The last time I enjoyed watching short stories within a film was the excellent TV movie ‘Body Bags’ (1993), you may remember the awesome short ‘The Gas Station’. 1982′s ‘Creep Show’ was a little gentle for my liking but great fun nevertheless. The ‘Twilight Zone: The Movie (1983) was pretty good for its time as well.
If you mash all the above together and add an injection of mind disease you are close to what ‘The Theatre Bizarre’ (2011) holds in store. At the beginning we watch a troubled young woman (Virginia Newcomb) captivated and curious about the mysterious neglected cinema across the street, this opening scene is perfect in setting up the dark tone for the audience, feeding you a similar feeling that you get when it’s your turn to go on the latest high-tech rollercoaster that everyone is raving about. And what a ride this film is. All the stories here offer an interesting mix of experiences, there are some exceptional ideas floating about that are really well done.
You’ll clock the Clive Barker and the old school Hammer Horror influences coming through, and although it has moments that are cheesy and amusing, it actually fits like a glove because one minute you’ve got a grin on your face and then the next moment you’ve just been slapped – That smile has been wiped off your face. If your watching with another you’ll be saying several times ‘oh..no..I can’t watch…no..NO…NO!’. The framing segments between each story are creepy and very creative. I found this film endearing, it’ll remind you of the time when going to the cinema filled you with anticipation and excitement. Nowadays the thrill is diluted with the distractions of smelly food, loud packaging, plot spoiling Trailers and unimaginative adverts.
Each of the six stories in The Theatre Bizarre is influenced by the famous smallest Theatre in Paris that ran from 1897-1962 known as Le Theatre Du Grand Guignol which had people coming along for the eerie experience. The actual theatre used to be a church which was the perfect environment for terror shows that included special effects that were too realistic for some. During its 60 years running the Theatres’ prime time was during the first and second world war. The Theatre’s named after ‘Guignol’ a puppet that performed in the style of Punch & Judy which the film The Theatre Bizarre captures very well.
The theatrical influences to this film makes it even more special. The Theatre Bizarre’s content is well thought out and presented in a fine disturbing package. Some of the acting is over the top but it’s correct for that particular story, it actually adds another twisted layer to the proceedings. I’m surprised that I enjoyed every short story in this feature, some stories are more disturbing than others, as expected, but each episode is clever, simple and effective. During the first short film ‘The Mother of Toads’ I presumed I knew how the other stories were going to be and I was so wrong and subsequently enjoyed the journey, being taken down one dark spiral then onto a totally different one.
I hope they make another bizarre mix of stories like this one, it’s got creepy mannequins, clockwork human puppets, an old evil woman and shots of eye injections, decapitation, excessive drug taking and cannibalism, all introduced by a creepy host in an old cinema…what more can you ask for in 114 minutes! This film is hugely entertaining, it’s off the usual grid and I demand that you watch it. Just don’t eat during the show and cancel any impending eye surgery, or appointments with your psychiatrist. The Theatre Bizarre is one of the best films I’ve watched this year, I was left wanting more.