As a friendly gesture from one provocateur to another, perhaps Lars von Trier could decree one of his “obstructions” for Takashi Miike: Make a movie without cheesy special effects. Miike’s Box short, which closes the three-director Asian-horror triptych Three…Extremes, is the prolific Japanese director’s subtlest U.S. release since the wrenching Audition, but it’s very nearly spoiled by its dorky final FX shot. The story of a young woman novelist (Kyoko Hasegawa) who’s haunted by nightmares of her childhood, Box is packed with eerie if predictable contents: twins, ghosts, revenge, and flickering visions of the shabby circus for which the preteen protagonist and her identical sister were once contortionists. Its elegant cinematography and spare, evocative use of sound create a mood that’s ravishingly dreamlike—until the unfortunate closer. Park Chan-wook’s Cut also seems to recount a nightmare, or perhaps a brutal reverie extracted from its central character’s subconscious. Like the Korean director’s best-known features, which include Oldboy, this short is a tale of vengeance: A bitter, apparently deranged extra breaks into the home of a much-liked film director (Byung-hun Lee) and offers him a choice between throttling a child or watching his pianist wife have her fingers severed one by one. But the director’s house is clearly a set, and the revenge scenario may very well be his own wish-fulfillment fantasy. The most explicitly violent of the segments, Cut is also the least interesting. Fruit Chan’s Dumplings, a 91-minute movie that has been cut roughly in half for this anthology, is the most pointed—and the most potentially disturbing. A middle-aged beauty (Hong Kong star Miriam Yeung) whose wealthy husband is dallying with a much younger woman locates a youthful-looking “aunt” (Chinese-born U.S. actress Bai Ling) whose dumplings are supposed to have remarkable restorative powers. They don’t just make women feel better; they actually turn back the clock. This abridgement is cryptic in places, but it effectively retains the feature’s cool tone and deliberate pacing, along with beautiful cinematography by Wong Kar-Wai regular Christopher Doyle. The film is not for the squeamish—someone fainted at the film-fest screening where I saw the long version—but Dumplings is less a horror flick than it is a diabolical social satire.

—Mark Jenkins