Thursday, October 18, 2012

DVD Review: THE THEATRE BIZARRE (2011)


THE THEATRE BIZARRE (2011)

Label: Image Entertainment
Region: 1 NTSC
Rating: Unrated

Duration: 114 Minutes
Aspect Ratio: 16:9 Widescreen (2:35:1)
Audio: English Dolby Digital 5.1
Directors: Buddy Giovinazzo, David Gregory, Douglas Buck, Jeremy Kasten, Karim Hussain, Richard Stanley, Tom Savini
Cast:
Udo Kier , Guilford Adams, Suzan Anbeh, Lindsay Goranson, André Hennicke, Kaniehtiio Horn, Lena Kleine, Catriona MacColl, Victoria Maurette, Virginia Newcomb, Debbie Rochon, Tom Savini, Melodie Simard

When Enola Penny (Virginia Newcomb) enters a derelict theatre she is enraptured by a bizarre series of six anthology vignettes introduced by a creepy marionette character (Udo Kier, Mark of the Devil) and a cast of eerie automatons creations.

Up first is the Lovecraftian tale "The Mother of Toads" directed by Richard Stanley, the director of Hardware (1990) and Dust Devil (1992). The segment features Italian horror icon Catriona MacColl who appeared in many of Lucio Fulci's films including The Beyond (1980). An American couple Martin (Shane Woodard) and Karina (Victoria Maurette) are touring the French Pyrenees when by chance they encounter a witchy woman named Mere  (Catriona MacColl, The City of the Living Dead) who lures Martin, an anthropologist by trade, to her countryside villa with the promise of the fabled Necronomicon. Once the young man is is alone with her he discovers she  is quite more than she at first appears. It's a well-crafted creeper and the seduction of Martin by the aged witch is quite unnerving and it only gets more grotesque when he wakes up next to something quite a bit more severe than a horny witch. The gooey low-budget creature effects are pretty great, the anthology starts off strong with what turned out to be my favorite of the bunch. It's great to see Stanley back directing horror his aforementioned early 90's features were among the decades brightest and darkest entries. The short features gorgeous settings and great cinematography accentuated by Dario Argento-esque lighting and an atmospheric score that brought to mind Goblin at moments. The piece really has an Italian horror feel to it, definitely a short that left me hungering for more from Richard Stanley, this was a great Lovecraftian tale rich with occult symbolism.


Up next  from director Buddy Giovinazzo (Combat Shock) is a twisted tale of demented love and betrayal "I Love You". Axel (Andre Hennicke) is a pathetic and insanely insecure man pleading for his cheating lover Mo (Suzan Anbeh) to stay with him despite her painfully honest admissions of infidelity which she lays bare on the table in a series of promiscuous flashbacks. This one is heavy on dialogue but we get a satisfying and twisted finale that delivers the goods. 

"Wet Dreams" from Tom Savini follows a douche-nozzle named Donnie (James Gill) who steps outside the bounds of  marriage to Carla (Debbie Rochon) regularly but he is haunted by castration anxiety nightmares of emasculation and towards that end seeks the help of a psychiatrist named Dr. Maurey (Tom Savini). Turns out Donnie is sticking it to the psychiatrist's wife on the side and you have to imagine that a head shrink, when provoked, is capable of some dark and twisted shit. Tom Savini also directed the remarkable Night of the Living Dead (1990) remake but has done very little since that has stuck with me, my least favorite of the bunch but there's some revenger fun to be had here with gory special effects gore from the Toetag Pictures crew. 


Douglass Buck's somber "The Accident" deals with the aftermath of a motorcycle accident witnessed by a mother (Lena Kleine) and her adolescent daughter (Melodie Simard). It's a gorgeous looking film and has a tenderness to it that sets it apart from the other dark-hearted tales, the young girl's questions about death to her mother was quite touching and maybe a bit misplaced on this anthology.


Enough about a innocent young girls questions about mortality, let's get back to some squirm inducing eye-gore with Karim Hussain's "Vision Stains" a rather unique vision of terror indeed as a young woman (Kaneihtiio Horn) mortally wounds street walkers, junkies and the homeless and as they lay dying inserts a needle into their eyes withdrawing the ocular fluid and then injecting it into her own eyeball - fans of Fulci's infamous eye-gore will just love this, some very nasty effects work going on here - it will have you squirming in your seat for sure, just nasty. The transference of ocular fluid sets of a series of memories in her own brain and she hurriedly scrawls the life memories of each of her victims into a journal, a weird addiction and compulsive .


The last of the vignettes is a candy-colored nightmare of gluttony and lust from David Gregory entitled "Sweets". Estelle (Lindsay Goranson) and Greg (Guilord Adams) are engaged in some bizarre fetish that involves mass digestion of confectionery delights to the point that it's just gross> When the two attend a party hosted by Mikela Da Vinci (Lynn Lowry, Romero's The Crazies) things get even more bizarre, a beautifully filmed and shocking bit of nastiness right here.  



DVD Special Features:
- Audio Commentary for each Segment with the exception being Douglass Beck "The Accident"
- 'Shock Till You Drop' Interviews with Gergory, Giovanizzo, Kasten (38:21) 
- Behind-the-Scenes (7:45)  
- Theatrical Trailer (1:35) 



Verdict: What attracted me to this film at first was the return of Richard Stanley to the horror genre - now that's something to get excited about right there and I was pleasantly surprised with the quality of all of these dark vignettes.  Not all were of the caliber of Stanley's Lovecraftian "Mother of Toads" but each was well-crafted, interesting and stylish, very few anthologies fire on all cylinders, that's just the way of the anthology but The Theatre Bizarre makes for some artfully disturbing viewing from start to finish, impressive stuff. (3.5 Outta 5) 

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