THE THEATRE BIZARRE (2011)
Midnight Movie Review by Nick Cato
Horror anthology films are usually hit or miss, from the Karloff/Bava classic BLACK SABBATH (1963) to TALES FROM THE CRYPT (1972) and THE VAULT OF HORROR (1973), right up to recent titles such as TRICK OR TREAT (2007). The one that worked on every level and kept tightly to its theme was George A. Romero’s CREEPSHOW (1982), a fan favorite that has stood the test of time. In this A.D.D. generation, I’m surprised there aren’t a lot more films comprised of several shorts, but regardless of their scarcity, I’m always excited whenever a new one is released.
I attended the latest anthology offering, THE THEATRE BIZARRE (2011), at NYC’s Landmark Sunshine, as it opened to midnight audiences in several cities on January 27th. With a theatre full of hardcore horror fans (not to mention one of the stars, producers, and directors in attendance), I couldn’t ask for a better way to screen this much-hyped film that spent 2011 touring the film festival circuit.
THE THEATRE BIZARRE begins when a young woman can’t stop staring at an abandoned-looking theatre across the street from her apartment. She is drawn to it, finds the front door unlocked, and takes a seat among other scattered patrons. A humanoid automaton (played by cult film legend, Udo Kier) pops out of a box and begins to address the silent crowd, introducing the first (and five following) stories.
A couple vacationing in the French countryside wander into an occult shop in THE MOTHER OF TOADS (directed by Richard Stanley of HARDWARE (1990) fame). This one has the best atmosphere of the lot, is genuinely creepy, and manages to tell a monster tale in a non-campy manner. Catriona (THE BEYOND, 1981) MacColl is perfect as a witch who allows our American antagonist to take a peak at a genuine copy of the Necronomicon. It’s a nice blend of Lovecraftian terror and Argento-like cinematography, and a great opening piece.
Next up is I LOVE YOU, directed by Buddy Giovinazzo, the man responsible for the grim Vietnam veteran classic COMBAT SHOCK (1986). A paranoid husband discovers that his paranoia was warranted; his wife has become unhappy over the years and has been sleeping with every man she could. Told in sharp time-shifting edits, the ending can only be described as beautifully disgusting.
WET DREAMS (directed by and featuring Tom Savini as a psychiatrist) tells the tale of an abusive husband who’s erotic and violent dreams cause him to visit a shrink. He’s taught how to talk himself out of bad dreams, but finds out he’s no match for his battered wife who has had enough (the wife is played by Debbie Rochon, here in one of her finer roles). I usually don’t go for “dream” type horror stories, but this one’s done in a fresh way and the ending will make you cringe.
Just when I thought every story would be dealing with couples, along comes director Douglas Buck’s THE ACCIDENT, a heady piece about a young girl asking her mother why people have to die while traveling in their minivan. An older biker passes them, then a younger one. A few miles up the road, they discover the younger biker has crashed by hitting an elk and died as the older biker looks on from the side of the road. Seen through the eyes of the young daughter (played by impressive Canadian newcomer Melodie Simard), THE ACCIDENT is a haunting and artistically shot piece that I actually found out of place in this anthology; it’s a bit more serious than the other films and—sandwiched in-between two of the more extreme stories—sort-of slows things down. It’s one of the better offerings, but I felt it didn’t belong here.
Karim Hussain’s VISION STAINS turned out to be my favorite of the lot. Kaniehito Horn plays a writer who lives among homeless junkies. She has discovered a way to obtain these people’s memories, and logs them to preserve their history. At the moment of death, the nameless writer injects a syringe into the victim’s eyeball, and then injects the vitreous fluid into her own eye, allowing her to see the person’s entire life, which she then frantically writes down. Her room is loaded with volume upon volume. Things take a dark turn when she decides to take the fluid from the unborn baby of a crack addict. What happens changes her life and brings an unusual closure. The special effects are difficult to watch if this isn’t your thing, but with a story this good it’s hard not to look away.
Closing things out is the strangest of the bunch. SWEETS (directed by David Gregory), features a couple who share a massive addiction to cake and candy. Estelle (played with over-the-top glee by Lindsay Goranson) breaks off her fling with Greg (the hysterical Guilford Adams—you’ve seen him on TV). In a twist on the Hansel and Gretyl theme, the conclusion finds Estelle at a party with like-minded sweets addicts (headed by scream queen legend, Lynn Lowry) who turn out to have a taste for more than candy. This is a darkly comic horror romp that ends things on a gruesome—but comical—note.
The woman who has viewed all these shorts now falls under the spell of Udo Kier’s transforming host, ending THE THEATRE BIZARRE with a hint of more to come.
While I didn’t find things as graphic as I had heard, the film does feature some disturbing moments, but not many scares. SWEETS was the only short I’d consider bizarre, and as mentioned, THE ACCIDENT was too much of an art film to be considered horror and was simply out of place here. The four other tales are solid slices of genre filmmaking, with new and classic actors popping up in the mix.
THE THEATRE BIZARRE is no masterpiece, but a good, well-made collaborative film worth seeing, as it offers something for most horror fans.
© Copyright 2012 by Nick Cato
Nick Cato gives THE THEATRE BIZARRE ~ THREE knives!