Friday, October 4, 2013

The Theatre Bizarre (2011)

The Theatre Bizarre (USA/France/Canada, 2011) - Color, Director(s): Douglas Buck, Buddy Giovinazzo, David Gregory, Karim Hussain, Jeremy Kasten, Tom Savini, and Richard Stanley
MPAA Rating: NR
[France: 16]
Approx. 114 min.

Z-rating: 3 stars out of 5

Cheese Factor: 1 stars out of 5

This isn't your average horror anthology. All six stories in this film are supposedly inspired Paris' Le Th√©√Ętre du Grand-Guignol ("The Theater of the Big Puppet"), famous for specializing in naturalistic horror shows during the years 1897 to 1962. These shows tended to explore the altered states of consciousness, such as hysteria or delirium, under which horrible crimes could occur. They typically featured bleak or depressing stories that often ended in bloody, violent climaxes. No different than Herschell Gordon Lewis, or any other shock cinema auteur, this place was like the grindhouse of its day only with live shows instead of film. Pushing the envelope of shocking and gruesome spectacle, the success of a show was judged by how many people in the audience they could get to faint or vomit.

Sticking to the Grand Guignol theme, the overarching story is about a girl who wanders into an abandoned theatre where puppets put on a strange show for her. The first segment is titled "The Mother of Toads" and is about a couple that meets an old woman that claims to own the actual Necronomicon. The guy checks it out alone and gets more than he bargained for when he actually gets to meet The Mother of Toads. The segments that follow take a less supernatural approach and feels closer to the Grand Guignol theme. "I Love You" is about betrayal and obsession, all ending in a gory climax. A man trying desperately to hold onto an unfaithful woman but smothers her in the process. "Wet Dreams" is an exploration of Freudian nightmares, complete with a castrating crotch monster that bursts out of a woman's vagina (yes, you read that correctly). Tom Savini directed this segment, supposedly based on a dream he had when he was nine years old.

"Vision Stains" is where things start to get really interesting. A woman is addicted to other people's memories, so she murders junkies in alleyways then uses a needle to extract their lives as it is flashing before their eyes. She then injects their memories directly into her own eye and records their "story" as she sees it. Watching a needle extract vitreous fluid from an eyeball is absolutely cringe-worthy. "Sweets" was the one that really got me. A sugar-addicted couple are on the verge of breaking up which has broken the guy down into a sniveling, whimpering shell of a man. As time passes, you really start to feel bad for the guy. You see the couple in sickeningly sweet flashbacks where they indulge in some weird food fetish. 

You'll end up feeling SO sorry for this poor sap...

"The Accident" was, by far, the weakest segment for me. I understand it was the situation that's supposed to illicit an emotional response but at this point in the movie, I was still expecting something scary or creepy to happen. I understand that it's supposed to have deeper meaning but this segment was pretty lame compared to the others. I'm sorry, I just think they were trying too hard to be artsy fartsy with this segment.

Nudity: There's some decent nudity in this movie, starting with the "Wet Dreams" segment (no surprise there!). Many people attended shows at the Grand Guignol to be aroused, they even had boxes underneath the balcony that people could rent when they got aroused during performances. All the sexual content fits in perfectly with the overall theme. 

Gore: Even though this movie does not hold back on the blood or gore, you'd be disappointed if you thought you'd be getting a slasher film. This is NOT the type of movie that appeals to every kind of horror fan. This movie is disturbing only if you're patient enough to follow it.

Awesome: Pretty awesome. By the end of the whole thing, I felt pretty disturbed by this dark film. I wasn't scared as if I sat through a creepy ass horror movie, the movie just felt twisted and bizarre. Made me feel sad, depressed, and aroused all at the same time. The audience at the Grand Guignol has said that they "endured the terror of the shows because they wanted to be filled with strong 'feelings' of something." - Wikipedia

Often times, those feeling were terror or arousal and this film perfectly fills those criteria. Be warned though, this film isn't for everyone. You might be disappointed if you were looking for something sick and disturbing to gross out your friends for Halloween. Maybe sit through it once yourself before putting it on at a party? I'm sure you know your party guests better than I do!