I tend to get interested in anthology films. Not every segment will work-hell, sometimes none of them do-but at the end of the day, it's nice to see a different series of stories. With "The Theatre Bizzare," seven directors each have a tale to tell-some erotic, some surreal, some poetic, but all tied to the horror genre.
The framing segments come from Jeremy Kasten ("The Wizard of Gore" remake and "The Attic Expeditions") deal with a girl named Enola Penny (Virginia Newcomb) walking into a theater, where host Peg Poett (Udo Kier) and his marionettes host a series of gruesome tales.
First is Richard Stanley's ("Hardware" and "Dust Devil") "The Mother of Toads", in which a couple run into a seductive witch (Catriona MacColl.) When the man in the relationship get's curious, things start to get a little eerie.
I have mixed feelings on this segment. On one hand, it has several shots of nature that end up feeling redundant, the ending is predictable, and apart from MacColl, the acting isn't all that good. On the other hand, it's very well directed, has some unbelievably striking visuals, and tons of atmosphere reminiscent of the best Italian horror films. Not a hit, but not a total waste. Rating: 5.5/10
Segment two is "I Love You", which comes from Buddy Giovinazzo ("Combat Shock.") Here, a man wakes up with a wounded hand, and looks back at the events that may have lead up to this-events that involved a broken marriage, infidelity and jealousy.
This is the tragedy story, which relies more on performances than it does atmosphere and gore. Fortunately, the performances are strong, and the film does a great job capturing the stages of dead romance and guilt. The ending can be seen a mile away, but this is still good stuff. Rating: 7.5/10
Our third tale is "Wet Dreams", which is directed by make-up effects legend Tom Savini (who also directed the remake of "Night of the Living Dead.") This is the story of Donnie (James Gil), who keeps having nightmares about losing his manhood. To seek help, he goes to a psychiatrist (Savini), who might know the key to his fears. However, he's going to learn that hell hath no fury like a scorned wife (Debbie Rochon)-and that sometimes, the remote isn't all that important.
Though it features some choice gore and a fine performance from Rochon, I found this to be the weakest segment. It tries to be a "Tales From the Crypt" type of darkly comic moral tale, but the humor is neither creepy or all that funny, and the lead is just plain annoying. Plus, in comparison to the atmospheric first segment and the dramatic second, this feels a bit too slight. Rating: 4.5/10
Next is "The Accident", which comes from Douglas Buck (director of the disturbing short "Cutting Moments" and a remake of De Palma's classic "Sisters.") Our tale is a conversation between a mother and her daughter about life and death, which is spawned after seeing a road accident.
The least traditional of the shorts, "The Accident" is also the best. Here, we get something that feels more like a poetic art film about the nature of life and death through the eyes of an adult and a child that nonetheless manages to be atmospheric and provocative at the same time. That out of the way, those hoping for shocks will be let down, as this isn't that kind of horror tale. Rating: 8.5/10
"Vision Stains" was filmed by Karim Hussein ("Subconscious Cruelty.") This one is about The Writer (Kaniehtiio Horn), who likes to take the liquid from the eyes of women so she can see their memories. However, when she tries to do this to an unborn child, she learns that sometimes, it's best not to meddle with certain things.
Though hurt by an really annoying narration, "Vision Stains" is some creepy stuff, with plenty of ocular trauma, some disturbing imagery and strong direction. Best of all is the atmosphere, which reeks of urban decay and horror. Rating: 7/10
Finally is "Sweets" by Douglas Buck (the underrated "Plague Town.") It opens with Estelle (Lindsay Goranson) breaking up with her boyfriend Greg (Guiliford Adams), whose relationship consisted of a food fetish. However, she's not done with him yet, as an eating festivity hosted by Mikela (Lynn Lowry) offers a little surprise.
The grossest of the tales, "Sweets" is also what "Wet Dreams" should have been. Here, the pathetic boyfriend is kind of funny, the black humor fits to a T, and the ending punchline is nasty and quite memorable. That being said, you might lose your appetite watching this, as it makes food look pretty gross. Rating: 8/10
As a whole, "The Theatre Bizarre" won't appeal to everyone, but those looking for something different and at times a bit more out there in the genre will most likely get a kick out of it. Besides, it's refreshing to see something that's at least somewhat different.