Title: Horror (2002)
Director: Dante Tomaselli
Cast: Danny Lopes, Christie Sanford, Lizzy
, Vincent Lamberti, The Amazing Kreskin, Felissa Rose Mahon
Horror is director Dante Tomaselli’s second feature film, his first one being Desecration (1999) a film about a kid who accidentally kills a nun, unleashing a series of supernatural events that lead him to the gates of hell. He is also haunted by this creepy evil nun through out the whole movie. Desecration is the kind of film that makes you feel like you are in a dream like state all the time, hovering somewhere between reality and nightmare. It’s extremely hallucinatory; we are constantly being bombarded with nightmares and horrifying visions. For his second film, Dante obviously wanted to go deeper into this dreamlike/nightmarish state, adding a little bit of drug induced paranoia to the mix.
In Horror we follow a group of druggies who escape a drug rehab clinic. Their escape plan includes going to the home of a priest named ‘Reverend Salo Jr.’ who visited the clinic a couple of days earlier preaching about the end of the world being near. Thing is this preacher doesn’t just talk about the end of the world; he also hands out bags filled with drugs to whoever is willing to take them! These being kids who are trying to rehabilitate from the drug addiction, they are more than happy to accept the drugs and chow down on all the mushrooms and pills contained inside. Not only that, they start smoking weed as well. Basically, these guys are buying the ticket and taking the ride, they don’t care about the consequences, they just want to be as high as they possibly can. Which of course isn’t a good thing when you are driving into the house of an evil preacher from hell!
There are a couple of things you should know before going into a film like Horror. First of all, it’s an independent horror film; it was made for a budget of 250,000 which is of course an extremely low budget to make any film. But if you are a crafty, creative director, and if you pull in a dedicated crew of demented individuals willing to follow you diligently, you can make a decent horror film. Secondly, Dante Tomaselli was aiming to make the kind of film where nothing feels right, where more questions are made than answered, where nothing is explained and things feel a little ‘off’ all the time. Is this a dream? Is this reality? Are we in some kind of Twilight Zone? So you should go in to this movie expecting that kind of time displacement feeling. In this film, no rules are set, time and space move at the beat of Dante Tomaselli’s drum. This is precisely why I enjoy this movie.
Felissa Rose of 'Sleepaway Camp' fame cameos in 'Horror'
A Dante Tomaselli film will always have a couple of things at its core: one of them is a family in pain. Every single one of his films has been about a dysfunctional family unit. On Horror we meet the Salo family, a truly messed up family to say the least. The father is a preacher, but he isn’t a good one. By that I mean that he keeps his daughter in a drug induced state all the time, it is hinted that he sexually abuses her, and he keeps her locked up in her room all the time. He preaches the word of God but is really serving the devil. One creepy scene has Grace, the evil reverends daughter, looking down at her father from her bedroom window. He is preaching away and supposedly healing the sick when suddenly he realizes that she is looking at him from her room. Then while looking at her he does an inverted sign of the cross…which causes her to faint! To me, this evil preacher was the creepiest of all the characters in the film. The way religious characters are always depicted in Dante Tomaselli’s films show us one thing: Tomaselli films always criticize religion somehow. They always talk about the psychological pain that comes from Christian guilt and the façade put on by preachers and nuns. On this one we have an evil preacher who hands out hallucinatory drugs to kids! On Desecration we have a demonic nun who tortures a child! Tomaselli loves to exploit the horror elements that come from Christianity.
Dante Tomaselli and The Amazing Kreskin on the set of 'Horror'
One of the things I love the most about Horror is the feeling of dread. That deadly serious vibe that it has going for it. It reminds me of the kind of vibe one would get from supernatural horror films of the 70’s. There is not a single smile, or positive vibe in this film. Horror is an onslaught of nightmarish atmosphere and psychological terror. Situations that happen in this film seem to have no explanation whatsoever; they are there simply to creep you out. This film kind of reminded me of a David Lynch film in that sense, there is always some symbolism involved with the imagery, but it won’t be easily explained to you. This is definitely the kind of film you have to watch more than once to get. I have seen it a couple of times and understand it a whole lot better now, but upon my first viewing of Horror I was left asking myself what the hell I had just seen. So it’s that kind of a movie where questions are made, but not easily answered. It isn’t the kind of horror film you can easily digest. It’s doesn’t spell things out for you. It is also a very circular film; you have to watch it all the way to the end to fully comprehend it. I loved how it actually kind of connects to Dante’s first film Desecration (1999) when it comes to ‘Luck’ the character played by Danny Lopes. Both films are about his character going into ‘hell’.
But this isn’t a perfect horror film, it does have its flaws. Some of the situations and dialog don’t come off as real at all. Take for instance the teens who break out of the drug clinic. They kill the security guard with a shot to the head, steal a van, and walk away as easy as one two three, nobody chases, no cops, no nothing. And then, to top things off, they decide to take all these drugs that a creepy preacher gave them, and they just gobble down all these mushrooms and on top of that they smoke weed and take pills all while on their way to the preachers’ house! With that many drugs in their system, they wouldn’t be able to even breath, much less drive a van. I mean would anyone use that many drugs with such reckless abandon? I guess we could chalk it all up to the nightmarish dream logic of the film. Acting wise some of the actors don’t do so good, especially The Amazing Kreskin, who in my opinion isn’t much of an actor. I mean a great illusionist sure, but an actor? Not so much. Tomaselli probably chose him because of his illusions and abilities in hypnotism, which he uses on more than one occasion in the film and that’s all cool, but his character doesn’t come off as evil to me, and it should have. Kreskin is too much of a nice guy in real life to play a truly evil character. This is where actor Vincent Lamberto as the evil Reverend Salo Jr. did so well, he truly came off as evil. And so did Christie Sanford an actress that Tomaselli has used on all his films since day one, she comes off as a twisted demented mother, I liked her. These actors to me where the two highpoints in the film.
All in all, this is a film that I like for its nightmarish qualities and dreadful atmosphere and it’s my favorite Tomaselli film to date. It is also a film that I feel could have been better had it had a bigger budget. Tomaselli is an imaginative director who needs to get his hands on more money to make his movies. Working on a limited budget can sometimes help the creative process, especially when it comes to not having producers breathing down your neck asking you to make your movie in a certain way, I mean having artistic freedom is a priceless thing and I can definitely understand that. But sometimes working with a limited budget can also hinder a project; especially when your story is an ambitious one and I know that Tomaselli has some ambitious stories to tell up his sleeves. Still, I think Tomaselli got away with making a decent horror film that proves he has the talent and ambition to make more horror films in the future. Actually, Tomaselli is currently putting the final touches on his next film Torture Chamber which I’m looking forward to seeing soon. I’m looking forward to seeing his growth as a director. Horror isn’t a film for everyone. If you don’t like Indie horror films or films that are more inclined towards the artistic, non-linear, surrealistic side of things, then don’t bother. But if you are open to the kinds of films that are more free form with their storytelling techniques, then by all means indulge.
Rating: 3 ½ out of 5