Horror (2002)
Directed by Dante Tomaselli

Starring Amazing Kreskin Danny Lopez

Tomaselli's first two feature films were made on infinitesimally small budgets, but this New York filmmaker somehow managed to craft effective and unique horror films even without the money his contemporaries enjoy.

"Horror," his second, is in some ways better, in some ways lesser. With hidden passageways, a zombie invasion, a torture chamber, evil preachers, Felissa Rose (of "Sleepaway Camp") and a freaky satanic goat, "Horror" once again proves that Tomaselli is a master at his craft. The film looks great. You can feel the fear while you watch it. But where it's weaknesses lie is in its story and in some special effects sequences that don't succeed. These sequences show the limits of his budget a little too strongly.

Tomaselli's first film, "Desecration," had a nice impact on the Internet, where fans discovered a new horror visionary. "Horror" was his follow up to that well-received film. Like his previous effort, "Horror" takes on religious fundamentalism and dares to be dreamlike. It even tips its hat to Romero's "Night of the Living Dead" with the best zombie scene in a movie in more than a decade.

Like "Desecration," "Horror" takes the viewer into a long journey into the depths of hell. Unlike "Desecration," it doesn't focus on one solitary protagonist. In a sense, this is the weakest link in the film: too many characters we're supposed to be identifying with. "Desecration" had one young protagonist (Lopes, who also stars in this movie) going either mad or descending into a supernatural abyss. "Horror" has several people going there, some of whom have never met one another. In this film, Lopes is a criminal drug user on the run. He runs into Grace (Lizzy Mahon) who is apparently going stark raving mad with satanic visions.

Like "Desecration," it isn't really clear why this descent into the underworld is taking place. But that's the fun of Tomaselli's movies. They're true nightmares. Who really knows what's going on or why? To me, Tomaselli's films are about madness, and that's what makes them frightening.

Given the fact that this film was shot for only about $150,000, the results are amazing. Again, the film looks gorgeous. Particularly impressive is the "Night of the Living Dead"-like zombie invasion that turns up later in the film. It would be great to see Tomaselli direct a full-on nonstop zombie film sometime. The world could use another high quality living dead film.

Rose has a small role as an art therapist. The best actor in the film is the Amazing Kreskin (yes, that's what he calls himself) who plays Grace's grandfather -- who may or may not be dead and may or may not be a Satanist. One of the best scenes appears to be a real-life hypnosis session with Kreskin, who does hypnosis and psychic predictions for a living. (He claims to have predicted the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11.) He hypnotizes Lopes, making the actor stiff as a board.

Of Tomaselli's first two films, I think "Desecration" is the more focused but I expect "Horror" will be more accessible. It's beautifully photographed, with a gothic middle American atmosphere that hasn't been seen in horror films since the 1970s. It has flashes of greatness. After all, any movie with zombies is bound to attract fans. But some of the special effects sequences show that Tomaselli may have bitten off a little more than he could chew with his budget.

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-- Review by Lucius Gore

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