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FrightFest 2011: ‘The Theatre Bizarre’

The Theatre Bizarre

Directed by Richard Stanley, Tom Savini, Douglas Buck, Karim Hussain, Buddy Giovinazzo, Jeremy Kasten

USA/France, 2011

The last flick on opening night of FRIGHTFEST was the appalling horror anthology The Theatre Bizarre which is, rather astonishingly, getting some theatrical support. Not to be too cruel, but it’s hardly worth covering extensively as it was just a stupidly long, plodding, crudely assembled, shoddy mess. But I’ll give a very quick summary of my feelings on each short so as to allow the numerous directors their own dues. 

Richard Stanley (director of Hardware) offered up the first segment based on an old French myth about the Mother of Toads. There’s a lot of contrived boring dialogue, some nudity, some sticky goo, a ridiculously hilarious witch / toad thing, and plenty of pointless exposition. It results in one of the worst short films I’ve seen in a long time and is all shot with little to no artistic worth. Horrendously bad.

Then came Buddy Giovinazzo’s I Love You, which is about 20 mins of a somewhat empathetic character arguing with his soon to be ex-wife about why she is leaving him before the obvious twist hits in the final moments. It’s not the worst of the bunch and proves that he could perhaps helm a watchable drama if given some good material and actors, but it’s so ungraciously long that it makes it’s simple premise all the more boring.

The legendary Tom Savini stars in and directs the segment Wet Dreams which is a vaguely entertaining look at the spiralling nightmares of an unfaithful husband as we tumble through layer after layer of dream like a b-movie, sex obsessed homage to Inception or Wes Craven’s New Nightmare. It survives due to it’s faster paced idea but is nevertheless a pointless exercise and seems merely to be an excuse for copus amounts of female nudity.

Karim Hussain (cinematographer of Hobo with a Shotgun) tries to go deep on us with the somewhat innovative idea of a woman addicted to the vitreous fluid of dying peoples eyeballs, through which she can ‘jack in’ to their life’s memories. It begins somewhat promising and opens up plenty of fascinating areas to explore, but sadly Hussain doesn’t really seem to know what to do with the idea and it dissolves by the finale.

Jeremy Kasten (The Wizard of Gore) directs the framing segments which are so hilariously ugly and disjointed that they may as well no exist. They merely elongate the painfully over-indulgent running time and boast an odd cameo from Udo Kier.

David Gregory (who has 104 directing credits on IMDB for various documentaries and shorts) pukes up the worst of a bad bunch with the closing segment Sweets which is, well, I can’t even be bothered trying to explain it. But it’s a long, disgusting, awfully written, acted, directed, and appallingly conceived piece of work that was a serious chore to get through and leaves a horrendous taste in the mouth upon exit.

Coming midway through the film, but left for last here as it deserves the attention, was Douglas Buck’s  The Accident – a beautifully shot, maturely handled and oddly affecting almost wordless piece that focuses on a child witnessing a road accident. It sticks out like a sore thumb amongst the trash that surrounds it, but is worth watching separately if you ever get the chance and I would give a solid recommendation to this segment solo. 

Over-all this was an anthology that could have been bearable if it was given a proper framework and then had it’s opening and exiting pieces thrown out. This would have resulted in a much shorter, more palatable and mildly interesting selection that at the very least wouldn’t have offended the senses like the actual end product does.

– Al White

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