A mysterious projectionist in an abandoned movie house plays host to a young intruder and offers him the chance to watch four spine-tingling tales of terror on the big screen.
After the initial success of The Theatre of Terror, Tom Ryan now returns with a bigger budget and even more ambitious short films for Return to the Theatre of Terror (RTTTOT). Following the same general premise of the first film, we have our narrator—The Projectionist—playing some uninvited guests a selection of bedevilled short films that are sure to blow their fragile minds.
Now, we’ve had a slew of horror anthologies over the last few years, with V/H/S/99, Worst Laid Plans, and Cabinet of Curiosities the first few that spring to mind. Anthologies are great because you don’t have to enjoy all of the pieces to enjoy the whole experience, and RTTTOT does a great job of mixing up its offerings so that there is a bit of something for all tastes.
Although technically a crowdfunded indie production, that is not the film we are presented with. RTTTOT sheds its B-grade cocoon and bursts forth as a beautiful, blood-soaked AAA butterfly. The film is every bit as good as its big-budget cousins and I thoroughly enjoyed each segment, which is a really hard trick to pull off.
The first, Soothsayer, is a black-and-white homage to the genre films of yesteryear, like those inspired by H.G. Wells. It was an incredibly smart way to start the feature, making us feel like we were beginning where horror and sci-fi itself originated. The acting was surprisingly sound and I could have very easily believed that I was watching an authentic 1920s film had I not known better. We have some glorious time travel paradox shenanigans that leave us pleasantly pondering if, indeed, the doctor had brought this all upon himself.
Splinter is the second act of this four-part anthology and was probably my favourite of the bunch. It is a body-horror flick that really isn’t all that gory but instead focuses on the narrative. There is a whole “sins of the father” analogy that runs the course of the short that is brought forth in a modern and meaningful way. It was really a very well-acted, well-thought-out piece of cinema and the practical effects and makeup were phenomenal.
I can see Haunted, the film’s third act, probably being the audience’s favourite. It features the most interesting characters and a surprisingly complex plot that ultimately has very little to do with ghosts but rather personal avarice and human vulnerability. It’s a great story of deceit, revenge, gullibility, and greed. There are also some great special and practical effects and the short feels like something that would have been at home on Cabinet of Curiosities.
Finally, Robot closes out our film with something a little more uninhibited than its predecessors. While the domestic abuse is nothing to laugh at, Robot is oftentimes over the top and almost cheesy, seemingly playing with common 90s sci-fi and horror tropes. We have aliens, a weaponized robot and MIB knocking at the door; all call-backs to films from my youth. Also, the obvious jabs at conservative culture and right-wing media most definitely ticked my fancy.
Overall, RTTTOT is a riot. Four very enjoyable yet very different short films somehow gel together perfectly to make one of the greatest horror anthologies that I have had the pleasure of viewing. While maybe not the premier anthology out there, I’d comfortably say it’s the best indie anthology to date—a passion project that definitely went above and beyond. Thanks for reading and as always, stay sordid. The trailer and artwork are below.
Site founder. Horror enthusiast. Metalhead.