Synopsis: Enola Penny sneaks into an abandoned theater and witnesses six bizarre tales.
Release Date: January 27, 2012 (limited) MPAA Rating: PG-13
A young woman (Virginia Newcomb), obsessed with an old theater located across the street from her dingy apartment, notices one night that the door is wide open. Her curiosity gets the better of her, and as she enters the theater and finds a seat, a life-size marionette (played by horror bit-part veteran Udo Kier from Blade and Shadow of the Vampire) takes the stage and welcomes her to the show, a strange cabaret-style production of six short films, all introduced by him and a cast of similar robotic puppets. First up is “The Mother of Toads,” directed by Richard Stanley (Hardware), about a vacationing couple who get the chance to see a real copy of the Necronomicon, the Book of the Dead. Next is Buddy Giovinazzo’s (No Way Home) “I Love You,” about a man desperately trying to cling to a failing relationship with his cheating wife. Horror legend Tom Savini (Night of the Living Dead) offers up the next tale, a crazy story called “Wet Dreams” about a man plagued by strange dreams that turn into nightmares that blend with his waking life. “The Accident,” directed by Douglas Buck (Sisters), comes next, a haunting tale of a little girl who learns the meaning of death. Next, Karim Hussain (The Beautiful Beast) brings “Vision Stains,” a grim tale about a woman who preys on homeless junkies. Finally, rounding out the show is “Sweets,” directed by David Gregory (Plague Town), about a couple with a fascination for junk food.
The Theatre Bizarre brings to mind anthology horror films like Creepshow and Twilight Zone – The Movie. However, whereas the better-made episodic movies like Creepshow have a familiar and consistent look and feel to the installments, The Theatre Bizarre feels like a bunch of well-made student films from different directors strung together – they could stand on their own separately just as easily as they fit into the whole. Some are stronger than others, but there’s something there for everyone, from the supernatural horror of “The Mother of Toads” to the straight-up splatter of “Sweets”.
Interestingly enough, the best segment is also the least horror-like – Douglas Buck’s “The Accident”. The short is an engrossing tale of a wide-eyed little girl (Melodie Simard) asking her mother (Lena Kleine) questions about a fatal accident that they happened to drive past. The little girl’s genuine curiosity about what she saw and the mother’s sensitive explanations are a stark contrast to the carnage of the wreck, and the combination of the two makes for an amazing story about lost innocence. Smack in the middle of the film, “The Accident” is the real standout.
The special makeup effects in The Theatre Bizarre are very well done, particularly in “Wet Dreams” and “Sweets.” The effects are all blood and splatter practical effects (very little – if any – post-production), and they’re a nice throwback to the days of food coloring-and-karo-syrup blood without the films themselves looking dated. This fact should come as no surprise, seeing as how “Wet Dreams” director Tom Savini has built an entire career on those types of effects. It’s worth noting that Savini himself did none of the effects, preferring to let the small army assembled for the film do the honors while he directs and acts (he stars in his own segment). It looks like an effective passing of the torch – the blood, gore and bodily mutilations are handled just as effectively as if Savini had done them himself.
There’s nothing incredibly scary in The Theatre Bizarre. Each segment brings its own brand of horror to the table, but none of it is really scream inducing. “The Mother of Toads” brings a bit of witches and monsters lore, and “I Love You,” “Wet Dreams” and “Sweets” come up with some good gross-out material, but the most cringe-worthy segment is easily director Karim Hussain’s “Vision Stains.”
“Vision Stains” is about a woman who attacks homeless drug addicts and extracts the fluid from their eyes and injects it into her own, letting her see what they see and feel. It’s horror in the vein of Japanese horror legend Takashi Miike (Ichi the Killer), showing every prick and stab, to the point where the viewer is actually watching through their fingers but can’t look away. The segment has the audience squirming in its seat, providing a type of discomfort that is similar to looking at a car wreck or riding a roller coaster – the viewer wants to watch for fear of missing anything, but may regret what they see. It’s very well done, and is the most unsettling segment in The Theatre Bizarre.
Cast and Crew
- Director(s): Douglas Buck (The Accident)Jeremy Kasten (Framing)Tom Savini (Wet Dreams)
- Producer(s): Richard Stanley (The Mother of Toads)Nicco ArdinJohn CreganCarl DaftDavid Gregory
- Cast: Udo Kier (Peg Poett) – FramingVirginia Newcomb (Enola Penny ) – FramingCatriona MacColl (Mere Antoinette) – The Mother of Toads Shane Woodward (Martin) – The Mother of ToadsVictoria Maurette (Karina) – The Mother of ToadsAndre Hennicke (Axel) – I Love YouSuzan Anbeh (Mo) – I Love YouDebbie Rochon (Carla) – Wet DreamsJames Gill (Donnie) – Wet Dreams
- Editor(s): Robert Bohrer (I Love You)
- Cinematographer: Eduardo Fierro (Wet Dreams)John Honore (Sweets)Karim Hussain (The Mother of Toad, The Accident, and Vision Stains)Michael Kotschi (I Love You)
- Production Designer(s):
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- Country Of Origin: USAFrance