Theatre Bizarre, The (2011) - Dread Central
Connect with us


Theatre Bizarre, The (2011)



The Theatre BizarreStarring Guilford Adams, Elissa Dowling, James Gill, Lindsay Goranson, Udo Kier, Tom Savini, Debbie Rochon

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

The Theatre Bizarre is a film that shouldn’t work, but it succeeds on a grand (guignol) scale. Budgets were tight, for the most part crews and locations were not shared, and the filmmakers had complete creative freedom. Given that the directors in question are some of the most iconoclastic genre filmmakers on the scene today, The Theatre Bizarre had all the makings of a wildly inconsistent mess. After all, even anthology films have to hang together as a single consistent experience. In the end The Theatre Bizarre reinvigorates the anthology horror film genre with a thoughtful and artistic take on the format that doesn’t shirk in its graphic depictions of depravity and violence.

The first segment, “The Mother of Toads”, comes from Richard Stanley (Hardware, Dust Devil), who has been living off the grid director-wise for between ten to twenty years depending on what you consider his last film. The fact that Stanley currently lives in the French Pyrenees and is purportedly studying witchcraft and searching for the Necronomicon belies the fact that despite his fringe proclivities, his episode is actually the most standard EC Comics inspired fare of the film. But make no mistake; while the “young couple threatened in a remote location” is a familiar setup, Stanley delivers his own brand of pagan inspired horror with the Mother of Toads herself being an inspired and genuinely creepy creation. You’ll never hear bullfrogs again without feeling menaced (well, either that or aroused; Stanley’s film inspires both reactions). These fifteen minutes made me a believer: Richard Stanley is back.

Next up is “I Love You”, a title you know is devoid of treacle when it designates a segment by documentarian of the dejected Buddy Giovinazzo (Combat Shock, Life is Hot in Cracktown). The film dissects the psyche of a man who cannot dissociate feelings of love from those of jealousy. A man who even while falling in love finds himself distrustful and paranoid. A man whose lovesick puppy dog whimperings turn rabid and who bares his teeth when love finally dies. By providing one of the more realistic and darkly nihilistic episodes of the series (though shot in a brightly lit white Berlin apartment throughout!), Giovinazzo continues his chronicling of mental collapse and easily steals the most powerful final shot of any of the films in the anthology.

Fantasia 2011 ReviewThe next episode, “Wet Dreams”, is the one that surprised me the most. I have to admit I wasn’t expecting a lot from Tom Savini’s episode, mainly because he hasn’t directed anything of note since 1990’s Night of the Living Dead remake, and generally speaking makeup effects guys have a history of being pretty bad directors. But Savini’s episode destroyed my misplaced expectations. It has all the requisite Savini gore (limbs pulled off, buzzsaw vivisections, etc.) structured within a tightly scripted dream within a dream structure, with some light psychological themes that thankfully don’t take themselves too seriously (“I rape my mother every night…in my dreams!” barks Savini, who plays a psychoanalyst in the film). The basic premise of a philandering douchebag who dreams of being castrated (and whose dreams come true) is puerile, but at the midway point of the otherwise heavy proceedings, I found it to be the perfect splattery (cleft) palate cleanser. Count me in as wanting to see more Savini directorial efforts – especially if he keeps putting his girlfriend in naked!

The fourth episode in The Theatre Bizarre, “The Accident”, is also the most contemplative and artfully directed of the bunch. Doug Buck (Cutting Moments, Sisters) has focused his particular brand of family oriented horror on the ultimate theme: death. Specifically the moment when a child learns about death and tries to understand it. Dealing with issues of violent versus peaceful death, compassion for the dying and ultimately acceptance, Buck’s film could easily play in any arthouse festival but will please fans looking for subtle, meditative films that deal with horrific subjects, but in less bombastic ways than their more over-the-top genre cousins. Hopefully this is the movie that makes Hollywood recognize Buck’s particular talent for telling intimate, unsettling stories about ourselves.

The penultimate entry is easily the most surreal and whacked-out film of the anthology so it should come as no surprise that the madman behind “Vision Stains” is none other than Karim Hussain (Subconscious Cruelty, cinematographer on Hobo with a Shotgun). The film is a depraved superhero tale told in reverse; a young woman preys on homeless, drug-addled females, siphoning the vitreous fluid in their eyeballs and injecting it into her own pained peeper as a way of viewing their memories which she then feverishly jots down in stack upon stack of notebooks. She believes her purpose in life is to give voice to the stories of these discarded women but comes to learn that that her vocation is tainting her ability to live her own life.

The final film is directed by the man who helped put Theatre Bizarre together, Severin Films founder David Gregory (Plague Town). While Gregory is best known for his copious DVD behind-the-scenes work and documentary shorts, his entry “Sweets” is easily the most debauched of the anthology, bouncing from cheery candy colored flashbacks to the dingy vomit flecked present. The film tells the story of an unhinged dessert addicted woman and her breakup with her beau. Huh? That doesn’t even come close to describing the mad premise at the center of “Sweets”, but if you’ve ever been in a relationship where your partner changed you without you even knowing it, then you’ll have something to relate to – let’s just hope not too literally. Make sure to go to the late show of The Theatre Bizarre because after “Sweets” you’re not going to want to go for an after-movie dinner. Trust me.

Special mention also has to be given to the wraparound segment directed by Jeremy Kasten (Wizard of Gore remake) starring Udo Kier in a wonderfully demented role as a living marionette who lures a young woman into an old-timey theatre to watch the various segments of The Theatre Bizarre. Prior to each of the individual films, there is a brief tableau of cracked-face living dolls who presage the horrors to come. Unlike many wraparound segments, which often seem to strive to be just another entry in the anthology, Kasten’s unifying vision is both original and interesting in its own right but stays focused on fusing the various segments into a cohesive whole.

The Theatre Bizarre is easily one of the best horror anthology films not just recently, but in the history of the sub-genre. Each director has created his own wildly unique film, unhindered by creative restrictions, and yet the result remains unified by themes of corrupted love via either via the mundane erosions due to infidelity and sexual dissatisfaction or the more horrific and sudden cataclysms caused by death, murder, and mystical trickery.

4 1/2 out of 5

Discuss The Theatre Bizarre in the comments section below!

Continue Reading


Godzilla: Planet of the Monsters Review – A Timid Step Towards a Frightening Possibility



Starring Mamoru Miyano, Takahiro Sakurai, Kana Hanazawa, Yuki Kaji, Tomokazu Sugita

Directed by Kobun Shizuno and Hiroyuki Seshita

The Godzilla series is the longest-running franchise in cinema history. With over 30 films over a 60+ year career, the famous kaiju has appeared in video games, comic books, TV shows, and more, cementing its place as one of the most recognizable cultural icons in the past 100 years. With Godzilla: Planet of the Monsters, the titular beast makes its foray into the world of anime in this first film in a proposed trilogy. While there are moments that are genuinely thrilling, the film unfortunately fails to capture the imagination and wonder that is at its fingertips.

The story is quite simple: Earth is under attack by swarms of various kaiju who are wreaking havoc across the planet. Entire cities are being destroyed when Godzilla appears to vanquish humanity’s foes. Unfortunately, the King of the Monsters isn’t really there to help humans and its rampage continues until a race of alien beings arrive at Earth asking for a place to stay in exchange for defeating Godzilla. When they are unable to do that, the remaining humans board a giant spaceship to venture off into space in search of a new home only to come back some 20 years later, nearly 20,000 years later by Earth time (think Interstellar logic), to search for resources and, possibly, a planet that will welcome them once again. However, Godzilla is still around and isn’t keen on sharing.

The main character of the film is Haruo Sakaki, a young man who begins the film by nearly following through on a suicide bomber terrorist act that is meant to call attention to humanity’s loss of vision and failure to fulfill their mission of finding a suitable home for the remaining survivors. Even though he is accosted and jailed for this act, he is eventually freed when people realize that his lifelong passion of killing Godzilla is the foundation for research he’s done in finding a way to take down the creature…a plan that just might work. The other characters are so forgettable that I forgot their names during the film.

From there, the film essentially pivots into following a massive team of volunteers who land on Earth’s surface to lay a trap for Godzilla in order to destroy it. Since this is Earth 20,000 years after they left, the flora and fauna have evolved and changed so radically that the team have no idea what to expect or how to react, so caution is a must.

The problem with this is that while the characters have to be cautious, the film doesn’t nor should it. The movie has the chance to explore the wealth of imaginative opportunities at its fingertips and yet does almost everything it can to avoid doing just that. The color scheme is flat and uninteresting. The character movements lack smoothness and the action sequences fall victim to shaky cam syndrome. There are a few mentions of some of the changes that have taken place on the planet, such as razor sharp plants, but they’re so incidental or offhand that it feels like no one making the film has any interest in seeing anything other than man against beast.

Speaking of this dynamic, the action sequences are quite entertaining but also feel somewhat reserved. Godzilla barely moves and much of the destruction levied against the humans is seen from a distance, apart from an attack on a military outpost by dragon-like creatures. For nearly the entire film, I found myself thinking, “I’m okay with this but that’s about it.

The brightest moment in the film are the last few minutes and I won’t spoil what happens. Suffice it to say that it definitely has me interested in the second and third films but I really hope that this new world will be explored further in those entries. Otherwise, we’ve got a fascinating foundation that will be squandered.

  • Godzilla: Planet of the Monsters


Godzilla: Planet of the Monsters is a bland entry in a trilogy that has great potential. For a first course, there’s a distinct lack of flavor or complexity. The final minutes are the only saving grace and I hope that the second and third films make use of that grand wonder.

User Rating 0 (0 votes)
Continue Reading


Satan’s Cheerleaders Blu-ray Review – Sacrifice This Snoozer At The Altar!



Starring Jack Kruschen, John Ireland, Yvonne De Carlo, Jacqueline Cole

Directed by Greydon Clark

Distributed by VCI

The ‘70s. Satanism. Sultry cheerleaders. Sex appeal. With these tools nearly any low-budget filmmaker should be able to turn out something that is, at the very least, entertaining. The last thing a viewer expects when tuning in to a film called Satan’s Cheerleaders (1977) is to be bored to tears. But that is exactly the reaction I had while watching director Greydon Clark’s wannabe cult comedy. Even on a visual level this film can’t be saved, and it was shot by Dean Cundey! No, unfortunately there isn’t a cinematic element in the world that can overcome a roster of bad actors and a storyline so poorly constructed it plays like it was written on the day. The only saving grace, minor as it may be, is the casting of John Ireland as Sheriff B.L. Bubb (cute), a hard-nosed shitkicker who adds all the gravitas he can muster. But a watchable feature cannot be built upon the back of a single co-star, as every grueling minute of Satan’s Cheerleaders proves.

The cheerleaders and jocks of Benedict High School rule the campus, doing what they want, when they want, with little else on their minds except for The Big Game. Their belittling attitudes rub school janitor (and stuttering dimwit) Billy (Jack Kruschen) the wrong way. What they don’t know is Billy is (somehow) the head of a local Satanic cult, and he plans to place a curse on the clothes (really) of the cheerleaders so they… suck at cheerleading? Maybe they’ll somehow cause the jocks to lose the big game? When Billy isn’t busy plotting his cursed plans, he spies on the girls in the locker room via a hidden grate in the wall. I guess he doesn’t think being a sexual “prevert” is fair trade enough; might as well damn them all, too. Billy has his own plans to kidnap the girls, for his Lord and Master Satan, and he succeeds with ease when the girls’ van breaks down on the highway; he simply offers them a ride and they all pile in. But when Ms. Johnson (Jacqueline Cole) gets hip to his plan the two tussle in the front seat and Billy winds up having a heart attack.

The squad runs off in search of help, coming across the office of Sheriff B.L. Bubb (John Ireland), who, as the name implies, may be a legit Satanist. Bubb invites the girls inside, where they meet his wife, Emmy (Yvonne De Carlo), High Priestess of their quaint little satanic chapter. While the girls get acquainted with Emmy, Bubb runs off to find Billy, who isn’t actually dead. Wait, scratch that, Bubb just killed him for… some reason. The girls figure out things aren’t so rosy here at the Bubb estate, so they hatch an escape plan and most make it to the forest. The few that are left behind just kinda hang out for the rest of the film. Very little of substance happens, and the pacing moves from “glacial” to “permafrost”, before a semi-psychedelic ending arrives way too late.

“Haphazard” is one of many damning terms I can think of when trying to make sense of this film. The poster says the film is “Funnier Than The Omen… Scarier Than Silent Movie” which, objectively, is a true statement, though this film couldn’t hope to be in the same league as any of the sequels to The Omen (1976) let alone the original. It is a terminal bore. Every attempt at humor is aimed at the lowest common denominator – and even those jokes miss by a wide berth. True horror doesn’t even exist in this universe. The best I can say is some of the sequences where Satan is supposedly present utilize a trippy color-filled psychedelic shooting style, but it isn’t anything novel enough to warrant a recommendation. Hell, it only happens, like, twice anyway. The rest of the film is spent listening to these simple-minded sideline sirens chirp away, dulling the enthusiasm of viewers with every word.

A twist ending that isn’t much of a twist at all is the final groan for this lukewarm love letter to Lucifer. None of the actors seem like they know what the hell to be doing, and who can blame them with material like this? I had hoped for some sort of fun romp with pompoms and pentagram, like Jack Hill’s Swinging Cheerleaders (1974) for the Satanic set, but Clark provides little more than workmanlike direction; even Cundey’s cinematography is nothing to want on a resume.

Viewers have the option of watching either a “Restored” or “Original Transfer” version of the 1.78:1 1080p picture. Honestly, I didn’t find a ton of difference between the two, though the edge likely goes to the restored version since the title implies work has been done to make it look better. Colors are accurate but a little bland, and definition just never rises above slightly average. Film grain starts off heavy but manages to smooth out later on. Very little about the picture is emblematic of HD but given the roots this is probably the best it could ever hope to look.

Audio comes in the form of an English LPCM 2.0 track. The soundtrack sounds like it was lifted from a porno, while other tracks are clearly library music. Dialogue never has any obvious issues and sounds clear throughout. Subtitles are available in English SDH.

There are two audio commentary tracks; one, with director Greydon Clark; two, with David De Cocteau and David Del Valle.

A photo gallery, with images in HD, is also included.

Special Features:

  • Audio commentary with director Greydon Clark
  • Audio commentary with filmmakers David De Cocteau & David Del Valle
  • Photo gallery
  • Satan's Cheerleaders
  • Special Features


Although the title is enough to reel in curious viewers, the reality is “Satan’s Cheerleaders” are a defunct bunch with little spirit and no excitement. The ’70s produced plenty of classic satanic cinema and this definitely ain’t it.

User Rating 0 (0 votes)
Comments Rating 0 (0 reviews)
Continue Reading


A Demon Within Review – Familiar Possession Beats To A Dreary Tune



Starring Charlene Amoia, Clint Hummel, Patricia Ashley, Michael Ehlers

Directed by Ayush Banker and Justin LaReau

Possession flicks don’t often hold a long shelf life in the horror community, with Ayush Banker and Justin LaReau’s A Demon Within suggesting why. Hands emerging from the darkness, exorcisms, anxious priests – you’ll see it all again as you’ve seen it before. Early scenes glimmer a polish unlike equal indie products, but that’s just the devil playing tricks on you. Once the film’s main satanic takeover begins, cursing teens and stony glares become the been-here-before norm. Low-budget filmmaking isn’t an immediate detractor like some high-society snobs may believe, yet it’s surely no excuse either. Today’s review being an example of both mindsets.

Charlene Amoia stars as Julia Larsen, a divorcee who moves into Crestwick, Illinois looking for a clean start with daughter Charlotte (Patricia Ashley). Their dusty toucher-upper is a quaint, aged farmhouse in the middle of nowhere, complete with electrical issues and weird noises at night. Nothing to worry about, right? Julia’s focus is better directed towards town doctor Jeremy Miller (Clint Hummel), who she immediately hits it off with (after almost hitting *him* with a car). She’s eating stir-fry at his place one night, all things going well, and that’s when it happens – Charlotte is possessed by an evil force who enacts its sinister plan. Charlotte may physically be present, but only as a vessel for “Nefas.”

Without hesitation, A Demon Within lays predictable groundwork as small-town haunters have for decades. Charlotte’s new home is already infested with a spiritual squatter, Jeremy bottles (and drinks down) a blemished past that’s exposed too late, there’s plenty of characters sneakin’ up on one another – never with much “oomph.” Charlotte’s teeny-bopper voice drops to truck-driver deep at the height of possession, but it’s a distracting sound design that alone strikes little fear. Serious scares are attempted, be it a pitch-black basement slashing or Charlotte’s hide-and-seek pounce, just never delivered. An inconsequential failure to unite tone and atmosphere.

Performances are…well…rigid, to say the least. Amoia and Ashley strike a surprisingly likable chemistry as living humans, but once Ashley goes demonic, chemistry bottoms out. The way A Demon Within positions Charlotte when possessed is utterly dull and undefined; Ashley playing an unenthusiastic harbinger of death. It’s bad enough that Hummel’s tortured doctor masters the emotional range of Mona Lisa and the town’s pastor is hardly a scene stealer – but to have a demon be so vanilla (without a side of nuts, no less)? Getting past the limited lighting and Charlotte’s manly demon voice is hard enough, let alone her mostly relenting threats.

Making matters worse, the film’s third act is hardly a religious salvation that flows with ease. I had more fun watching Julia stammer over pizza and beers with Jeremy than their final fight against ghastly hellspawns. The truths of Jeremy’s past leak out in flashback form, only to reveal his stubborn inability to comprehend one’s own possession encounter in the very house Julia bought (useful information, eh?). The local priest shows up in the nick of time, a few cutaway jolts attempt cheap thrills, and some holy water mucks up an old painting – but again, minimal notability. Er…not even minimal? Shaky last-minute framing makes it hard to even notice the touch-ups to Charlotte’s face that signify her unholy imprisonment, even worse than blackened CGI mists.

A Demon Within tries, fumbles, and tries some more, but it’s best treated as a reminder of better exorcism stories that exist elsewhere. Even something like The Vatican Tapes is an improvement over this possessive redundancy, hokier than the honky-tonk love song that plays atop a pizza-chain flirt scene. There’s something to be said about getting out and creating original horror, but herein lies the problem – this ain’t *that* original. With harsher scares and tension, such a fate could be ignored. As-is? It’s hard to see past anything more than a January release placeholder.

  • A Demon Within


A Demon Within is a seen-it-before possession thriller that brings nothing new to the conversation. Not the worst, but also not a “hidden secret.”

User Rating 0 (0 votes)
Continue Reading

Recent Comments


Join the Box of Dread Mailing List

* indicates required

Go Ad Free!

Support Dread Central on Patreon!


Copyright © 2017 Dread Central Media LLC