"Three . . . Extremes" is like a bouquet of poisoned flowers -- beautiful, delicate and lethal. A trio of horror films from three "extreme" Asian directors, it shows how much evil fun talented bad boys can have on a very small scale.
The Chinese filmmaker Fruit Chan gets things off roaringly with "Dumplings," a study of the monstrosity of vanity. Fading TV actress Ching (Miriam Yeung Chin Wah), whose husband is having an affair, goes to a crummy Hong Kong apartment where Auntie Mei (Bai Ling) prepares her special dumplings, said to have enormous restorative powers. It works: Mrs. Ching gets younger and more beautiful, and when she learns what's in the dumplings . . . she wants them anyway. When the magic ingredient runs out, she . . . well, I can't continue. This one is at once perverse and beautiful, hysterically funny in a powerfully ill way.
In "Cut," director Chan-wook Park (famous for "Oldboy") shows off his talent for extreme melodrama: A young director (Byung-hun Lee) awakens to find himself not merely kidnapped but placed in a grotesque world where he must choose whether to let a madman cut off his wife's fingers. He can stop her slow ordeal by choppity-chop by simply . . . strangling a little girl. I am not making this up.
Finally, Japanese crazy man Takashi Miike (best known for 1999's "Audition") checks in with "Box," in which a novelist recalls a hideous occurrence of sibling jealousy and slowly unravels the secrets of what she did and what was done to her. None of it is very pretty.
The first is the best, the second most riveting, the third most disturbing, but all will stay with you for weeks.
-- Stephen Hunter