'The Theatre Bizarre' Review

The Theatre Bizarreby Colleen Wanglund, MoreHorror.com

While I’ve seen more than a few indie horror anthologies of late—some good, others forgettable—the anthology film seems to be making a comeback.  Like the classic George Romero/Stephen King CREEPSHOW (1982) and the impending THE ABCs OF DEATH due out later this year, THE THEATRE BIZARRE (2011) is one of those films that lives up to its buzz….and fans’ expectations.  Six shorts linked by framing scenes make up THE THEATRE BIZARRE, a film being distributed by Severin Films. 

The film’s opening and framing segments, directed by Jeremy Kasten (WIZARD OF GORE {2007}) titled “Theatre Guignol” star the wonderfully bizarre Udo Kier as a life-size marionette and story teller in an abandoned theater.  Virginia Newcomb plays a young woman obsessed with the old theater, who sneaks into it one fateful night to hear the strange stories.  Throughout the segments are a cast of weird, life-size marionettes which underscore the coming short.

The six shorts are as follows:

The Mother of Toads
written and directed by Richard Stanley (HARDWARE {1990}) stars Shane Woodward as Martin and Victoria Maurette as Karina, a couple vacationing in France.  Martin is an anthropologist studying ancient myths and is invited to the home of a witch to see an ancient book akin to the Necronomicon.  Needless to say Martin doesn’t know what he’s getting himself into as the witch uses her magic to seduce him.  The witch is a fantastically creepy Catriona MacCall, veteran actress of Lucio Fulci flicks THE BEYOND (1981), THE HOUSE BY THE CEMETERY (1981) and CITY OF THE LIVING DEAD (1980).  This particular short had a Dario Argento vibe to it, including some of the music.

I Love You written and directed by Buddy Giovinazzo (COMBAT SHOCK {1986}) opens with a man (Andre Hennicke) waking up covered in blood on the floor of his bathroom.  After he has cleaned himself up, his wife (Suzan Anbeh) returns to the apartment to get her things, telling her husband she is leaving him.  What ultimately happens in that apartment is anything but predictable and enjoyably bloody.

Wet Dreams directed by SFX guru Tom Savini stars James Gill as Donnie, a man who has been having increasingly disturbing dreams about his wife Carla (Debbie Rochon).  Donnie’s therapist (played by Savini) tells him how to handle these dreams.  What he fails to mention is that he is on the final joke with Carla.  This short is a gloriously bloody bit of torture porn that did, in fact, have me cracking up.  An interesting bit of trivia—Greg Nicotero was originally slated to direct Wet Dreams but had to bow out due to the success of the television show THE WALKING DEAD.  He did contribute to the SFX, however.

The Accident written and directed by Douglas Buck is a very human story dealing with the true horrors of life and death.  The story centers around a mom (Lena Kleine) explaining why people die to her young daughter (Melodie Simard) after witnessing a horrible accident between a motorcycle and a deer.  The story itself is a sad one, and disturbed me greatly because of the plight of the deer (I’m overly-sensitive when it comes to animals).  The nine-year-old actress was very good in her role of the curious and confused daughter.

Vision Stains written and directed by Karim Hussain deals with a female serial killer (Kaniehtiio Horn) who takes the vitreous humor from her female victims at the point of death and then injects it into her own eye.  The killer sees the lives of the women she kills and writes down their stories, preserving them for posterity.  In a moment of overwhelming curiosity she takes the fluid from a pregnant woman’s womb to know what an unborn child might see.  That single act completely changes her life.

Sweets written and directed by David Gregory, is a bizarre story about a couple whose co-dependent relationship centers around junk food.  Estelle (Lindsay Goranson) attempts to end the relationship with Greg (Guilford Adams) but he begs and pleads for her to stay.  Greg will come to regret that decision.  Sweets is Willy Wonka-colorful, decadent and an extremely fun allegory on excess and gluttony, with Lynn Lowry leading a weird and rather gruesome dinner party.  Actresses Erin Marie Hogan (Test Tube Baby), Elissa Dowling (Subs), and Erica Rhodes (Cellist) round out the ensemble cast.

Overall THE THEATRE BIZARRE is a great indie film with excellent production values and a very strong cast.  During the Q&A after the movie Lindsay Goranson discussed how she really enjoyed herself while filming and it shows in her performance.  Estelle is a wicked and unforgiving woman.  The framing segments seemed to perfectly tie all of the shorts together.   Udo Kier is his usual amazing self and Virginia Newcomb plays an obviously damaged woman who undergoes a scary change during the show.

While five of the shorts fit in nicely with the Grand Guignol theme, I felt The Accident, while very well done, felt out of place to me.  It didn’t have the depth of horror and gore to be considered Guignol, in my opinion.  That being said, Buck’s piece is easily one of the best shorts in the bunch.  The Special Effects in all parts of the movie were excellent and suitably graphic and gory.  And where creature effects can sometimes run into the unbelievable and schlocky, they hit the mark in The Mother of Toads.  A few of the shorts shared the theme of unhealthy relationships but did so in a non-conventional way.  Another aspect I enjoyed about THE THEATRE BIZARRE was apart from the in-your-face squirm-inducing gore, there was an intriguing subtlety and beauty to each of the stories gruesomeness.  As far as I’m concerned, this is a must-see movie.

Released by Severin Films, THE THEATRE BIZARRE can be seen in limited theater runs across the country, and will be available March 14th on Video-On-Demand and will release in April on DVD/Blu-ray.

Runtime 114 minutes

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