Three Extremes 2

This Asian triptych sees the collaboration of three prominent directors from three different countries maximising the appeal of Tartan's Asia Extreme label. Director's Kim Jee-Woon (South Korea), Nonzee Nimibutr (Thailand), and Peter Ho-Sun Chan (Hong Kong) each provide a segment in this trio of spooky stories.

Memories, the primary instalment, comes from Kim Jee-Woon (A Tale of Two Sisters) and in it we see a husband fret over his wife’s disappearance. The man (Jung Bo-Seog) sits in lonely silence in his apartment having visions of his wife, which he’s informed is all part of his 'separation disorder'. Concurrently, a woman gains consciousness on a road, apparently having had an accident, and struggles to make her way home. The lack of dialogue and comfortably languid takes in this film makes for a fittingly sombre air to this gently chilling ghost story. Kim Hye-Soo puts a good performance of big-eyed lost confusion which helps to make an empathetic connection which is lacking in her coldly detached husband. The muted colours of the bleak surroundings, coupled with the score, give an atmosphere of drained life, but where this film should’ve stuck with the slightly emotive ghost story, it unfortunately panders to the audience expectations of Asian horror and throws in some completely unnecessary gore which batters the subtleties.

Nonzee Nimibutr (producer of Tears of the Black Tiger and The Eye 2) helms the second segment, The Wheel. With a traditional setting, Nimibutr tells the story of a Thai village, the leader of which dies mysteriously amid rumours of a curse. Like the villagers, he belonged to the Khon, whose status leaves them to covet the highly ornate puppets used in theatre by the socially superior Hun Lakorn Lek. When the leader dies, another seeks to take possession of the puppets for financial benefit, despite the curse. It's just as well this film has the lushness of Thailand and the beauty and intrigue of their traditions to detract from the fact that the content of this film is a bit lacking. More emphasis on atmosphere and less on scares means this piece never goes beyond a sense of the untoward and too many superfluous characters make it less cohesive than it ought to be.

Peter Ho-Sun Chan's final instalment, Going Home, is the most engaging of the three tales. A policeman and his young son go to live in the grimmest possible tenement building which is empty but for the couple opposite, a man and his lifeless, wheelchair-bound wife. When the young boy disappears, the father seeks to find him in the couple’s apartment only to become a hostage of the man with his bizarre behaviour and omnipresent mysterious boiling vats. Christopher Doyle (Infernal Affairs, Dumplings) provides the cinematography here, giving the film a broody feel of unrest. It’s the more modern feeling of the three films in that it goes for more immediate and ongoing shocks than the others. Working its way to a twist ending, Going Home culminates as a sick love story and as such generates the empathy of the viewer which means it's the one with the greatest effect.

Visually accomplished anthology let down by the content which never manages to rise above adequate 6/10

Martyrs DVD

French director Pascal Laugier's Martyr's is both impressive and questionable, its mix of revenge horror and torture porn takes it right out on the limb, with only a few other films. Smarter and better than Saw and Hostel it is, one should not however fall into the trap of saying American / Hollywood "bad torture porn", European cinema "justified explorations of human depravity". This is pretty exploitative for all its esoteric and existential justification, and while fans of extreme cinema and the aforementioned "torture porn" style movies can probably stomach it well enough, I personally would be a bit cautious if you are not naturally a fan of that kind of cinema.

Martyrs is available on shiny discs unrated in the US on April 28th and uncut in the UK on 25th of May. From The Weinstein Company and Optimum Home Entertainment respectively.

Martyrs - Trailer | Website (thanks rude-e)

A young woman's quest for revenge against the people who kidnapped and tormented her as a child leads her and a friend, on a terrifying journey into a living hell.

French beauties Morjana Alaoui and Mylène Jampanoï star

Watch the original French trailer over at wildbunch films You tube channel

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