Excepting bona fide J-horror buffs and Scarecrow frequenters with multiregion DVD players, few are fully familiar with a genre that begins and ends somewhere between the originals Ringu and The Grudge. But here's your chance to get an education in pan-Asian horror: This two-hour anthology film weaves together Dumplings from Hong Kong's Fruit Chan; Cut by Korea's Park Chan-wook (whose Oldboy recently played Seattle); and Box by Takashi Miike (Audition), often described as Japan's David Lynch.
First (and my favorite) is Dumplings, the story of a retired TV actress concerned about her fading beauty and its effect on her rich husband, a blind oaf who increasingly floats checks, instead of kisses, her way. She seeks out Mei (sexpot Bai Ling), legendary for her youth-rejuvenating dumplings, who dices the secret ingredient and kneads it into perfect gyoza. What do these delicacies contain? You'll want to look away from the gruesome recipe, but the cinematography of Christopher Doyle (famed for his collaborations with Wong Kar-wai), which splashes each scene with color and movement, makes that impossible.
Cut opens as director Ryu wraps after a day filming his new vampire comedy. At home, he's attacked by an intruder, an unhappy extra in his movie, who returns him to the set the next day. Only now the director must take directions if he's to keep his wife intact. Superglue and a grand piano are the instruments of torture in this thoroughly bizarre chapter.
Lastly, Miike's Box is far more confusing than bloodcurdling. Kyoko is a novelist with a frightening dream that forces her to relive a childhood trauma nightly, always ending as she's wrapped in plastic and buried alive in a snowy landscape. Eventually she receives an invitation that takes her to the exact site of her dreams. What unfolds only Miike can decipher. His pace is pleasingly deliberate, tension-filled, and quiet. Set mostly in the ominous outdoors, Box really is quite Lynchian—shut your eyes and you'll burst into flames. (R)