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The Theatre Bizarre: Film Review

The Theatre Bizarre Still - H 2012
W2 Media

The Bottom Line

An uneven but stylish sampler of new, not-for-the-squeamish shorts from accomplished genre filmmakers.

Opened

Friday, Jan. 27 (W2 Media)

Cast

Udo Kier, Virginia Newcomb

Director

Jeremy Kasten

Director Jeremy Kastena's movie is half-dozen mini-films in a range of tones, style, gore level and quality.

A polished package of shorts by horror vets, The Theatre Bizarre is a genre buff’s buffet — a half-dozen mini-films in a range of tones, style, gore level and quality. To varying degrees, the anthology’s shocks are fueled by character dynamics, making them of potential interest to curious newcomers as well, and lending some dramatic heft to the lurid goings-on. After completing a second weekend of midnight slots in Los Angeles, the omnibus continues its trek through U.S. markets, giving fans a chance to relish the macabre on the big screen before the film’s April release on DVD.

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There’s crossover among the camera/music/editing credits, but each of the six commissioned films, and the wraparound that ostensibly ties them together, is an independent production. The connective tissue, which gives the film its name, involves a sad-eyed young woman (Virginia Newcomb) who wanders into a derelict movie theater and finds a ringmaster of sorts in the form of the inimitable Udo Kier. A kind of malevolent marionette, he doesn’t so much introduce the films as taunt his guest. Jeremy Kasten’s piece serves its wraparound purpose but falls short on the wow factor.

Three of the pieces are linked thematically, taking on male fears of female sexuality and power, and pushing them to violent extremes. At the top of the cruelty meter is Wet Dreams, an increasingly grisly riff on the vagina dentata fear factor, with director Tom Savini as a shrink who helps a couple’s Freudian nightmare come true.

The Mother of Toads, which opens the compilation, is well shot but conceptually thin as it applies the inspiration of fantasy writers Clark Ashton Smith and H.P. Lovecraft to an American couple’s misadventures in France. Director Richard Stanley combines sound design and the Midi-Pyrénées setting to create an atmospheric collision of modern culture and timeless nature. In closing piece Sweets, the most visually distinctive of the lot, David Gregory fashions a sly satire on the devouring aspects of romance, with candy-colored fantasies for two giving way to gruesome group activities.

Another story of love gone wrong, Buddy Giovinazzo’s I Love You, is a study in psychological tension, anchored by strong performances from Andre M. Hennicke and Suzan Anbeh as a couple whose breakup unfolds with chilling heartlessness and a sense of temporal disconnection.

Of the three films that don’t bring male anxieties to ghastly fruition, two are femme-centric, but at opposite ends of the horror spectrum. Karim Hussain’s Vision Stains concerns a self-styled biographer who preserves the memories of forgotten people by injecting herself with fluid from their postmortem eyeballs. It’s the most intellectually provocative entry, with the densest visual/sound scheme, but the mix of squirm-inducing visuals and borderline-pretentious voiceover doesn’t quite jell.

The Accident, on the other hand, has a haunting, stark simplicity. Filmmaker Douglas Buck, who also edited this and three other Theatre Bizarre shorts, captures a mother-child dialogue about death after the little girl witnesses it in vivid firsthand fashion. It doesn’t go for shocks, but it packs a punch.

Opened: Friday, January 27 (W2 Media)
A Daryl J. Tucker presentation of a Severin Films production
in association with Metaluna Prods.
Producers: John Cregan, Carl Daft, David Gregory, Fabrice Lambot, Jean-Pierre Putters, Michael Ruggiero
Executive producer: Daryl J. Tucker
No MPAA rating, 114 minutes
The Theatre Bizarre
Quota Prods.
Cast: Udo Kier, Virginia Newcomb
Director: Jeremy Kasten
Screenwriter: Zach Chassler
Producers: Nicco Ardin, Jacqui Knapp, Erika Larsen
Director of photography: David M. Brewer
Production designer: Lorry O'Toole
Music: Eric Liam Powell
Costume designer: Carrie Grace
Editor: Maxx Gillman

The Mother of Toads
Cast: Catriona MacColl, Shane Woodward, Victoria Maurette, Lisa Crawford
Director: Richard Stanley
Screenwriters: Richard Stanley, Scarlett Amaris, Emiliano Ranzani,  Moag
Producers: Fabrice Lambot, Jean-Pierre Putters, Caroline Piras
Director of photography: Karim Hussain
Production designer: Arnaud de la Giraudière
Music: Simon Boswell
Editor: Pauline Pallier

I Love You
Cast: Andre M. Hennicke, Suzan Anbeh, Harvey Friedman
Screenwriter-director: Buddy Giovinazzo
Producers: Kirsten Sohrauer, Gesine Giovinazzo-Todt
Director of photography: Michael Kotschi
Production designer: Lisa Loher
Music: Susan DiBona
Costume designer: RUDI
Editor: Robert Bohrer

Wet Dreams
A Nightscape Entertainment Production
Cast: Debbie Rochon, Tom Savini, James Gil
Director: Tom Savini
Screenwriter: John Esposito
Producer: Michael Ruggiero
Director of photography: Eduardo Fierro
FX production designers: Jerami Cruise, Johnross, Brad Bianchi
Music: Bobb Freund
Co-producer: Robert L. Lucas
Costumes: Jerami Cruise, Shelby L. Vogel, Autumn Cook
Editor: Douglas Buck

The Accident
Cast: Lena Kleine, Melodie Simmard, Jean-Paul Rivière, Bruno Décary
Screenwriter-director: Douglas Buck
Producer: Victoria Sanchez Mandryk
Director of photography: Karim Hussain
Production designer: Mathieu Giguère
Music: Pierre Marchand
Costume designer: Annie Dufort
Editor: Douglas Buck

Vision Stains
Cast: Kaniehtiio Horn, Cynthia Wu-Maheux, Imogen Haworth, Rachelle Glait, Alex Ivanovici
Screenwriter-director: Karim Hussain
Producer: Victoria Sanchez Mandryk
Director of photography: Karim Hussain
Production designer: Mathieu Giguère
Music: Simon Boswell
Costume designer: Annie Dufort
Editor: Douglas Buck

Sweets
Cast: Lindsay Goranson, Guilford Adams, Lynn Lowry, Jessica Remmers, Elissa Dowling
Screenwriter-director: David Gregory
Producer: Alexandra Spector
Executive producer:
Director of photography: John Honoré
Production designer: Lorry O'Toole
Music: Mark Raskin
Co-producer:
Costume designer: Tree Carr