Horror (2002)
By: M. Walsh on August 18, 2005  |  Comments  |  Bookmark and Share
Elite Entertainment (USA). All Regions, NTSC. 1.85:1 (16:9 enhanced). English DD 5.1. 77 Minutes
The Movie
Director: Dante Tomaselli
Starring: Kreskin, Vincent Lamberti, Danny Lopes, Lizzy Mahon, Christie Sanford
Screenplay: Dante Tomaselli
Music: Dante Tomaselli, Raz Mesinai
Tagline:Expect nothing less than sheer... Horror
Country: USA
Horror (pronounced hor'ror).

According to the Encarta Dictionary (North American edition) this seemingly innocuous noun has 4 distinct definitions. They are as follows:

1: Intense fear or shock.

This is certainly something I can recall experiencing during Dante Tomaselli's abysmal second feature; fear that his atrocious film would never end, followed by shock, and relief, when it eventually did.

The plot, which is crushingly, painfully worthless, concerns the drug fuelled misadventures of an appalling bunch of teenagers who have escaped from a rehabilitation centre and are making their way to the isolated residence of one Reverend Salo (sigh), Jr. The good Reverend (Vincent Lamberti) has enslaved his daughter Grace (Lizzy Mahon) and, with the help of his wife (Christie Sanford), is keeping her sedated with heavy doses of psychic brainwashing and forced drug addiction.

Grace maintains a relationship with her dead grandfather, played by The Amazing Kreskin in a performance so heart-wrenchingly earnest that mere words can do it no justice, and it is through him that she is able to learn of her parent's deception and betrayal.

2. Intense dislike or dismay.

Perhaps my seething hatred of this film stems from the almost universally positive reviews it received. Perhaps my expectations were too high. More than one reviewer had compared Tomaselli to Fulci and Argento in regards to his work here. I assumed that this comparison was meant as a compliment. Yet I was wrong. Sure, all three directors seem stricken by some strange, inexplicable malady that prevents them from writing screenplays with even a hint of narrative cohesion, but Fulci and Argento are able to compensate for their shortcomings as writers with unusual stylistic flourishes and genuinely memorable set-pieces. Horror forgoes these in favor of labored metaphors and laughable shock effects. And don't even get me started on the goat.

3. Something causing horror.

Where to begin? The quality of the acting rarely rises above the level of a primary school talent quest. The cinematography is of the '…well, it worked in The Evil Dead…' variety. The make-up effects are cripplingly bad. The editing is all over the place, as is the lighting and sound design. In fact, the soundtrack is literally unbearable, and not in the way that anyone involved in this production intended it to be. The best that can be said for the screenplay, from the act structure to the dialogue to the horrible use of symbolism, is that there is absolutely no way it could be any worse.

4. Something unpleasant.

I derive no pleasure from heaping vitriol onto low-budget films, regardless of the genre. Yet when a movie is this ineffectual on this many levels, my empathy toward a filmmaker's budgetary constrictions quickly disappears. This is a film willing to declare itself as horror incarnate. I wonder if Dante Tomaselli is aware of the irony.
Not content to merely be the final word in incompetent filmmaking, Horror's horror extends to the transfer as well. Obviously shot on film stock that had been torched and then buried sometime in WWII, there isn't a single aspect of the visual presentation here that could be described as acceptable. Colors are muted, black levels are a joke and the gloves really come off whenever anything white spasms across the screen. Lucky for the viewers, then, that most of the film takes place during a heavy bout of snow. And contrary to what many reviews may have you believe, this is definitely not an anamorphic transfer.
The only option here is a 5.1 "remix" that someone with a far greater pain threshold than I has graciously provided. It was difficult to gauge the quality of the mix, what with all the bloodied tissues I had stuffed in my ears, but there were no discernible sound anomalies apart from those created especially for the film. I have a feeling that many of these effects were sourced from a BBC cassette that my old theatre studies teacher was pretty enamored with, but I can't say for sure.
Extra Features
A commentary, provided by the director, proves to be the most entertaining aspect of this disc. Tomaselli's discussion of the film is relatively interesting, although an element of elitism creeps in whenever there is mention of the film's more symbolic aspects. Next up are some behind-the-scenes snippets showing the crew having as much fun making this film as I had watching it. There is also some torturous footage of The Amazing Kreskin in action, during which he "Suggests" things to the cast members. Owing to the burden that this featurette placed on my mental wellbeing, I was unable to watch it through to the end. I can only assume that the finale involved Kreskin "Suggesting" the cast members into honoring their contracts. Following this, there is a clip from Desecration, Tomaselli's first short film (which would later become his first long film). The clip runs for 11 minutes and is actually comprised of lots of little clips, begging the question: why not just include the entire short? Still, it's a nice addition and a welcome change of pace from the usual assortment of still photo galleries and trailers… So then we have the still photo gallery, consisting of on-the-set snapshots, several of which are highly amusing, and two trailers; one for Desecration (the long one) and another for Horror (the other long one).
The Verdict
Low-budget filmmakers deserve to be supported. By purchasing this miserable excuse for a film, I feel I have done just that. I cannot recommend Horror in any capacity other than that of charity and goodwill. Yet there are many other films out there, with budgets much smaller than this, that are far more deserving of your encouragement.

Dante Tomaselli is one of the many directors who abuse non-linearity, using structural irregularities to mask their careless, lazy screenwriting. I know that nightmares don't adhere to any logical conventions, just as I know that Tomaselli intended Horror to be a nightmare in that very sense. But I can't recall ever having a nightmare that was filled with such clunky exposition, or one that was so endlessly, numbingly boring.
Movie Score
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