After having seen the trailer a while back, I was actually a bit eager to check out "The Theatre Bizarre" having noticed it being an anthology that utilized some of the more lesser known, yet more artistically stimulating directors around. Buddy Giovinazzo, Karim Hussain, and Doug Buck are just a few. I'll try to break each segment down into brief summaries:
"Mother of Toads" is about a traveling couple who fall prey to the... guess. Yes, Mother of Toads after the boyfriend goes to check out the Necronamicon owned by some old witch who seduces him. There's plenty of toad slime and a human-toad creature that kills his girlfriend and then him. This one was from Richard Stanley who did "Dust Devil" and "Hardware" - two films I wasn't too fond of - same goes for this first story. It wasn't awful - just seemed like it could've used a little more build up and explanation. In all, it's the most up-front "horror" themed segment of the film.
Next up is "I Love You" - from Buddy Giovinazzo whose most notable film is probably "Combat Shock" - a movie that I love. This one mostly plays out like a depressing drama about a rocky relationship between a cheating woman and an alcoholic man. It begins with the horribly malnourished looking guy waking up on the bathroom floor surrounded by blood and with a cut on his palm. His ex stops by to tell him that they're through and that she is seeing another man. I don't want to spoil the end of this one, but it DOES get a bit bloody, so there IS a decent payoff. "I Love You" is well written and you get a chance to kinda get to know the two characters well in a short amount of time. It's a good one.
Third story is "Wet Dreams", directed by Tom Savini. This one is sort of a self-indulgent mish-mash of dreams and dreams within dreams having to do with a guy who keeps having nightmares involving his wife (or girlfriend) chomping off his dick with her praying mantis vagina. Savini plays the guy's shrink and the story pretty much trails off into a confusing string of dreams of which we are not entirely sure of WHO is actually dreaming until the end. This one isn't bad - it just felt like an excuse to show some gore effects. Enjoyable, but not the best.
"The Accident" is next and this one is done by Douglas Buck who is known for short films like "Cutting Moments" and "Home". To be honest, I find his films a bit overrated, though I felt "The Accident" fit in exceptionally well here, despite there being no real 'shock value' or plot twists. It's basically about a mother explaining the inevitability of death to her young daughter whom she is tucking into bed. Flashbacks are shown from earlier that day when the child witnessed the aftermath of a motorcycle accident and the mercy killing of deer. It's not a "horror" story by any means, but it is, however, a harrowing look at how death may affect a child.
The fifth segment is called "Vision Stains" and this is my favorite of the bunch. Directed by Karim Hussain (Subconscious Cruelty) - this one involves a woman who subdues homeless women and prostitutes whom she extracts eyeball fluid from to inject into her own eyeball, thus experiencing flashes of other people's memories. It all goes wrong when she decides to siphon fluid from a pregnant hookers womb which causes her go mad. If eyeball puncturing and fetal trauma ain't your thing, you'll definitely have a problem with this one. It's gritty, surreal, and nasty.
The final bit is called "Sweets" and this one is more of a black comedy about a man and woman whose entire relationship revolves around candy and other such sugary treats. The woman decides break things off which causes the dude to have a meltdown and the whole thing wraps up with a cannibal organization of gluttonous art snobs butchering a human like a deer. I don't really know what to say about his one. Director David Gregory's background primarily consists of documentaries on horror flicks. "Sweets" was an amusing story with a nice gory payoff, though I don't know if it was the best way to close out the film.
Jeremy Kasten (Attic Expeditions, Wizard of Gore remake) handles the wrap-around story, "Theatre Guignol". Udo Kier is the puppet-like host of a nightmarish ghetto theater who tells the stories with the help of life size marionettes... It's fine in-between material, but nothing too noteworthy.
Overall, I'd say the strong points of "The Theatre Bizarre" are "I Love You" and "Vision Stains" with "Mother of Toads" being the weakest. It's not the best anthology by far, though, like I said, it was cool to see some of these more 'controversial' film makers being spotlighted and clearly allotted some creative freedom in a film that's getting some widespread exposure. As stated, however, some of the segments were a swing-and-a-miss, but I'd give this one a fair recommendation for it's stronger points.