Asia Extreme on Sundance
“Extreme” is a tiresome adjective, particularly when spelled “Xtreme” and paired with a sports term. On the other hand, “Asian” is a fine adjective, promising new and exotic delights in a wide range of categories. Put the two together and you get Asia Extreme, an incredible DVD label and the organizer of a multimonth film festival on Sundance Channel. Beginning Saturday, Aug. 7, and following each Saturday until Oct. 30, Sundance Channel and Asia Extreme will deliver a mind-bogglingly cool lineup of 13 genre-specific treats, highlighting some of the best and bloodiest of modern Asian film.
Since the late-’90s, Americans have been slowly indoctrinated into the world of Hong Kong action films and Japanese horror flicks. Asia Extreme expands those horizons, giving us horror films, thrillers and dramas from a variety of sources. For the first five weeks alone, it’s never-before-seen-on-TV films from South Korea! Viewers can wet their whistles this weekend with Dong-hun Choi’s Tazza: The High Rollers. This twisty dramedy follows the adventures of a naive young man who is swindled by a gang of card sharks and vows revenge with the help of a seductive gambling pro. The film is based on a popular Korean comic book and was a big hit in its homeland. It’s obviously influenced by the much-imitated Hong Kong film series God of Gamblers but packs plenty of its own inventive twists and turns. Definitely an auspicious start to the series.
After that, we get Ik-hwan Choe’s haunted high school flick Voice (Aug. 14), Mee-jeung Kim’s historical murder mystery Shadows in the Palace (Aug. 21), Dong-oh Cho’s 10th-century demon-fighting fantasy The Restless (Aug. 28) and Shin-yeon Won’s hairy-scary monster movie The Wig (Sept. 4)—which is about, yes, a possessed hairpiece.
Starting Sept. 11, Asia Extreme expands the viewing choices with a few other countries of origin and a handful of familiar titles. First, it’s Japanese madman Takashi Miike’s scary, brilliant and occasionally gut-busting 2003 horror parody One Missed Call. This one, about a teenage ghost haunting her friends via cell phone, got remade in America in 2008. The original’s way better. On Sept. 18, it’s more Miike madness with his hit adaptation of Hideo Yamamoto’s ultra-violent comic book Ichi the Killer. Sept. 25 rounds out the month with Thai director Dunyasit Niyomkul’s haunted med student flick Cadaver.
October opens with a bang with Hong-jin Na’s propulsive cop drama The Chaser. On Oct. 9, it’s Dae-wung Lim’s school reunion slasher flick Bloody Reunion. On Oct. 16, we get Akihiko Shiota’s translation of the classic Japanese manga Dororo, about a nameless samurai battling demons in feudal Japan. Hong Kong king of style Johnnie To contributes Mad Detective on Oct. 23. The film features a rookie cop and an insane (but possibly psychic) former detective hunting down a nasty serial killer. Sadly, Asian Extreme ends on Oct. 30. But at least we get to close out the run with Monthon Arayangkoon’s Thailand-shot horror thriller The Victim, in which an actress, who works for the police “simulating” murder scenes, gets caught up in the search for a missing Miss Thailand.
Asia Extreme airs Saturday nights / Sunday mornings at 1 a.m. on Sundance Channel starting Aug. 7. If you miss any films in the series, they’ll all be available via an exclusive cable video-on-demand package.