Anthology films have re-emerged with a vengeance in recent years. I just watched The ABC’s of Death for the first time this weekend. The ABC’s of Death 2 is approaching its release date so I thought I should give it a try. Sure, it was entertaining. Some stories shocking and memorable, others utterly forgettable. Regardless, I am still looking forward to part 2 for some mindless fun. Watching The ABC’s of Death reminded me of The Theatre Bizarre, another anthology that has seen some success among Trick ‘r Treat, VHS and VHS 2.
It’s hard for anthology films to get high ratings. There has to be a perfect balance of stories to be successful. The problem with good short stories is it leaves you wanting more; the problem with bad short stories is it brings down the overall view of the film. One bad story and the rest are thrown to the wayside. The Theatre Bizarre has the good and the bad, more good than bad in this case.
Udo Kier (yay!) plays our decrepit, puppet-like host in a fantasy-esque and carnival-esque theatre. This background sets up the creepy atmosphere suitably. Follows, are six short stories in varying quality and horror.
The Mother of Toads (Directed by Richard Stanley)
An American couple is travelling in France because the man is studying anthropology and is in search of a special book of pagan rituals. He meets a witchy woman who woos him back to her home.
Basically, this story SUCKS. Not one good thing about it. Just get through it so you can get to the good stories. Where did they even find this director and why did they give him a segment??
I Love You (Directed by Buddy Giovinazzo)
First of all, you know this one is going to be good because it is by the director of Combat Shock.
An alcoholic awakes on his bathroom floor, covered in blood and unable to remember the night before. His wife, who is planning on leaving him, comes into the apartment to grab some belongings. He starts to panic and begins to get violent. She tries to make her departure as smooth as possible and agrees to have sex with him one last time. He begs her to stay and she reveals all of her indiscretions as well as the bloody mess at the beginning of the picture.
This one has perfect pitched tension. It gives you everything you want to see in such a short frame of time. Obsession. Addiction. Paranoia. Betrayal. I love this bloody disaster.
Wet Dreams (Directed by Tom Savini)
This short opens with a man dreaming about a beautiful naked woman… with scorpion snapping claw parts. He then awakens by accidentally giving his wife a bloody nose. His wife serves him penis and eggs for breakfast and he wakes again. His psychiatrist says dreams may be what’s really inside his soul and that reality is a distortion.
It is hard to tell what is a dream and what is reality. That’s the point. But in the short amount of time there is to tell the story it just ends up being a little convoluted. Nonetheless, it still has some vivid and disturbing imagery. It kind of reminds me of the shocking short film Cutting Moments from Douglas Buck’s Family Portraits: A Trilogy of America. Find it and watch it NOW. It is one nasty piece of work.
The Accident (directed by Douglas Buck)
Funny enough, this segment is by the director I just mentioned above. This one is much tamer than his earlier work and has gotten negative feedback as being slow and boring. It has a depressing feeling to it as a young girl asks her mother about the meaning of death after witnessing the death of a motorcyclist. This one isn’t scary but it is haunting in a somber way.
Vision Stains (Directed by Karim Hussain)
This segment is about a homeless woman who is addicted to particular kind of drug. Her drug is extracting the fluid from inside a person’s eye while she kills them. She inserts the fluid in her own eye and gets a whole flashback of that person’s life before her own eyes.
This plot is so cool and unique. It also feels really complete for a short story, probably more so than any other segment. The story develops further into something far more sinister than meets the eye and keeps you on the edge of your seat.
Sweets (Directed by David Gregory)
This one is definitely the most memorable and bizarre story of the bunch, saving the best for last. A woman breaks up with her slob of a boyfriend. Their relationship started off with a perversion of sweet foods intermingled with sex. Pie eating, cotton candy inhaling, ooey-gooey chocolate sucking gluttony in an S&M kind of way. This woman’s motives, along with her disturbed friends, are nasty carnal cannibalism. Dinner is served.
As I mentioned before, when you have one bad story it affects the whole. The first segment is so horrendous that it ultimately makes me not love the film. It’s hard to say you only like half a movie. That’s the hard part of making a successful anthology. Every story needs to be top notch. But the reason I decided to review this film is for the stellar work in I Love You, Vision Stains, and Sweets. Unfortunately, the idea and creepy atmosphere of this film is better than the end project. Nevertheless, this is one weird ride that is worth the watch. I would actually really like to see them do a sequel with the same mesmerizing and bizarre atmosphere.
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