One from the to watch pile…
The Theatre Bizarre (2011)
Film: I am sure in previous movie review I have mentioned my love of anthology films. From Creepshow, to The Twilight Zone Movie, to Holidays to Tales of Halloween I have always dug them, and I especially like, which is prevalent in the last two of the four mentioned, that have a similar theme.
The Theatre Bizarre is the brainchild of David Gregory, and the idea is to do an anthology film which recreated the ideal of Grand Guignol but for cinema audiences rather than ‘live’ theatre audiences.
Our framing sequence is that of a girl (Virginia Newcombe) obsessed with a local dilapidated theatre, which she finds, upon entering, is populated by an automaton (Udo Kier) who proceeds to show her a series of stories, introducing each one with a new automaton…
First is The Mother of Toads, by director Richard Stanley and starring Catriona MacColl (The Beyond, City of the Living Dead) tells of the strange things that happen to a young couple when they become involved with a strange woman in France. It’s very H. P. Lovecraft.
The second is I Love You by Buddy Giovinazzo sees a man, Axel (André Hannicke) wake up in the bathroom of his apartment with a nasty cut on his hand. He is in the middle of a nasty break up with his wife, Mo (Suzan Anbeh) and when she returns he insists on knowing why she is leaving… and he may not be happy with the answers.
The next, Wet Dreams, is directed by Tom Savini tells of Donnie (James Gill) who is having repeated dreams about his penis being cut off by a monstrous vagina, and then fed to him by his wife (Debbie Rochon). His psychiatrist (Tom Savini) gives him a way of getting out of the dream, but which is the dream and which is reality?
The Accident by director Douglas Buck sees a mother (Lena Klein) discussing death with her daughter (Mélodie Simard) in respect to an accident they witnessed. It’s a delicate, beautiful piece about death in the middle of all this gore!
Vision Stains by Karim Hussein tells of a woman (Kaniehttio Horn) who has discovered that she can see a persons life by extracting the viscous fluid from their eyes and injecting in into hers so she can document them. She, of course, has to kill them to do so, but she picks women she believes want to die to perform her bizarre experiments on, but why does she feel a responsibility to do such a thing?
The surrealistic Sweets by David Gregory is another break-up story like I Love You, but this time snivelling Greg (Guildford Adams) is being dumped by Estelle (Lindsay Goranson) who has a food fetish, but maybe it’s worse than what you think.
With all the short films having women as the antagonist, I am sure there is some deep and meaningful anti, or pro feminism thing going in, but I’m a horror movie fan, not a psychologist, so I’m not going to get into that.
What I can definitely say though is that this film is a cracker of an anthology film. It’s all told dead straight and made me squirm on more than one occasion. The influences of Grand Guignol are definitely present as there is no shortage of blood… or vomit… or frog slime… or guts… or retina fluid… you get the idea!
The tales are all of a high standard, really, aside from Sweets, I loved every one. That’s not to say Sweets was bad, it just wasn’t the greatest film in this collection. Props must go to Richard Stanley too: I am not a fan of his and was blown away by The Mother of Frogs, so I might now go revisit some of his older works again!
It was a real pleasure to see a horror film that was horror-full, instead of horrible.
Format: The reviewed copy was a US DVD from Severin which runs for approximately 1 hour and 53 minutes. It is presented in a nice 2.35:1 vision with a clear and excellent Dolby 5.1 soundtrack.
Extras: The disc opens with a trailers for Smile, which actually looks pretty good!
The first extras option is a director’s commentary, first we have a muddy sounding wraparound bit with Jeremy Kasten before each segment gets a commentary from the various creatives who made the film. It’s a many and varied commentary but wholly interesting. The sound quality is varying as the commentaries are clearly done in a variety of environments.
ShockTilYouDrop interviews is a series of interviews about the film with David Gregory, Buddy Giovinazzo and Jeremy Kasten. It talks about the origins of the film and what it took to make. There almost 40 minutes of interviews and it’s quite interesting.
There is also some Behind the Scenes stuff for the various segments but it’s not informative, just people on the set doing stuff. Each section goes for about 2 minutes and it’s not really worth watching, except for the last one, Vision Stains, which reveals a needle in the eye effect.
The Theatre Bizarre trailer is just what it claims to be.
WISIA: It’s pretty intense, so whilst it won’t be regular on the rotation list, it will get at least another watch. I’ve actually had this film since 2011 and never watched it…. what a mistake!