Douglas Buck, Buddy Giovinazzo, David Gregory, Karim Hussain, Jeremy Kasten, Tom Savini, Richard Stanley
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The Theatre Bizarre (2012)
29th Feb 12
This anthology offers six tales of terror. Great value you might think. Run away say I.
The big problem with the anthology horror is the inherent bittiness and uneven nature of the format, but at their best they can become greater than the sum of their bits and create a satisfying whole. An inherent advantage is that usually if you don’t like a story within the work then you can rest assured another one’ll be along in a minute. The Theatre Bizarre is an anthology with all the cons and pretty much zilch of the pros the format offers, each segment creating a time vortex which makes them feel as if they will never end.
The framing device, set in a theatre looks very striking in a grotesque variety show way but is of little consequence with Virginia Newcomb made up as a doll watching Udo Kier spout enigmatic tosh while also in “doll-face”. No stranger to trash or arty wank (or a pay-cheque for that matter) Mr Kier does manage to prove here that he can deliver an unnerving sleazy performance literally with his eyes shut.
The frustrating thing about The Theatre Bizarre is that there’s a whiff of a decent idea behind all the six stories but it all gets bogged down in a po-faced but almost admirable refusal to be at all entertaining or original. Perhaps coincidentally, four of these tales deal with the dark side of relationships; Richard Stanley’s “Mother of Toads” and Tom Savini’s “Wet Dreams” telling us that philandering will come back to bite you on the ass and Buddy Giovinazzo’s “I Love You” and David Gregory’s “Sweets” bringing to light the little secret that blind devotion to cold beautiful women will only fuck you up. Well colour me single! Rote is too kind a word.
“Mother of Toads” has the male half of a couple being so obsessed with finding a legit print of the necrinomicon he ends up bedding a crone (a wasted/insultingly cast Catriona MacColl) who morphs into a hottie for the sex-scene and then a giant toad woman resulting in dire consequences for the poor chap almost on par of the unfortunate audience viewing this dreck. Just what the incredibly talented Stanley was thinking when he made this is anyone’s guess. Maybe he’d been licking giant toads. His astounding 1990 debut Hardware seems so long ago now. Probably because it was.
“I Love You” is set in Berlin, has an international cast and is ultimately a domestic drama with blood sprayed on the end so therefore could be classified as the classy one. There’s a horrific honesty to its core break-up scene but Giovinazzo forces a literal horror upon his offering that destroys any good work. “ Wet Dreams” is too moralistic to be fun within its runtime and too silly to be taken seriously but Savini does at least provide a couple of crazy images as well as a cameo (hey, the guy pops up in everyone else’s movies so why not his own?).
“Sweets” looks gorgeous in a truly sickening way and at least tries to be darkly funny but bites off more candy than it can chew with a misguided grab at satire. It brings memories of the 90s golden age of MTV and should have been a music video instead of a piece on its own. “The Accident” from Douglas Buck wins points for being only five minutes long and not attempting to overstep that line between enigmatic short film and indulgent hipster horror.
Hussain’s “Vision Stains” has the best ridiculous idea of them all with a sexy lesbian street warrior syringing liquid from people’s eyeballs to inherit their memories. The effects are just as disgusting as you’d want them to be but like everything else at this theatre it’s irritatingly predictable.
Hussain acted as cinematographer on his and two other segments and one thing that could be said in the film’s favour is that despite different directors the stories all have a unifying look and feel. Sadly said look and feel is that of a pretty but dull, shallow, self sodomizing arthouse flick. And that sums up The Theatre Bizarre as a whole really as nothing here is flat out badly made and an anthology that takes itself seriously is a rarity but every story seems to sacrifice entertainment in the name of a deeper meaning which is blatantly not there.
Just stick with Creepshow, Trick r Treat or honestly any of the Amicus entries. Hell, even Alien Zone is better than this wank stained quilt, and that’s a really bad one.