STUDIO: Columbia Tristar Home Video
MSRP: $14.94
RUNNING TIME: 100 Minutes

The Pitch

“Let’s make an anthology horror film, but have the twist in each story be so insane that the film turns into a comedy!”

The Humans

Jack Palance, Burgess Meredith, Beverly Adams and Peter Cushing

The Nutshell

One of the seedier attractions at a large carnival is Dr. Diabolo’s Torture Garden. For just a few pounds you can be witness to frightening exhibits the likes of which you have never seen such as a dummy in an electric chair. It’s all very tame, but for just five more pounds you can step into the backroom and see the true terror – the evil that lies inside your own heart and how you will meet your doom.

And you thought snow globes were just for pansies.

Several customers choose to gaze into the large garden sheers of lady fate as she stands poised to cut their life threads. All of them get to see their immediate futures. It all sounds quite dark and scary, until you realize that each of these people live the most bizarre lives possible. Their futures involved fighting against telekinetic cats, being murdered by living pianos, rubbing elbows with cyborg movie stars, and being burned alive by a reanimated Edgar Allen Poe. With this much excitement in their lives, why are they wasting their time at this low-rent carnival?

The Package

Torture Garden is presented in 1:85.1 widescreen. The transfer is absent of grain but is often very dark. Poor lighting may be the culprit in this situation instead of the transfer. The only extras are trailers for other low-budget titles. Trailers for other old horror films would have been entertaining, but all of these trailers are for recent cheesy fare. This disc offers you an exciting sneak peak at Frankenfish (Lake Placid with no budget), Devour (
Fear Dot Com with no budget) and Vampires – The Turning (Vampire Assassin with the same budget).

The Lowdown

Anthology horror films are some of the most entertaining in the genre. Taking inspiration from the EC Comics style, these films feature a variety of horror stories tied together with a flimsy plot. The strength of these films comes from the fact that the great stories can more than make up for the lackluster ones. Case in point: “The Raft” almost makes the rest of Creepshow 2 watchable. Torture Garden doesn’t have any stories that excel though – they’re all completely nuts.

The film’s tone starts out dark, as a nephew coldly watches his uncle die on the floor in order to inherit his wealth. Everything about the movie tells you that you’re going to see this man come to a violent and fitting end just like in every horror anthology tale. Then, out of left field, comes a mind controlling cat. This silly plot twist will provide you with two choices: stop watching the film or embrace the lunacy and hope that the next tale will be even more ludicrous.

I think it is time we demonstrated the full power of this decorative box. Set course for Antiques Roadshow.

Once you accept the fact that Terror Garden is an exercise in harmless and cheesy horror and not as violent or grim as its counterparts, the film becomes a lot of fun. Unlike some horror shows and movies where you can guess the twist five minutes in, Terror Garden simply refuses to be predictable. The only predictable thing about the film is the final twist in the ending, mostly because the DVD packaging gives it away as clear as day on the back.

Terror Garden doesn’t have any distinctive zulu dolls or evil symbol-playing monkeys to distinguish it from its contemporaries and become a classic anthology film, but it’s a fun movie that doesn’t take itself seriously and provides some cheap entertainment.

5.0 out of 10