Image Entertainment // 1999 // 88 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Chief Justice Sean McGinnis (Retired) // June 7th, 2000
You will burn in hell...
Every now and then a new talent comes along that turns the movie-making establishment on its ear. It is far too early to tell whether Dante Tomaselli is such a talent, but if Desecration is any indication, it is clear that he may be.
On more than one occasion in the past, a low budget horror film has had a lasting influence on the genre's future. Carnival of Souls and Night of the Living Dead are two such examples. Considering how much more difficult it is to compete with the mega-dollars coming out of Hollywood these days, having such an influence may be far rarer than ever before. Despite the big dollars earned by The Blair Witch Project, I firmly believe the only lasting impact of that film on Hollywood will be to try to use the Internet to create buzz at the ground level. It is far more likely that Desecration will have more lasting impact on the Hollywood machine. Whether that impact will be direct -- via conscious decisions by Hollywood big wigs during production and pre-production, or indirect -- via the influence over future filmmakers of the genre remains to be seen. But with Desecration Director Dante Tomaselli has done so much with so little, and in such a visual way, that this film cannot help but influence horror films of the future.
From the opening scenes to the end of the film, Tomaselli combines religion, horror and the supernatural together to great effect. The creepy feeling I get from watching Desecration can only be compared that generated by Carnival of Souls. The screen is filled with faceless nuns, flashing lights, flying scissors and more. Granted, the story itself is VERY weak in some areas, as is the acting, but Desecration, taken as a whole, rises above these weaknesses in many ways.
Desecration tells the story of young Bobby and the happenings at his Catholic school. Bobby is responsible for the accidental killing of a nun, which triggers a series of horrific events at the school. To tell much more of the 88 minute plot would be to give away nearly the entire film. But the plot clearly plays second fiddle to the imagery of this film. The creepy soundtrack placed alongside those images only enhances Tomaselli's visual imagination. This is not a typical soundtrack in the sense of a score with a repeating theme throughout. Rather, it is a collection of sounds designed to heighten the tension of the imagery, and it works to perfection.
The disc also contains an excerpt from the original short titled by the same name, which was later developed into this full-fledged feature length film. It also clearly shows Tomaselli's gift for visual imagery. I would have liked to see the entire short, but the inclusion of this excerpt is a welcome addition to the disc.
The disc itself suffers from the overall low production value of the film, but is far from unwatchable. On the contrary, Image's team has done a fine job with this transfer -- easily the equal of some recent MGM non-anamorphic classics and far better than the early Disney releases of The Rocketeer and Mr. Holland's Opus. Colors are a bit muted at times, but the detail, especially in darker scenes is outstanding. For example the scenes of Bobby's grandmother conferring with the psychic at around 70 minutes is very finely detailed.
I highly recommend a viewing of Desecration, whether through a purchase or a rental. It may be tough to find, but is well worth the search, especially for fans of the horror genre. Desecration is a film sure to engender strong feelings one way or the other. It is entirely possible you may hate this film and think me a crackpot as a result. But I found the film entertaining and creepy in a palpable way. Sure the plot and acting stink, but the images generated on-screen, to my mind, make up for any shortfall in writing.
Tomaselli is acquitted and given the thanks of the court for bringing this modern horror cult classic to my attention. Image is also acquitted, but encouraged to recognize a classic when they see one. A commentary track would have enhanced this release immensely. Case dismissed.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Image Entertainment
* 1.85:1 Non-Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 88 Minutes
Release Year: 1999
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Excerpt from Short "Desecration"