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May 17, 2012

Movie Review: The Theatre Bizarre (2011)

There's been much talk over the past six months on how the horror anthology has made its triumphant return.  The 70’s and 80’s, for me, had some of my favorites: Vault of Horror, Tales From the Crypt, Trilogy of Terror, Creepshow and From a Whisper to a Scream were all titles that I enjoyed viewing. When approached correctly, the anthology film can be like a tremendous food sampler at your favorite hole-in the- wall-bar; when it isn’t, it’s a shitty appetizer dish at Applebee’s.

David Gregory of Severin films is an obvious admirer of the format. So much so he brought together the talents of six fine genre film directors: Karim Hussain (Subconscious Cruelty), Douglas Buck (Cutting Moments) , Buddy Giovinazzo (Combat Shock), Tom Savini (Dawn of the Dead), Richard Stanley (Hardware) and Jeremy Kasten. Gregory even contributes his own entry to this strong group.

Theatre Bizarre opens effectively enough with Jeremy Kasten’s wonderfully creepy theater wrap-around segment, starring cult legend Udo Kier as our host Peg Poett. Lovely Virginia Newcomb plays Enola Penny, a young girl that becomes stuck in the theater where all these films are being shown.  The opening and the first short, Mother of Toads, from director Richard Stanley burst forth with some amazingly spooky atmosphere.  Mother of Toads tells the tale of a man who ditches his wife to search for the Necronomicon that’s supposedly in an older woman’s cabin. Catriona Macoll plays that old lady, Mere Antoinette, and does a splendid job portraying the seductive man-eater.

Buddy Giovinazzo’s short is titled I Love You. It follows the dilemma of an obsessive lover, Axel (Andre Hennicke) and his not-too interested other half, Mo (Suzan Anbeh). I Love You is a slow burn even as a short but it does offer a few gory shocks to keep the viewer interested. Wet Dreams is Savini’s contribution, and it’s just crazy gory fun surrounding a cheating husband has constant dreams of having his cock hacked off. This one will not be for everybody because in all honesty the story is a muddled mess, but it does the important thing – entertain. I will warn that this one has some of the most excruciating eye violence ever put on film.

Douglas Buck’s The Accident is almost an odd inclusion in this anthology because it really strays away from the scares and excessive grue. The Accident is really a lovely short in a lot of ways as it surrounds a young girl who witnesses a horrible accident. Her mother (Lena Kleine) attempts to explain death to her following the traumatic event. This has the classic look of a Buck film and is in lot of ways a heartfelt transition for the director.

Next up is Vision Stains from Karim Hussain. If you had any issues with the graphic eye violence in Wet Dreams, you may wanna steer clear of this subversive little gem. A young woman murders drug addicts, sticks syringes in their eyes (graphic stuff!) and sucks out fluid which she then squirts in her eyes. There is disturbing imagery galore here, folks. It really feels like you’re in the filth with her seeing this stuff. This is really some great work from Hussain and a true highlight of the anthology.

Finally, Gregory’s own film, Sweets, proves that even the most delicious food can look absolutely revolting when eaten on camera. Sweets begins with a food fetish practicing slob, Greg (Guilford Adams) his cold as ice wife, Estelle (Lindsay Goranson) chatting in their home. Greg sits and shoves food in his face while weeping because Estelle wants to go “eat” with other people. The scene soon shifts to a party where food fetishists gorge themselves. This one felt kind of like Brian Yuzna’a Society meets Peter Greenway’s The Cook, The Thief, His Wife and Her Lover. It’s over-the-top insanity that culminates in some nasty gore that pulls the curtain down just perfectly on this vicious anthology.

Extras consist of a few interviews with Gregory, Giovinazzo and Kasten. Giovinazzo talks about how he thinks his comfort zone is more in horror than anything. I’ll have to agree. There’s a commentary for each film but Buck’s The Accident. All are enjoyable and rarely drag because of the short running time.

The Theatre Bizarre is grim, gory and loaded with some truly macabre atmosphere. Most importantly, it's consistently enjoyable, with even its weakest entry being solid. Highly Recommended!

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