Direct-to-DVD: the trippy horror of Dante Tomaselli

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Sexy cute indie horror director Dante Tomaselli (with Felissa Rose above) has been making horror flix since 1999!  He seems to take his time and put his all into his movies. He has a stunning visual style that also delivers chilling and disturbing imagery, and he finds the best locations and houses in which to shoot. Plus, his flicks are totally whacked! Lke a classic Giallo or early 1970s hallucinogenic horror flick, most of the time you don’t know what the frick is going on—but it freaks you out! He has four films to date and is slated to remake Alice, Sweet Alice.

DESECRATION (1999)

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Desecration is all about the horrors of religion and Catholicism. It’s also a throwback to the days when demons and possession reigned supreme and priests and nuns were portrayed in horror movies as creepy as they really are.

It’s the story of a teenager, played by young Danny Lopes, who goes away to Catholic school and accidentally unleashes some crazy evil.

desectration demon nun

Danny keeps seeing an ominous nun who looks possessed. He gets way too much attention from a sleazy priest. There’s a faceless nun roaming around the school. There are trippy dreams about a scary child’s room and bizarre court jesters holding a nun prisoner. There’s a gory scene involving a possessed scissor. There are attack balloons. A Virgin Mary statue’s face comes alive and it is freaky as hell.

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And speaking of hell, it appears Danny is dragged there—where he’s chased by a fricking demon nun through a haunted forest. And so begins Dante Tomaselli’s knack for creating nightmarish films that mess with your mind, both creeping you out and totally confusing you.

HORROR (2003)

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Right from the start, you won’t know what the hell is going on in Horror. A girl outside her house is attacked by a black goat. She’s assaulted, drugged, and tied to a bed. At the same time, a group of kids escapes from drug rehab and arrive at the house, hoping to find salvation with a reverend who lives there.

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Everything takes place in the house. And I mean everything! The kids meet the kidnapped girl, her parents are insane, her grandfather is a ghost, that evil goat beast is running around (there’s an amazing scene with scream queen Raine Brown in the attic), there are floating Jack o’ lanterns, there’s a zombie horde (in a classic “living dead” segment complete with gut munching), and there’s a brutal old school stretcher torture machine scene. On top of all that, Felissa Rose suddenly has a cameo near the end. Plus, Danny Lopes has become a man and he is so fricking cute.

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The ending of Horror won’t clarify much, but you will be totally sucked in by Dante’s ability to create horrific scenes.

SATAN’S PLAYGROUND (2006)

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Satan’s Playground is my favorite Dante film. It makes somewhat more sense than Horror. It’s essentially a backwoods horror flick injected with Dante’s trippy touch. It also opens with a brief cameo by Raine Brown, which totally sets the mood.

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Felissa Rose is one of the main stars. She has an autistic son, played by Danny Lopes, who just keeps getting hotter. Her husband is played by a guy who is also in Desecration. And her sister is none other than Ellen Sandweiss from Evil Dead! She looks amazing and it was so refreshing seeing her star in something new.

Dante seems to be totally paying homage to Evil Dead since he has Ellen Sandweiss on board. The family is driving in a country area and the footage of the woods is totally Evil Dead. When they pull up to an old store, something is bumping rhythmically against the building just like the swinging seat on the porch of the Evil Dead cabin. And at one point, Ellen enters a creepy house and the shaky cam chases her right up until the door closes. When Ellen is later being chased through the woods, I was convinced she was going to get tree banged!

The family’s car breaks down so dad heads out for help. He comes across a decrepit house where he hopes to use a phone. A witchy palm reader (the grandmother from Desecration) lives there and she is so awesomely creepy…especially when floating at a window! And she has a freaky daughter who can’t hear or speak, but is great with a hammer….

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The others, of course, eventually follow dad to the house. There’s even a brilliant comic moment when someone else shows up looking to use the phone….

Then there’s the “Jersey Devil,” a creature behind some freaky flying attacks. The Jersey Devil kamikaze kill scenes totally remind me of the filming approach used in the flick Q: The Winged Serpent because they are all reliant on the camera POV. We never actually see the Jersey Devil. But that doesn’t even matter. Satan’s Playground oozes disturbing atmosphere and mind-fucking scenarios. Love this movie.

TORTURE CHAMBER (2013)

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It’s an exorcism flick and torture porn all wrapped into one movie! But Dante doesn’t fail in sticking to his style of confusing the hell out of you with Torture Chamber.

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Awesome Christie Sanford, who played the hammer chick in Satan’s Playground and is in all Dante’s movies, plays a mother here. She has a (hot bald) priest son and a young son who has become this pizza-faced blue-eyed demon inside a cage. The priest son is trying desperately to save his little brother’s soul. But the brother escapes, dons a creepy mask, and hangs out in a cave where he seems to possess a bunch of other kids to do his bidding. That bidding is to bring people to the cave and mangle them with old school torture devices. Surprisingly, Dante virtually duplicates the stretcher scene he created for Horror.

There are appearances by scream queens Lynn Lowry and Raine Brown, plus, Vincent Pastore of The Sopranos has a major role. Sexy Danny Lopes is back, but only in a brief role (damn!). However, when he falls in a hole and looks up pleadingly, I so wanted to send down a bottle of lotion in a basket and tuck myself.

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Torture Chamber is bizarre, weird, grisly, confusing, and convoluted and totally reminds me of all those fucked up European demonic possession movies that came out in the 1970s in the wake of the success of The Exorcist.

Keep the sick flicks coming, Dante. And keep the Danny Lopes coming….

Danny Lopes

About Daniel

I am the author of the horror anthologies CLOSET MONSTERS: ZOMBIED OUT AND TALES OF GOTHROTICA and HORNY DEVILS, and the horror novels COMBUSTION and NO PLACE FOR LITTLE ONES. I am also the founder of BOYS, BEARS & SCARES, a facebook page for gay male horror fans! Check it out and like it at www.facebook.com/BoysBearsandScares.
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