theatre bizarre

Let’s do another anthology film, shall we?

“Theatre Guignol” (framing story)
Directed by Jeremy Kasten, director of the Crispin Glover-powered remake of The Wizard Of Gore

Theatre Guignol, which is about a young woman who stumbles upon an unusual puppet show in a seemingly abandoned theater–a theatre bizarre, if you will!–is the frame story, and as with most frame stories, it’s not particularly substantial. However, it usually manages to hold the viewer’s interest, thanks to some lush design, creepy physical performances by the actors playing the life-sized puppets, and a tour de force from Udo Kier as the show’s sinister emcee.

“The Mother Of Toads”
Directed by Richard Stanley, original director of the 1996 version of The Island Of Dr. Moreau
My rating: mixed

This one’s reportedly based on a story by Clark Ashton Smith, and concerns a young married couple on vacation in France who meet a strange old lady who claims to have a copy of the Necronomicon. While the lead performances are okay, an almost unrecognizable Catriona MacColl isn’t quite convincing as the old lady and delivers proof that American accents aren’t the only ones she has trouble with. I also had some problems with some of the character behavior (although to be fair, I don’t know how I’d react if I woke up next to the naked, sleeping form of a toad-woman). The score is also hideously inappropriate, trying to build suspense and tension when there isn’t really any need for it (for example, the scene where the wife goes swimming).

However, the location work is beautiful, there’s a couple of effective scenes and the Elder Sign earrings are a direct reference to the Call Of Cthulhu roleplaying game, so that’s a nice Easter egg.

“I Love You”
Directed by Buddy Giovinazzo, American-born director of numerous episodes of German television

In I Love You, a middle-aged German man wakes up on his bathroom floor with blood all over his shirt, a nasty gash in his arm and a hole in his memory…and his day’s only about to get worse, because it turns out that his wife is leaving him for one of the many lovers she’s taken over the course of their marriage.

It works very well as a work of psychological cruelty, a sort of Hitchcockian twist on Who’s Afraid Of Virginia Wolff?, with fantastic performances by André Hennicke (Axel) and Suzan Anbeh (Mo), and the script is witty and observant with a couple of great lines (“Your penis never liked my vagina” and “I want to be fucked with a scream” are two personal favorites). Unfortunately, the ending twist is a bit too obvious if you’re paying attention, but it doesn’t detract too much from the overall effect.

“Wet Dreams”
Directed by Tom Savini, makeup wizard

Wet Dreams starts off with a guy having a dream about having sex with a woman who possesses what his therapist later calls a “Lovecraftian vagina” and just keeps getting weirder from there. The basic concepts are nice, and there are some fantastic performances by James Gill (Donnie, the protagonist), Debbie Rochon (Donnie’s wife Carla) and Tom Savini (the therapist). And the effects are fantastic, which is probably no surprise, considering Savini also directed. But there’s a big problem with the story’s dreams-within-dreams-within-dreams structure.

Inception worked because it did a fantastic job of showing how people’s waking concerns and anxieties translate into the symbol-based world of dreams, and because it’s always clear what the characters are doing and why. Unfortunately, Wet Dream is comprised of so many twists and turns and more twists that it’s impossible to figure out who’s really doing what to whom and why…which also makes it impossible to care. It also doesn’t benefit from being placed right after I Love You, a much better examination of all the ways couples hurt each other.

Still, it’s hard to argue with any movie that gives you the sight of stunning redhead Joddi Christianson wearing nothing but a g-string.

“The Accident”
Directed by Douglas Buck, director of the 2006 remake of Brian DePalma’s Sisters

The Accident is easily the best segment of Theatre Bizzare, and it’s also the least plot-driven: it’s about a woman discussing the realities of death with her young daughter after they witness the aftermath of a road accident which leaves a young motorcyclist dead and a deer mortally wounded. It’s intense and heartbreaking, and the fantastic performances (particularly Jean-Paul Rivière, who has no lines as the dead man’s father) and muted, subtle score nearly left me in tears.

The one problem is that, despite some striking gore, it’s not really horror. But when you get something as moving as this, it doesn’t really matter.

“Vision Stains”
Directed by Karim Hussain, DP of Hobo With A Shotgun and Antiviral

Vision Stains is intensely frustrating, because it should have been a lot better than this. The basic premise–Canadian actress Kaniehtiio Horn as a serial killer who kills homeless women, then extracts the aqueous humor from her victims’ eyes and injects them into her own eye, thus granting her visions of their lives, which she writes down in notebooks–is a fascinating one. Unfortunately, it’s a premise more suited to a feature-length thriller than a short film. The problems don’t stop there: the action’s too repetitive, the killer’s internal monologuing is pretentious and alienating and the implications of her actions aren’t developed as much as they should have been. The overall story is a one-way ticket to Dullsville, even with all the unnecessary nudity.

Directed by David Gregory, co-director of The Signal

This one is a bit hard to describe: it starts out by being about the breakup of a couple who are obsessed with candy, cakes and other sweet foods and ends up taking a severe left turn into even stranger territory. It takes a while to get going, and there’s a bit too much disconnect between the text (gluttony) and the subtext (gluttony as a symptom of narcissistic self-obsession), but what saves it is the visual aesthetic–it looks like how Charlie And The Chocolate Factory might have looked if it had been jointly directed by John Waters and David Cronenberg. There’s also a couple of highly impressive performances by Guilford Adams, Lindsay Goranson and Elissa Dowling.

114 minutes. Directed by Douglas Buck, Buddy Giovinazzo, David Gregory, Kassim Hussain, Jeremy Kasten, Tom Savini, Richard Stanley. Starring Udo Kier, Guilford Adams, Suzan Anbeh, Lindsay Goranson, André Hennicke, Kaniehtiio Horne, Lena Kleine, Catriona MacColl, Victoria Maurette, Virginia Newcomb, Debbie Rochon, Tom Savini, Melodie Simard.


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