Christopher Doyle to that, and there’s already a single segment that’s worth watching.
I feel as if there’s a single idea that all of these shorts wants to carry that gives a sense of connection, but nothing grabs a single viewer enough up until the final segment. Given the talent that’s shown all around at least when it comes to how the segments show when it comes down to what they want to explore thematically, it’s disappointing when only one of these shorts feels rewarding in some form. Yet soon enough, the problems that plague many anthologies become clear, especially when the many inconsistencies just keep coming right at oneself.
Watch a clip trailer right here.
All images via Fortissimo Films.
Directed by Kim Jee-woon
Screenplay by Kim Jee-woon
Starring Jeong Bo-seok, Kim Hye-so
Directed by Nonzee Nimbutr
Screenplay by Nitas Singhamat
Starring Suwinit Panjamawat
Directed by Peter Chan
Screenplay by Matt Chow, Jojo Hui
Starring Leon Lai, Eric Tsang, Eugenia Yuan
Produced by Duangamol Limcharoen, Jojo Hui, Nonzee Nimibutr, Oh Jung-Won, Peter Chan
Release Year: 2002
Running Time: 129 minutes