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The Theatre Bizarre – 5

Director – Jeremy Kasten, Richard Stanley, Buddy Giovinazzo, Tom Savini, Douglas Buck, Karim Hussain, David Gregory

Cast – Udo Kier, Tom Savini, Kaniehtiio Horn, Debbie Rochon, Catriona MacColl, André Hennicke, Elissa Dowling, Suzan Anbeh, Virginia Newcomb

Release Year – 2012

Reviewed by John of the Dead

I was really looking forward to The Theatre Bizarre because of my love for anthologies and it apparently starring under-appreciated horror legend Udo Kier. Nowadays I find it very hard to come across a good horror anthology, with the last great one being Trick ‘r Treat back in 2009, but I’ll never give up my quest and gratefully gave this one a shot. Coming with six tales and a spooky wraparound, The Theatre Bizarre is ever-changing and in theory should keep the viewer engaged on what is going on before them. Sadly, this piece does come with many faults that kept it from greatness, but in the end I cannot say this was a waste of my time because it also came with some damn good horror to enjoy.

Visible from her apartment window, the young Enola Penny is obsessed with what seems to be a long-abandoned theater. One night she sees the front door slightly ajar and impulsively sneaks inside, where in the vast and eerie auditorium a show unlike any other unfolds before her eyes. It’s host, an odd marioinette-like man (Udo Kier) introduces Enola to six tales o the truly bizarre: A couple traveling in a remote part of the French Pyrenees crosses path with a lustful witch; A paranoid lover faces the wrath of a partner who has been pushed to her limit; The Freudian dreams of an unfaithful husband blur the lines between fantasy and reality; A woman addicted to other people’s memories gets her fix through the fluid of her victims’ eyeballs; And a perverse obsession with sweets turns sour for a couple in too deep. But as these stories unfold something strange is happening to Enola. It is something horrific and irreversible, and something that awaits its next audience in The Theatre Bizarre.

When the experience began I thought to myself, “Man, this is pretty creepy!” as Udo Kier character, Peg Poett, and his ensemble began assembling onstage for the showing of the six bizarre tales that would leave poor Enola with an experience she will never forget. At the same time, however, the film looked cheap and I was expected an experience unlike the one Enola was about to receive, but thankfully it was only the wraparound that appeared cheap and the rest of the stories upped the quality level.

The first story is “The Mother of Toads”, which centers on a couple traveling in rural France and coming across a lustful witch who aims to steal the man from his lady at all costs. The story moves quickly, with her seducing scheme and jealousy making for some good creepy horror and a few brutal kills to seal the deal. The story turns out good enough thanks to the horror provided, and director Richard Stanley (Dust Devil, Hardware) does a great job of providing awesome live-action FX in this positive opener to the experience.

The second story is “I Love You”, where Andrew Hennicke delivers a tremendous performance as Axel, a disheveled man who is being given the worst news of his life as his wife spills her guts before him. She has been cheating on his for years, with all kinds of men, and is finally going to leave him for good. Axel pleads with her, claiming he still loves her despite her transgressions, but her hatred for his insecurity and possessiveness leads to even more torture for Axel that he never sees coming. I found this to be the best written entry in the film thanks to how much despair and cruelty is given to us, and it comes in a heartbreaking fashion not often seen in the genre. Buddy Giovinazzo writes and directs this effort, and his direction is as good as his writing. He expertly sells the torture Axel goes through to us and when the grotesque horror finally hits the screen he ensures that it remains as shocking as it is satisfying.

The third story is Wet Dreams, which comes directed by horror FX legend Tom Savini and written by the experienced John Esposito(Graveyard Shift, The Walking Dead, Masters of Horror: Right to Die). We follow a cheating husband whose vivid nightmares of being tortured for his infidelity soon become reality thanks to his psychiatrist (Tom Savini) and his seemingly innocent yet highly vengeful wife. I enjoyed this tale thanks to its constant harrassment of its protagonist and the fact that we are always left in the dark on whether or not he is really dreaming. The horror is quite unsettling and it ultimately builds up to a shocker that brings good vengeance to the table. Savini’s direction is spot-on and he delivers plenty of live-action gore to ensure that genre fans are given what they expect from him.

The fourth story is “The Accident”. This one stood out the most to be because it was unlike any of the other films. There is nothing scary to it and it contains very little horror, but at the same time it does reflect on how a child views death compared to how we do as adults. After witnessing a fatal motorcycle wreck the story focuses on the child expressing his feelings about what he just experienced to his mother. This is a pretty short tale and it does not offer much more than what I just said, but it was executed well by writer/director Douglas Buck and served its purpose.

The fifth story is “Vision Stains”, which was one of my favorites in this film. It focuses on a girl obsessed with how others view life and her obsession leads to horrible acts. She kills degenerates and young people who wander into her neck of the city, then extracts the fluid from their eyeballs and douses the fluid into her own eyes. Then, she writes down what she sees and feels into her notebook. She believes that when a person is on the brink of death they see all of their life’s memories in the blink of an eye, and by extracted the fluid from their eyes she is able to see what their live’s were like. I have personally never seen a story like this so I found it intriguing and pretty horrific at times, and I applaud writer/director Karim Hussain (co-writer; The Abandoned)for this story. Also, Hussain gives us full-frontal direction where we get a front row seat to the kills and the extraction of the liquid from the victims’ eyes, making for positive horror that left this an enjoyable experience.

The sixth and final film is “Sweets”, written and directed by David Gregory(Plague Town). This was definitely my least favorite of the anthology and it sadly left the experience on a somewhat sour note. It follows an uninteresting couple who are having an argument much like the one I had already seen in “I Love You”, which was a big reason behind why this was so bland. This was a lot like “I Love You” except this had a lot of food and sweets being eaten by the male protagonist. Eventually the horror finally kicks in and it produces the best gore the film had to offer, but that was not enough to make this an entry I would watch again.

In the end the story finishes with the final segment of the wraparound where Enola’s film experience comes to an end, and I must say that I really loved the way director Jeremy Kasten (The Attic Expeditions, The Wizard of Gore remake) executed his characters – namely the ones performing onstage in such creepy fashion. His execution of Enola was so-so, with her not providing much to the film at all thanks to writer Zach Chassler (The Wizard of Gore remake), but in the end I was left with an experience that was more satisfying than a lot of the anthology crap out there these days, but that is not saying much.

Overall, The Theatre Bizarre is a decent horror anthology that is not as bad as other recent efforts but is not a good film that I would recommend to all. You’ll find some good horror and gore in this piece, but the negatives are bountiful and will leave you unsatisfied in the end.

Rating: 5/10

…Additional Stills…

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