An anthology horror that has a ton of imagination and even more style, The Theatre Bizarre is an unforgettable experience for both good and bad reasons.
The wrap-around/framing story surrounds an emotional looking woman named Enola (Virginia Newcomb) who is obsessed with a derelict and long-abandoned theatre that she can see from her apartment window. One night she notices the front door is slightly open and sees this is an opportunity to sneak in.
Once inside, she takes a seat in the decaying auditorium and gets to witness a show like no other. Her captivating host is the human-like marionette of Peg Poett (Udo Kier) and he has six stories to tell her. Some fantastical, some eerie and some horrific.
The Mother of Toads is the first and leans towards fantasy horror with its tale of witchcraft and lust. A so-so story becomes deliciously dark, a little bit sexy and a whole lot of gross. A decent start but it’s with I Love You that the anthology truly comes to life. Here, a super-paranoid and jealous man struggles to understand why his lover is leaving him. A tension-fuelled story ends in violence and blood. Easily one of the major highlights of the film.
Up next is a head-scratcher as it blurs the lines of reality and fantasy to such an extent it’s a bit confusing for the viewer. Called Wet Dreams, it focuses on a cheating husband and his vivid, guilt-ridden nightmares. So intense and so terrifying are they that when they begin to bleed into real life, he loses all sense of what is real and what isn’t.
Whereas it’s a head-scratcher, it is very enjoyable thanks to some sickening imagery and sleazy character work. The same can’t be said for The Accident where a young girl has her first experience with death and tries to understand it. Sadly, it elects nothing more than a shrug and an “is that it” statement.
It’s back to quality though with Vision Stains, a grim and uncomfortable tale about a woman who spends her life recording the stories of the destitute and homeless. She does this by killing them, draining the fluid from their eyeballs and injecting it into her own. Doing this means she gets to experience the person’s life as it flashed before their eyes. Unfortunately, she finds herself addicted and excited by the possibility of seeing what a baby in utero experiences. Something she will come to regret but might also be what finally breaks her addiction.
Be warned, if eye-based horror makes you squirm, this is not one you’ll enjoy.
Finally, it’s the vomit-inducing Sweets that closes out the performance. Where the simple act of eating an ice-cream or enjoying some candyfloss will turn the stomach. Especially when it culminates in such a visceral and blood-draining finale.
The shocks aren’t quite done yet though as back in the theatre, Enola is about to find out just where she fits into the stories overall.
Like most anthologies, The Theatre Bizarre is mix of hit and miss stories with nothing that you would call ‘outstanding’ presented. The wrap-around/framing is visually thrilling with its creepy marionettes and some of the tales have such elegance about them but most lack depth and there’s nothing that really links them together. That’s disappointing and ended up making the anthology feel more like a shortened down version of the TV show Masters of Horror.
That’s still high praise though and deservedly so, especially thanks to its visual quality and the classy performances of the varied actors and directors.
The Theatre Bizarre
The Final Score - 6.5/10