A woman licks the blood from a human heart. Blood trickles down the face of a shaking, restrained man. A demented woman stabs herself in the eye.
Graphic images stick in your mind after watching the trailer for The Theatre Bizarre, a horror anthology that premieres in Boston this weekend. Emerson’s Paramount Center Bright Family Screening Room will show the film Sunday at 7 p.m., followed by a Q&A session with Emerson alum David Gregory, who co-produced and partially directed the film, and Chris Alexander, editor-in-chief of horror film fan magazine Fangoria.
For an extra-chilling viewing, the Coolidge Corner Theater will hold midnight screenings Jan. 27 and 28 and Feb. 10 and 11. Gregory will be in attendance Jan. 28, and executive producer Daryl Tucker will show up Feb. 10.
The film, whose six segments are directed by six separate individuals, begins with a young woman named Enola Penny, played by Virginia Newcomb, who follows her curiosity into what she thinks is an abandoned theater. In the dilapidated auditorium, she meets a human puppet who tells the six bizarre tales, each revealing a different level of disturbance in the human psyche. As she watches the stories unfold, she realizes that she will never be the same again.
“[I wanted to] make something that was amusing … repulsive … and generally very beautiful even though the imagery is pretty shocking,” said Gregory, who graduated from Emerson in 1995 with a degree in mass communications with a concentration in film.
He isn’t exaggerating. The visuals can leap from gore to sexuality, and at times, become a combination of both — characters have the look of ecstasy in their eyes and blood dripping from their lips. However, Gregory insists that the film’s cringe-worthy images aren’t just for shock-value.
“I hope people take away that horror is actually a very diverse genre,” he said. “You don’t have to fit it into the realm of reality. You can really explore your creativity and find a new way to say something.”
The underlying theme that ties the six stories of the film together are struggles within relationships,particularly difficulty in communicating. According to IMBD, characters experience lust, paranoia, and infidelity.
The last segment of the film, which Gregory directed, entitled “Sweets,” follows the film’s theme of perversion in relationships.
“‘Sweets’ is a story about a crumbling relationship based on addiction that goes into an even darker place as it falls apart,” he said.
Of course, stories about relationships have been told for centuries, but Gregory was determined to execute his in a unique way. “Embellish upon it, make it fantastical, and it becomes interesting. It usually starts with something very mundane. You have to really push the envelope with exaggeration and imagery.”
He said that while some people might view this sort of creativity as a gimmick to grab attention, he feels that the beauty of the scenes is genuine.
“The difference is that I wanted to use it in a way where the imagery was beautiful. You could say that it’s shocking, but it’s also aesthetically pleasing.” He added, “Of course, we got to throw around fake guts and everyone had fun at the end of the day.”