The Theater Bizarre is a modern anthology, not aimed at a PG-rating or casual horror fan. These stories are loaded with sex and violence, yes, but also with something you’ll never get from American studios; the freedom of not having to capture the widest audience possible ($$$$) to please the conglomerate company. What we have is six short films by six different directors, who were not pressured into keeping it tame.
The films outlining premise is a theatre puppet-show of sorts. The puppets represent real people and as their section of the stage lights-up, we are treated to their story. It is all hosted by the ringleader, Udo Kier, whose marionette-like movements exude a general sense of foreboding. He walks stage-right, holds out his hand like a model on a game-show and the film begins.
In ‘The Mother Of Toads’ A young couple’s purchase of a pendant while traveling the back roads of France lead to a conversation with an old woman with a wicked glean in her eye. There is a brief Cthulu reference to “The Old Ones” by the old woman and the boyfriend goes to learn more about the pendant’s symbol and origin at her secluded cottage in the woods. There, he is seduced by a beautiful woman and when he tries to escape the next morning, he is assaulted by generations of her offspring emerging from the swamp. This segment exudes great mood and atmosphere but holds back at the end as we don’t see the actual attack on the girlfriend or the main character. Next, in “I Love You”, we get a bitter look at love gone awry, a hostile break-up and violent end to a relationship. Although a familiar story, it is an entertaining segment as the woman talks about her secret trysts, and we see them in flashback. The kitchen scene even made me chuckle.
Third, we have the Tom Savini directed story, Wet Dreams. A couple locked in an acidic relationship, attack and torture each other in their dreams. There is one really bizarre scene in this episode, that I will not totally spoil, but it’s a real ‘doozy‘…, when the sexy dream-girl drops her panties past her ankles and…oh, boy! The husband wakes up screaming and immediately stuffs both hands in his shorts to take inventory. The film is worth seeing for this segment alone. There are three other stories, not as good as these first three but not bad. As with all anthologies, there are segments you’ll like better than others. I will mention the story, Vision Stains, about the young woman who has found a way to see what other women see at their moment of death and is addicted to that rush.
The Theatre Bizarre is an entertaining horror collection with solid storylines and plots, graphic violence and a strong ‘R’ rating for the true horror enthusiast. If you are a fan of anthologies, this is one of the better ones; it’s a keeper for me.