April 29, 2012

Filthy Review - The Theatre Bizarre

The Theatre Bizarre (2011)

Review by Jude Felton

Horror, as with any other genre of film, tends to go through cycles. Whether it be companies cashing in on a successful franchise, yeah I’m looking at you Saw-clones, or just a strange twist of fate, it happens and more frequently than you might think. At present it seems to be the resurgence of the anthology, with recent releases of Chillerama and Little Deaths through to upcoming collections like The ABC’s of Death and The Profane Exhibit. All have one thing in coming, and that is that they are a tricky thing to master, as all will tend to get judged on their weakest link, so it is up to all involved to deliver the goods.

This brings me to The Theatre Bizarre, an anthology that has six short films all linked by one central short movie. Some are better than others that is for sure, but there is some great talent involved here, both in front of the camera and behind it, so I best be getting on with telling you about it.

The central story that provides links to the other six is entitled Theatre Guignol, and it is directed by Jeremy (2007’s The Wizard of Gore) Kasten. It tells the story of a young lady who finds herself drawn to what she believes to be an abandoned theater. Once inside she finds that it isn’t empty and is treated to some onstage theatrics courtesy of Udo Kier. Kier introduces each of the individual films, and being the framing segment doesn’t reveal all until the final reel.

The first full story is Mother of Toads, which is directed by Richard (Hardware) Stanley and stars the wonderful Catriona MacColl, and tells the tale of a couple on vacation in rural France. Exploring a local market they learn of the presence of the legendary Necronomicon, and as you might expect it isn’t going to turn out to be a bed of roses.

Following Mother of Toads is I Love You, from Buddy Giovinazzo, who previously gave us Combat Shock, and in this charming tale we meet a couple who are going through the death throes of their relationship. From here we head in to the similar in vein Wet Dreams. This tale directed by Tom Savini introduces us to a real charmer of a cheating husband and his wife. The husband’s dream are indeed wet, but probably not the kind he would like.

Probably the most restrained effort follows, in The Accident from Douglas (Family Portraits) Buck, as we join a young girl who learns about life and death. After this we head into probably the most squirm-inducing segment, Vision Stains, in which Karim Hussain unravels a tale of a young woman who likes to drain the fluid from homeless women’s eyeballs in order to relive their memories.

Wrapping things up, aside from the finale of Theatre Guignol, is Sweets from David Gregory. This starts of innocently enough, but slowly but surely gets down to the nitty gritty.

One thing is for sure, and that is all the tales on display here are indeed bizarre and all had a European feel to them (to me anyway), with some of the segments being filmed over in Europe. I personally felt the first half was stronger than the latter, and the movie seemed to lose a little of its steam as it progressed. What you do get is seven movies that you aren’t going to see every day, and it is a perfect opportunity to check out these directors work, if you are new to them.

 There is plenty of claret and gore throughout, but aside from one or two moments there is a distant lack of real chills. I got the feeling that there was too much emphasis on throwing in a good shock moment rather than trying to illicit some atmosphere. Mother of Toads probably does manage this more so than the others, with its great use of location and sound.

Personally I am still waiting for that one great, not good, anthology to come along and kick me in the teeth. The Theatre Bizarre may well not be that one, but there is enough in it to make it worth checking out, as the positives do outweigh the negatives. And, quite frankly, the fact that Catriona MacColl stars in it is a definite plus in my book!

One last thing I will mention, and that is that there is a typo on the front sleeve of my DVD. I haven't seen this same mistake on any other pictures of the artwork I have seen, so who knows if this is the case for all copies or not.

The Theatre Bizarre is available now on DVD from Image Entertainment.

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