Directors: Douglas Buck, Buddy Giovinazzo, David Gregory, Karim Hussain, Jeremy Kasten, Tom Savini, Richard Stanley
Starring: Udo Kier, Virginia Newcomb, Catriona MacColl, Debbie Rochon, Damon Packard
The Theatre Bizarre is a collection of six stylish segments that are all inspired by the Grand Guignol theatre in Paris, France. It sets itself apart from the other horror anthology films in that it got an own mood and european feel to it. The collection is produced by Severing Films, who should be known to most horror fans as a very reliable company that have plenty of euro-horror DVD releases under their belt before now heading into producing their own films aswell.
The wraparound segment that ties everything together is done by Jeremy Karsten and it is about a young girl who ends up in the abandoned theatre…. bizarre. There is a human puppet host, played by Udo Kier, that will present to her the six stories with some strange introduction to each of them. It’s look will remind you of colorful efforts from the good old 70’s in Italy and it sets the mood exactly right for the segments that we are about to watch.
The first segment is called The Mother of Toads. It is about a young couple, who are vacationing in France. They come across a mysterious older woman in a small town and she invites them over to have a look at the ancient and legendary book of Necronomicon. The young man is fascinated by this book, but they soon find out that any older woman who has a book like that in her shelf, is not exactly trustworthy or safe for your well-being.
This one is done by Richard Stanley, from Hardware and Dust Devil fame. Hardware has been sitting on my DVD shelf for a while, but I have not seen any of these two 80’s horrors yet for some reason. He did impress me with the visuals here though. The Mother of Toads feel like a mixture between a HP Lovecraft and a Dario Argento movie, perhaps even it is an homage considering the title? It also gets some extra bonus points by having the wonderful Catriona MacColl as the evil witch and it is perhaps my favorite segment and the most horrorish of the six.
The next segment ditches the supernatural and goes for a more common subject matter, the end of a loving relationship. I Love You is a segment done by Buddy Giovinazzo, who has done the excellent Combat Shock previously. It features Andrè Hennicke as the paranoid and over-protective Axel and his girlfriend Mo, played by the stunning beauty Suzan Anbeh. She can no longer take his over-controlling behaviour.
It’s a character driven piece and it sets us in the head of Axel and gives us insight into every tragic and frantic thoughts he might have regarding his ending relationship with this woman. This is a very well done segment and it is fun to see something from Giovinazzo again. He didn’t focus on pure entertainment here, so this is definitely not for everybody (particularly younger horror fans), but I’m sure the end result where exactly what they were going for.
Wet Dreams, the segment by Tom Savini is another one that deals with relationships, although in a very different way. Donnie, played by James Gill, is not happy in his relationship with his wife Carla anymore (played by Debbie Rochon, so it is a little unrealistic that someone could be miserable with a wife like that!),. so they seek out the help of Dr. Maurey, played by Savini himself.
This is a very strange segment that gets hard to follow since it has several dreams within a dreams sequences. It’s a little more gory than the others with some pretty darn good effects, but I didn’t care much for it. It’s not badly done or anything, but it sadly failed to grab me in any way possible.
Next up is The Accident by Douglas Buck. A little girl and her mother is driving around when they suddenly become witnesses to a motorcycle crash that leaves the biker killed and a deer wounded nearby. We get to experience this horrific scene through the eyes of the little girl.
This is a very tender, sad and emotional segment. It deals with how we humans handle death and what a big impression it leaves on us when we are first introduced to it. I’m not familiar with the previous work of Buck, but he handles this one with care and is able to deliver an appropriate mood to what we are seeing. It’s an interesting way to take his slot on this anthology film and it is one of the best that this theatre collection has to offer.
Vision Stains is the next one. It deals with a homeless girl who enjoys spending her time stalking junkies, prostitutes and other people of misfortunes. She removes the victims eyeball fluids and then later on injects the fluid into her own eyes, so she can get a glimpse of their life stories which she writes down. She gets a little bit too curious one day when she starts to wonder what type of experience the fluids from an unborn fetus would give her.
Eyeballs freak me out. I will definitely go for glasses instead of contact lenses when the time comes, since the very idea of getting something near my eyeballs gives me the chills. This horrific tale is brought to us by Karim Hussain who also did Subconscious Cruelty and got a segment on another horror anthology film – The ABCs of Death. It’s the most brutal episode, but it feels like it could have used more work to it. Take away the grizzly scenes with the damn eyeball violence and you won’t find much more to “enjoy” about it.
And the last piece of film we are offered is Sweets by David Gregory. It is about the couple Greg and Estelle, who are having some relationship issues. They agree to have a final sweet meal together and that’s kind of everything I can write about the storyline on this one.
Sweets is perhaps the nastiest of the bunch and also the one that uses the Grand Guignol theme to the maximum, but it’s also messy in a bad way and I didn’t think it was a decent way to end this film. It gets a little confusing and could perhaps have been told better, but it should also be said that I honestly didn’t quite get what this episode was really about and I was getting tired by that point and had trouble keeping myself pay 100% attention to it. I might have appreciated it more if I saw it on its own, but since it is put last on this show then that’s what I have to judge it from.
And that rounds up the trip to the Theatre Bizarre. It’s unique, stylish and feels very european. It’s kind of the opposite of VHS, which has a muddy look and goes for straight horror and scares and it provides a nice alternative. I did not care for all of the segments, which you rarely would with a horror anthology but it is a nice collection of films and I hope they make the rumoured sequel.