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The Theatre Bizarre is an anthology horror film based on the French Grand Guignol style of very graphic horror. Each segment is directed by a different director.
The framing piece is about a woman who goes into what she believes to be an abandoned theatre and is treated to a show of six separate films, introduced by human-sized run-down clockwork marionette type dolls.
The Mother of Toads: (Directed by Richard Stanley) A young American couple in France buys a pair of earrings from a woman who says the Necronomicon is real–the earrings are of a symbol from the book–and she invites them to see the real deal. They agree. Everything goes beautifully and nothing bad happens. The end. And if you believe that, I have some lovely seaside property in Manchester for you.
I Love You: (Buddy Giovinazzo) A jealous, paranoid man is basically stalking his wife. She gets her revenge in the best possible (psychological) way. This entire piece is mostly psychological and, though there is blood, it’s still less gory than other sections of the Theatre Bizarre. And it has the classic line: ‘Your penis and my vagina never liked each other. Didn’t you ever realise that?’ LMAO
Wet Dreams: (Directed by Tom Savini) This one was both disturbing as hell and funny as shit. If I had a penis it would probably only be disturbing as hell. A man sees a therapist about his recurring nightmares about being de-penised, either by knife or other, far worse, methods. (The therapist is played by horror master Tom Savini, who also directs this section.) This one is HEAVY on the body horror, good lord.
The Accident: (Directed by Douglas Buck) A little girl–8 or 9–asks her mother difficult questions about death after witnessing an accident earlier in the day. The piece was completely out of place–no gore, no body horror, it was a very quiet film. On its own it was a very true, human work, but it was an odd break in the flow.
Vision Stains: (Directed by Karim Hussain) A young woman can experience other people’s lives by extracting liquid from their eyes and injecting it into her own. I’m so, so sorry you’ve just had to read that. The very idea makes me cringe and I tried to look away during the extraction/injection shots, but was not always successful. The girl who does this writes down the stories she sees in others’ eye juice (sorry, again) and she says that the most lasting memories leave a permanent impression on the liquid in their eyes. That reminds me of the Victorian belief that the final thing a person saw was permanently burned on their cornea. The story reminded me a bit of Black Fairy Tale where a raven brings eyes to a girl who, when she puts them in her empty socket, can see the original owners final few moments.
Sweets: (Directed by David Gregory) A woman breaks up with her boyfriend in a flat covered in sweets wrappers, going through every break-up line in the book. Their relationship has always revolved around her feeding him sweets. Flashbacks are all in super-bright colours of a sweet shop. The break-up scene is muted colours and the woman is holding a melted ice cream cone. That evening, the woman goes to a restaurant Peter Greenaway would love, where the point of their relationship becomes clear. This one is my favourite.
Overall: NOT for the squeamish, too much body horror and gore. Mother of Toads was the weakest and felt like a B-movie. I’m glad I watched it, but I wouldn’t watch it again and I would only recommend it for someone interested in the Grand Guignol genre. I’d suggest Sweets for Peter Greenaway fans or Wet Dreams for Savini fans.
If you want great short films by the best horror directors, definitely check out the Masters of Horror series, which I will begin reviewing next Thursday.