• Desecration (Code Red Releasing) Blu-ray Review

    Released by: Code Red Releasing
    Released on: August 7th, 2018.
    Director: Dante Tomaselli
    Cast: Irma St. Paule, Christie Sanford, Danny Lopes, Salvatore Paul Piro, Vincent Lamberti
    Year: 1999
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    Desecration – Movie Review:

    The debut of filmmaker Dante Tomaselli, who not only directed by also wrote, produced and scored the film, 1999’s Desecration stands as a tease of the Euro-horror influenced borderline surrealist films that would come later in his career (2003’s Horror and 2013’s Torture Chamber). While both of those later features show considerable growth in his abilities as a filmmaker, Desecration still has that certain something that should appeal to those who appreciate less conventional genre efforts.

    The story revolves around a teenaged boy named Bobby Rullo (Danny Lopes) who attends a strict Catholic school and clearly still has unresolved issues surrounding the death of his mother a few years ago. He’s an outcast, and his life gets even more unusual when, while piloting a remote-control plane, he accidentally flies it into a nun’s head and kills the woman. From here, things get bizarre as Bobby and his kindly grandmother (Irma St. Paule) start to experience supernatural occurrences, some of which are rather disturbing. The nuns that seem to surround him day in, day out, start to take on sinister appearances and eventually Bobby’s own mother (Christie Sanford) seemingly rises from the inferno in an attempt to pull him back down to Hell with her.

    While it is obvious at times that Tomaselli was working with a modest budget, what Desecration lacks in fancy effects-laden set pieces it more than makes up for with strange atmosphere and a decidedly unique tone. If you threw some of Dario Argento’s more unusual works into a blender with equal parts David Lynch and Salvador Dali you might come out with something akin to Desecration, but while Tomaselli doesn’t shy away from paying tribute to his influences the film stands strong as the man’s own work.

    The film isn’t perfect – the death of the nun early on doesn’t work as well as it could have, sometimes effects are clearly just that… effects, and not all of the acting is top notch but for a first-time effort this is an interesting picture. Like his later films, there are themes of Catholic guilt being explored and exploited here, and on that level the film is akin to Alice, Sweet Alice (which isn’t surprising given that Tomaselli is Alfred Sole’s cousin). There are some pacing issues here but the score is excellent and the cinematography from Brendan Flynt (who also shot Murder Set Pieces and a few Troma films like Tromeo And Juliette, Terror Firmer and Poultrygeist) is quite strong.

    Shot entirely on location in New Jersey, the movie started out as a short (included in the extras on this disc) and was then expanded into a feature length production. The commentary that Tomaselli has recorded on this release goes into a lot of detail about how personal the film is to him and how events from his own life shaped its outcome. Those less inclined to invest in a picture that puts more emphasis on visuals and mood than on traditional narrative structure may not appreciate the end result but viewers who don’t mind reading into things should find much to appreciate here.

    Desecration – Blu-ray Review:

    Desecration arrives on Blu-ray from Code Red Releasing in a 1.78.1 transfer sourced from a standard definition DigiBeta. The film was originally shot on Super 16mm but those elements have been lost, and until that changes, this is about as good as we’re going to get, unfortunately. Presented in 1080i, the AVC encoded image has at least been upscaled but still doesn’t look anywhere close to a proper high definition presentation. It’s watchable enough (and it’s nice to have the movie back in print!) but keep your expectations in check – this looks a bit better than the non-anamorphic DVD release that came out from Image in 2000, but not much better. It is what it is, folks.

    The only audio option on the disc is an English language DTS-HD 2.0 Stereo track and it sounds pretty decent. Again, the film’s low budget roots are worn on its sleeve but the score sounds really good here, adding plenty of atmosphere to the production. The levels are nicely balanced and the dialogue remains easy to understand and follow.

    The main extra on the disc is a new audio commentary with writer/director/composer Dante Tomaselli that tells you pretty much everything that you’d want to know about the making of the film. He spends quite a bit of time talking about how and why he came to make this particular film as his feature debut, discussing influences that worked their way into the movie not just from other horror films, but from his personal life and his interest in other art forms as well. He talks about casting the film, having to direct his own mother, some of the locations that were chosen for the production, and why certain visuals are employed the way that they are. The first hour of the track is packed with information, though the last third features some long gaps of silence. It’s also worth noting that there’s a strange audio anomaly just before the ten-minute mark that, if you’re listening to the track, you can’t help but notice.

    Code Red also includes Tomsalli’s earlier short film version of Desecration that runs just over three-minutes. If you see this after watching the feature you’ll quickly understand which scene in the full-length version that this inspired. A featurette called Building The Torture Chamber runs twelve-minutes and is a mix of information about the making of his third feature Torture Chamber as well as clips from short films and other bits and pieces from his life that show how and why he became the horror movie fanatic that he is. There’s also a short three-minute segment entitled Elmsta 3000 Horror Fest in Sweden Promo wherein Tomaselli discusses two projects he hopes to get off the ground in a feature version of The Doll (he did release an album of the same name in 2015) and a remake of Alice Sweet Alice.

    This Blu-ray release also includes the entirety of Tomaselli’s 2017 instrumental album Witches, comprised of thirteen tracks of atmospheric horror-inspired music. Rounding out the extras on the disc is a trailer for the feature, a still gallery, menus and chapter selection.

    Desecration – The Final Word:

    Dante Tomselli’s Desecration isn’t his best film but it’s an audacious debut ripe with atmosphere and eerie visuals. Like his later works, it occasionally dabbles in the surreal and it’s not a film likely to appeal to those with more mainstream tastes. That said, if you appreciate low budget horror with a heavy vintage Eurocult feel, you’ll probably appreciate this. Code Red’s Blu-ray looks as good as it can under the circumstances and features a nice selection of extra features to complement the main attraction.

    Click on the images below for full sized Deep Rising Blu-ray review screen captures!