Friday, 2 September 2011

The Theatre Bizarre - Fright Fest Review #4

Warning.... Graphic Trailer.

This is a horror anthology with six stories all brought to us via a storyteller residing in a mysterious theater.  A young woman obsessed with this theater one night sees the doors slowly open up, chilllingly inviting her to enter inside.  An invitation to which she readily accepts.  Inside it is empty save for some very humanlike puppets and their puppeteer - the storyteller (Udo Kier)  He leads us into the stories of The Theater Bizarre....

The Mother Of Toads (dir by Richard Stanley)
Having been absent from directing since 2006, Richard Stanley (Hardware, Dust Devil) returns to bring us the opening segment.  Following two young travellers in the French countryside, one looking for a relaxing vacation the other, naturally seeking the Necrinomicron.  Or at least this appears to be his only need seeing as the story develops it almost appears to be an obsession.  The motives of the character are unclear.. why he wants it, what does his background have to do with the ancient occult?  Unless he's just a huge evil dead fan.

The reveal of this story is less than scary, almost laughable.  Stanley's touch remains as it was with his earlier work.  I have always felt his direction is laboured and he struggles to bring any humanity to his pieces.  They always seem more about the scenery and cinematography rather than character and story.  He's like the Terence Malik of horror, trying to make it all feel very "arthouse" sometimes at the expense of entertainment.

I Love You (dir by Buddy Giovinazzo)
An engaging look at the dark places an obsessive love can take you.  It is the depiction of a marriage on the brink of collapse, brought about from the controlling nature of the husband (Andre Hennicke).  The wife (Suzan Anbeh) is emotionless as she explains she is leaving, even going to the point of detailing her multiple instances of adultery.  This is well acted seeing the husband slowly fall apart whilst his wife watches on stoney faced.  The sex scene is particularly eye opening to their relationship in which he wants to be gentle inside her whereas she keeps calling for it to be harder.  A total reverse to the emotional treatment of each other.

The story is told in a non linear fashion which didn't really serve to add much and the outcome was of particular surprise.  However the characters are well fleshed out for a short and provided us with an insight into these two incompatible people and the slow collapse of a man's fragile mind when he realises that he has lost his love but still unable to comprehend why.

Wet Dreams (dir Tom Savini)
The man behind some of the greatest make up effects ever put onto screen and the mentor of Greg Nicotero (who arguably is now the better of the two) brings us a twisted tale of revenge.  With Savini's love for the genre you know this was going to be nothing less than gruesome and on that count it didn't disappoint. 

An abused and cheated on wife (Debbie Rochon) seeks to take revenge on her despicable husband, Donnie, (James Gill) in the most horrific way possible.  Told through the dreams of the main protagonist (although on reflection he may not have been - a clever change in direction of who is delivering the story to us) Donnie, seemingly stuck on the idea his wife is cutting off his penis and feeding it to him, you are never sure if what you're watching is real or part of his sub conscious.  The segment certainly spends more time on the visual disgust rather than the human side.  But it's not trying to be high brow and Tom Savini is well aware of this. And the final reveal is all a bit familiar and by saying what film it is reminiscent of would only serve as a spoiler.   Whilst certainly better than the opening piece, the extremes to which the wife goes to exact her revenge seem a little over the top and only makes you wonder who was the more evil of the two.

The Accident (dir by Douglas Buck)
A short tale told told via the use of questions being put to a mother form her daughter about death after witnessing an accident.  The dialogue is used as a narrative over flashbacks to the titular accident with a haunting score by Pierre Marchand creating the feel of the piece.  Beautifully shot and s superb turn from the young girl.  The best of the segments.

Vision Stains (dir by Karim Hussain)

An unusual tale about how the eye's memory is stored within its aqueous humor (the clear fluid in the front part of the eye) and the attempts of one woman to reveal things about humanity by stealing this and implanting it into her own eye allowing her to see what the owner of the fluid saw.  No detail as to who this person was and how she came to be addicted to this activity and how seeing someone's memories gives the insight she needs.  The victims were generally junkies or people that wouldn't be missed as she has to kill them first as it's at this point the fluid stores the memories.  How she discovered this is anyone's guess.  The premise is intriguing but I felt the central character was far too motivated in her own needs over the preciousness of human life and without her journey to getting there it was hard to believe.

Sweets (dir by David Gregory)
A darkly comic tale looking at another break up.  The beginnings of the relationship told in flash back with the overriding use of food stuff depicting their growing love.  But for very different reasons.  The script is witty and the performance of the desperate boyfriend especially good.  You could look at this on a study of the addiction to food or just addictive personalities in general.  Is it just the food or is he addicted to her and not actually in love with her.

This is a sort of Hansel and Gretal story for the modern horror fan and the realisation of the relationships motives show that perhaps she really cared about this man by wanting to break up with him.  However, unfortunately for him, he persuaded her to give him another chance.  An enjoyable tale and well balanced with the horror and comedy.

Overall The Theater Bizarre is a mixed bag, with the exception of The Accident, never quite moving above okay.  It is too long and could have lost one or two segments to bring it to a more viewer friendly running time.  The puppeteer and theater parts were very uninteresting and only had me waiting for them to be over to get to the next part.  Sadly, even though I enjoyed parts of this, I was looking for it to end.  never a good sign.  As far as anthologies goes, whilst not terrible, it is a long way short of the likes of Creepshow and Tales From The Darkside and even Fright Fest's other anthology film, Chillerama.

Overall 2/5

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