FrightFest 2011 Review: The Theatre Bizarre

The Theatre Bizarre brings you 6 tales of the weird, gruesome, morbid and wonderful all wrapped up in this 2 hour extravaganza. A woman is obsessing over the closed down theatre across the road from her apartment. She decides to go across one evening and finds the door open. Once sat down a marionette figure (Udo Kier) presents itself onstage and starts to unveil the 6 tales for the audience.

Richard Stanley (Hardware, Dust Devil) almost spoils things with his lazy tale “The Mother of Toads”. It’s badly written, poorly acted and doesn’t really present much of itself beyond the title. There is barely even a myth to get excited about. But where that myth goes is literally nowhere as Stanley uses up his screen time at the point where anything interesting can happen. Sure it is supernatural, and has some interesting shots of fog coming over the mountain (maybe a few too many shots of this to be honest). It’s therefore just an oddball bit of film-making to warm the audience up, if it doesn’t send them to sleep early on.

The follow up tale “I Love You” from director Buddy Giovinazzo is much more psychological featuring a couple who have recently broken up. It’s much more down to earth and includes a wonderful confessional from a woman who is fed up with the man who appears to have dominated the relationship.

Tom Savini’s tale “Wet Dreams” quite the mindbender, but suffers from looking like it was made 20 years ago. Savini is no fool and offers a complex if slight take on empowerment in a relationship that has lost any sign of faithfulness. And if you like severed willies served on dishes, then this one could be for you! It’s also worth noting that Savini makes an appearance in the film as well in the third lead role, and for a man well into his pension years – he’s looking very good indeed.

A mother has to explain death to her small daughter after they encounter an accident on the road in Douglas Buck’s “The Accident.” This is probably the least horrific tale, but is most definitely the most human and touching. Beautifully lensed, and paced almost dreamlike as visions of the accident are recalled as both Daughter and Mother recall through dialogue what has happened. It’s very calming from start to end and offers the viewer a moment to relax before all hell breaks loose again.

The most sci-fi of the lot comes in “Vision Stains” where we meet a women who likes to inject the eye fluid from her murdered victims into her own eyes – which gives her their best memories of their lives.  She then logs the visions down, recording their lives. This one has heavy voice over from the lead as she goes about her business, selecting victims and describing the ritual from start to finish. In its own way it’s a beautiful piece itself, if delivered in a very disturbing manner.

Sweets” is the last short, and well they have decided to end with a bang, or a splat even. Probably the most bizarre one that they left for the end, looking at addiction it observes. And the many levels of addiction here (although mainly focusing on food) are well spliced together. It’s an odd tale, with a bit of hammy acting (no pun intended), but makes for a visual feast (again, no pun intended). And in this final segment you get all manner of gross out behaviour, and plenty of schlock before the curtain is called.

In between each segment we return to the theatre and we see things start to take an odd turn. It’s probably the creepiest wraparound I have seen in a horror anthology. And Udo Kier is more than capable of holding our attention. Although his marionette work needs a little help.

All in all they are a mixed bunch, but the quality of the both the filmmaking and the writing improves as they go on.

The Theatre bizarre is screening at FrightFest on Thurs 25th August at 11.30pm

Steven Hurst

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