Hideshi Hino’s Theater of Horror (DVD)

Hideshi Hino's Theater of Horror DVD (click for larger image)Directed by Mari Asato, Koji Shiraishi, Yoshihiro Nakamura, Kazuyoshi Kumakiri, Kiyoshi Yamamoto, Kazuyuki Sakamoto

Adapted from comics by Hideshi Hino

Distributed by Genius Products

Reviewing six films at once is a major task. It takes a certain kind of man. It requires a mountain of a man. The prerequisites for this task call for someone with sturdy nerves, an unbreakable mind, and the patience of the Dali Lama. Too bad the DVD set of Hideshi Hino’s Theater of Horror ended up in my lap instead.

Hideshi Hino is an amazing artist of the macabre whose works cause gags, gasps, and shudders. The stories he imagines range from the comical to the outright disgusting but still compel one to continue reading his tales. But what works with ink and paper sometimes just won’t translate on film.

Hideshi Hino’s Theater of Horror is a set of six films that average out to about an hour apiece. Each project is helmed by a different director complete with different styles of storytelling and photography. Somewhere along the way every one of these pictures derails because of almost the same reason each time.

Death Trail was the first episode that this reviewer popped in the DVD player. Three young girls are involved in a train wreck and get thrust into a sort of purgatory where they must fight off charred madmen and midgets(!) to stay alive in the real world. OK, it sounds smashing, right? Wrong. Between the bad special effects and the horrible editing, this tale becomes more of a twisted wreck than the accident that kicked it all off. Save yourself the confusion of mistaken identity and melting youngsters and skip to the end to see some really bad effects surround a giant schoolgirl jumping around on one foot through a city skyline … for no reason.

Hideshi Hino's Theater of Horror DVD (click for larger image)Dead Girl Walking had so many opportunities to be great. A young girl’s heart suddenly stops, but she continues to live and decay. Doctors and even her family just don’t seem to care and would rather burn her up than find her help. Make sense? Hell no, but thankfully there’s lots of gooey gore. If a little more effort had been made to help the story evolve so the audience could bond to the young woman in trouble, then the fifty-minute film would have been a tad more bearable. Nothing really seems to make sense during her adventure into bodily degradation. She is used as a semi-carnival freakshow but dumped at the side of the road during the same scene. Following that her parents reappear to once again attempt to set her ablaze but fail, and some really low budget explosions ensue. Ah, the joys of parenting.

The Ravaged House: Zoroku’s Disease stepped up the photography a few notches by treating the audience to some beautiful Asian landscapes. For once the video is clear and doesn’t resemble a tape you made one night playing D&D in your wizard costume. The bargain basement quality effects never rear their ugly visages, and the story is quite touching, being a mixture of The Elephant Man and any other film featuring a disfigured lead character. Once again there is lots to work with, but the way in which the story is told and how the characters are portrayed keep a connection from forming between the watcher and those being watched. Three strikes so far.

The Doll Cemetery started to pull this collection out of the coffin before the last nail was hammered down. A Scooby Doo-like gang of occult investigators travel to another dimension full of bad Photoshopped images and pink lighted warehouses to do battle with zombie dolls. These playthings of times past have returned to extract revenge on those who tossed them aside. The violence and blood are minimal, but the creepiness of the dolls and their clown leader make up for this negative. Admittedly the story is forgettable, but just watching the thing unfold is interesting enough unless you’ve got better things to do like that razor blade enema you’ve been putting off.

Hideshi Hino's Theater of Horror DVD (click for larger image)Lizard Baby went up one more step by proving to be a quirky little story within a story as a scriptwriter imagines his wife’s pregnancy going wrong. Instead of a bouncing baby boy, she births a slimy baby reptile. This makes a great film for the scriptwriter, but little does he know that his real wife is about to push something not so human out of her sideways vagina. Personally the story didn’t do anything special because it played out exactly the way you’d expect it to. What does rate high on the entertainment scale are the reptile baby puppets. These little bastards steal the scenes by being creepy and cute all at once even when they are eating the family pets or neighborhood kids.

The Boy From Hell was the brightest star of the whole collection. For a change a director takes a totally fucked up story and makes it work by going all out with the blood and violence against children. A famous doctor has lost her song via a hilarious beheading. Grief stricken, she uses a cursed talon to kill a terminal child from her hospital over her son’s grave, and presto! Resurrection at the cost of your son now being a flesh-eating monster from hell!!! GO MOM!!! The bug-eyed little bastard drives his mommy even more nuts as he continues to kill and perform satanic acts in front of a blue screen. Sure, a lot of this episode doesn’t try to make sense, but goddamn if it wasn’t fun to watch a midget run around killing people.

Two decent films and four total wastes of time. That’s not too bad, is it? These things could be made up for by packing in extras or at least an image gallery of Hideshi Hino’s art. Well, that would have been great, but there’s not one extra feature throughout the whole collection. Was there really nothing to add? Did no one sit through the set and think it needed a little extra something to push the sale? I would have settled for an hour-long video of the Hell Child dancing around his satanic disco hurling dead kittens at pictures of George W. Bush.

Special Features
The lizard baby puppet was fucking hilarious.


2 out of 5

Special Features

0 out of 5

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Mike Phalin

Mike Phalin is a contributing writer, reality television star and engineer.

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