Monday, January 21, 2013

Movie Review: The Theatre Bizarre

 I dig vignettes.

 When I read horror, I tend to prefer collections of short-stories over novels.  This has nothing to do with a short attention-span; I enjoy a good horror novel.  The problem is that there are so many bad horror stories.  When I am reading a novel that has not really demonstrated anything good for the first 100 pages, I invariably continue reading in the hopes that it will get better.  More often than not I read to the end and find that I wasted my time.  With a short story, if one yarn is weak, you get through it quickly and move on the the next story.  

 Horror seems to be fertile ground for vignettes.  There is a long list of infamous titles; Cat's Eye, Creepshow, Tales from the Darkside: The Movie, Twilight Zone the Movie, and so on.  You just don't see these kinds of anthologies of sketches in other genres.  It also seems that the vignette offers the opportunity for writers and directors to be more playful than they might be with a feature film, which can be good or bad.
Beer Goggles X 100.

 The Theatre Bizarre follows a common model for vignette horror films.  A character, representing the viewer, is introduced to a strange situation which leads to them being told a number of short stories, which each story divided by the first character progressing through a process of some sort, typically leading to a moral.  In this film, a young woman is curious about a run-down theater across the road from her home.  When she sees that it has been opened, she pay the show a visit.
Just one more fix...

 The Theatre Bizarre features six stories.

 Mother of Toads is a Lovecraftian tale about a young couple running afoul of a witch in the a remote French village.  It was a fairly common monster story.

 I Love You shows the final end of a relationship where the man is simply too possessive.  It has a kind of sick little twist at the end, but is also otherwise unremarkable.

 Wet Dreams, directed by Tom Savini, is the most intentionally fun of all the vignettes.  A woman gets revenge on her abusive and cheating mate with the help of her husband's psychologist.  
Taking "bitch" to a whole new level.

 The Accident is the most poignant of the tales, with a keenly eerie message.  A mother tries to explain the nature of death to a child after witnessing a tragic accident.

 Of all the stories, I liked Vision Stains the most.  A researcher has discovered a means to see the literal "life flashing before the eyes" of people at the moment of their deaths, and has become addicted to seeing those visions.

 Finally, Sweets, is just a sick story about love, manipulation, and consumption.  The story is gross, but not in the manner that horror fans are accustomed to.
The make-up coming off does not help things.

 The film has some star power.  The ever creepy Udo Kier provides the "narration" throughout the film.  Tom Savini directs and acts in his segment.  It also has an international flavor, with stories set in France and Germany.  Visually, the film is wonderfully rich, with the special effects being masterfully done.  The acting is impressive all around.  

 The framing story, while alright, seemed often to be a bit disjointed, and though that may have been the intent it took away from the film for me.  Also, their is a distinct misogynistic message throughout the stories.  In fact, five of the six stories feature a woman who is either a monster or who is coldly dispassionate toward their partners or others.  While I recognize the anecdotal idea that women are the more viscous gender and that as the target audience is predominantly male (therefore describing the female as dangerous is both alluring and antagonizing), having this theme repeated over and over suggests almost an agenda.

 Still, I dig the film.  It was not fantastic, but not a waste of 2 hours either.

 Jason Sorrell is a writer, tattoo artist, satirist, artist, and generally nice guy living in Austin, TX.  Shoot him an email at

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