Horror movies, more than most, lend themselves quite keenly to the short movie style. The Twilight Zone or Tales of the Unexpected both had some startling stories that are simple and pure distillations of a single idea. The short timeframe means that there are rarely boring short movies as there isn't enough time to get bored! This is good news as Three is a movie that comprises of three shorts, one each from Thailand (The Wheel), South Korea (Memories) and Hong Kong (Hong Kong).
The Wheel is a rather parochial tale of oriental puppetry. Apparently the artisan's puppets are cursed and if someone tries to take them away from the artisan they will die a lingering and horrible death. So, despite the rather bleak future of would be “borrowers”, this is exactly what happens. The direction and content of The Wheel is actually a bit flat, and none-descript, lacking a certain freshness that you would expect. This isn't to say that the movie is a bad one; it's just that the acting isn't quite there, the characters aren't quite rounded and the story not quite as flowing as it could be. Saying that, there are some potent moments concerning a possessed child that are very effective making you wonder why she wasn't the main antagonist for more of the short.
Memories Quite easily the weakest of the three due to a needlessly oblique story and a rage inducing lack of originality. Picture the scene: A man wakes up from a slumber on his couch - you are looking at his face, lying on the couch arm, and can see nothing else. You can hear odd noises, though: a rhythmic floorboard creaking, the ambient noise of an air conditioned apartment, the rustle of cushions as the man rolls on his side to see what is making those floorboards creak. The room comes into view and we see a discarded doll on the floor, the man looking at it from afar curious as to how it got there. The camera moves in to the doll, the floorboards louder and Bang! The doll's head whips around to face the man! By now you are thinking this is pretty good, decent atmosphere building well, with that doll nearly scaring you witless. It is as the camera reveals what is causing the creaking when this entire patch of well built atmosphere is dispelled. It is yet another thin pale faced girl with long damp hair hiding her face. For the love of all that is holy, people, why can't you think of something else!? I just couldn't believe how lazy this reveal was. I expected something terrifying, but instead all we get is a tired cliché that is as frightening as Bill Oddie. I mean this is ridiculous - at least Hammer Horror had no pretensions. Memories, however, tries to impart some deeper affiliation with the watcher by snap framing and patchy exposition. Instead you are left with a badly paced story, such as it is, with a ghost-like character from another movie. Very disappointing.
Going Home is probably the most famous in terms of award wins and nominations and was my favourite of the three. Well acted, well directed and a story that unfolds with superb pacing, this is how a short should be made. Wai (Eric Tsang) a father moves into a desolate apartment block with his son Cheung (a very impressive Ting-Fung Li). Cheung becomes distressed when he sees a girl in a red coat following their opposite neighbour. No one else can see her and Cheung begins to think her a ghost until she asks him if he wanted to play with her. Cheung, relieved there is nothing to worry about, wanders off all night making his father look for him at the apartment across the block. What he finds is a crazed man preserving his dead wife in an attempt to purge her of cancer and resurrect her after three years of, to paraphrase, ritualistic “eastern medicine”.
There is a lot to think about there, and it is to the director and writer's credit that this short never becomes overly complex, or indeed depressing. There are some wonderful moments of black humour, one involving a urine bottle and another involving a glass of beer in the bath. There are some reasonable subtle references in this too which, unlike Memories, are vague enough not to give the plot away, but potent enough to make sense. Going Home is certainly an effective and well executed short that fans of horror could do worse than watch. What Going Home doesn't do is make the other shorts better.