The Theatre Bizarre (2011)

Paris’ legendary Grand Guignol theatre has inspired so many films and this story actually begins in a theater much like that infamous historical landmark. As a Enola Penny walks into Theatre Guignol, she is gifted with the six stories that make up this movie, all while she becomes more of a puppet and the host — Udo Keir — becomes human. The framing sequence was directed by Jeremy Kasten (The Attic Expeditions).

The first segment, “The Mother Of Toads,” was co-written (with his former partner Scarlett Amaris* and Emiliano Ranzani) and directed by Richard Stanley. I have to say that this segment looks gorgeous and hits all the right buttons for me, as its based on a Clark Ashton Smith story. It also has  one of Fulci’s recurring actresses Catriona MacColl in it as Mere Antoinette, which delighted me to no end.

“I Love You” — directed and written by Buddy Giovinazzo (Combat Shock) really didn’t work for me. It’s a simple story of a man finally being dumped by a long-suffering lover, yet I was struggling with the fact that it just seems to end.

“Wet Dreams” gives Tom Savini a rare chance to direct in a chapter devoted to a man telling his psychiatrist (Savini) about his nightly dreams that concern his wife (Debbie Rochon) castrating him.

Plus, you get “The Accident” from Family Portraits: A Trilogy of America director Douglas Buck. This may not be a horror story as much as a meditation on life and death.

Karim Hussain’s (the cinematographer of Possessor) “Vision Stains” is all about a serial killer who has lost the ability to dream, so she uses a needle to extract them from the eyes of her victims.

Finally, David Gregory — who also directed Lost Soul and Blood & Flesh — wrote and directed “Sweets,” about the break-up of a couple who use food in their lovemaking. Big points for getting Lynn Lowry in this story.

A co-production between Severin Films and Metaluna Productions, each director was given the same budget, schedule and narrative directive. Other than that, they were given free rein to create their own story. The results may not be even, but you can tell that this was made by filmmakers who understand that a horror anthology can be a very powerful movie.

*As a Stanley fan for some time, her story of the abuse suffered at his hands has soured me on his work, which kept me away from watching this for some time.

You can buy this at Severin Films.

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