Film: The Theater Bizarre
Starring: Udo Kier, Virginia Newcomb, Amanda Marquardt
Directed by: Various
The last year has seen a rise in the number of horror anthologies being release and the latest, Image Entertainment’s Theater Bizarre, keeps things nice and weird.
At the risk of setting hopes too high, it is clear from early on that Theater Bizarre has a timeless element to its design, as if it already knows it is destined for midnight screenings for decades to come. As the stories begin to unfold, this becomes clearer as things quickly move from strange, to creepy, to downright weird, then back to strange in time to send you home with nightmares.
Spearheading the film’s wraparound tale, Jeremy Kasten offers our first glance at a living puppet storyteller with “Theatre Guignol.” It’s an interesting character you will enjoy meeting between tales, though the execution of his own story could use a bit more weight.
As we descend into cinematic lunacy, Richard Stanley’s “Mother Of Toads” tells an often light-hearted tale of a vacationing couple who encounter a woman that claims to be in possession of a Necronomicon. Letting his curiosity get the best of him, the male of our doomed twosome pays a visit to woman’s home in hopes of seeing the long-rumored book, but what he discovers is something much, much more H.P. Lovecraftian in nature. Think Species meets Swamp Thing, only with more slime.
Likely the memorable of the entries, Buddy Giovinazzo’s “I Love You” is the peak of reality-rooted horror. The story follows a couple, portrayed stunningly by André Hennicke and Suzan Anbeh, who discuss the terrible truths behind one’s double life. The discussion leads to the dissolution of the marriage and, in the end, a lot more than either thought possible.
Genre legend Tom Savini does his best to be edgy, but ultimately falls flat with the revenge tale “Wet Dreams.” The gore is outrageous and notable, but both the acting and directorial work leave much to be desired.
Perhaps the only film in Bizarre that truly feels out of place
is “The Accident.” Created by award-winning short filmmaker Douglas Buck, the story captures a mother attempt to explain a stranger’s death to her overly inquisitive daughter. The execution is fantastic, with great acting and solid cinematography, but the overall feel of the piece is too artsy to heavy to mesh with the other entries.
Karim Hussain takes a pun-intended stab at directing with “Vision Stains,” which a girl who kills junkies, sucks the memories from the eyeballs, then injects said memories into her own eyes before jotting down the now deceased junkie’s life story. The concept and visually execution work extremely well, but the voice-over narrative rivals DareDevil for most heavy-handed dialogue of all time.
David Gregory closes out our adventure into the weird with a downright outrageous piece entitled “Sweets.” In a story that brings to mind the legend of “Hansel and Gretel,” Gregory lets takes us on a woman’s journey to fatten up her boyfriend with candy in hopes of carrying out a secret, cannibalistic desire. Easily the best directed segment, “Sweets” ensures the audience is left with jaws agape.
Though at times a few stories stumble, Theater Bizarre more than lives up to its name with plenty of weird, creepy, and downright ridiculous flare to spare. If you’re a horror fan or simply the need for something strange, seek this anthology out, relax your mind, and have a little fun with the world of horror.
Review written by: James Shotwell (Follow him on Twitter)