TORONTO AFTER DARK REVIEW: THE THEATER BIZARRE

THE THEATRE BIZARRE

Directed by Richard Stanley, Douglas Buck, Buddy Giovinazzo, David Gregory, Karim Hussain, Tom Savini and Jeremy Kasten

Severin Films

 

Anthology films are by nature a mixed cinematic bag. After all, some are going to be better than others. Fortunately, in the case of The Theatre Bizarre, it’s more a matter of difference than quality, making this both a sweet and sour mix of horror bon mots that will appeal to various tastes, especially those with an appreciation of the Grand Guignol tradition.

The film’s framing tale sees a young woman (Virginia Newcomb) enter a decrepit theatre hosted by a clockwork figure played by Udo Kier. The figure introduces six tales, creeping ever close to his audience member and curiously growing more human with every story. It’s a creepy framework for a potpourri of nasty narratives.

Hardware director Richard Stanley terrifies with “The Mother of Toads,” the story of a young man whose curiosity about the esoteric proves dangerous. Lucio Fulci stalwart Catriona MacColl (The Beyond, City of the Living Dead) co-stars.

Combat Shock director Buddy Giovinazzo’s short “I Love You’ tells the tale of a German man (Andre Hennicke: Antibodies) who confronts his wife about her infidelities. It’s a beautifully shot short which cuts to the heart – both figuratively and literally – of male/female relationships.

Tom Savini’s “Wet Dreams” is a rather obvious and disappointing Freudian mess, while Douglas Buck’s “The Accident” is a thoughtful meditation on death as viewed through the eyes of a child.

Montreal filmmaker Karim Hussain (Subconscious Cruelty) uses ocular trauma to make “Vision Stains” the most unwatchable of the six segments, while UK director David Gregory invokes both horror and humour in “Sweets,” the story of a highly dysfunctional couple whose obsession with each other is literally all-consuming.

The fact that every filmmaker was given a tiny budget but absolute freedom is readily apparent in The Theatre Bizarre. There is an unhinged sensibility at play, although each filmmaker is professional enough to impose narrative limits on themselves. Like the old Amicus omnibuses of the ‘70s, The Theatre Bizarre relies on sex and violence to sell itself, but the brilliance of its participants is readily apparent.

Rating: 4/5

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