I must admit that I'm not much of a horror fan. Other than the "Night of the Living Dead" trilogy, the "Evil Dead" trilogy, the "Scream" trilogy, and a few of the "Nightmare on Elm Street" films, I find most horror films to be uninteresting celluloid compositions that place too much emphasis on finding new and innovative ways of showing gore, instead of trying to tell a good story. That is the case of "Desecration", the feature-film debut of New Jersey filmmaker and horror fan-boy Dante Tomaselli. Though the quality of the production is certainly outstanding, considering that Tomaselli shot the entire film on a shoestring budget of $150,000 and in under a month, "Desecration" suffers from a threadbare story that fails to engage audience interest. It's almost as though the entire film was merely a clothesline for arranging the numerous special effects sequences.
The plot revolves around Catholic schoolboy Bobby Rullo (Danny Lopes), who has been living with traumatic memories of his late mother (Christie Sanford) for a number of years. While playing with a remote control airplane on the grounds of his boarding school, he accidentally kills a nun, which triggers a chain of supernatural events. Bobby soon finds himself haunted by eerie visions of a demonic nun, while a mysterious force begins slicing and dicing the other residents of the boarding school. The only person who seems to understands the nature of the threat against Bobby happens to be his elderly grandmother (Irma St. Paule of "Thinner"), who believes that it is Bobby's late mother, reaching from beyond the grave, that is behind all the supernatural happenings.
For a film that was shot on a shoestring budget and with Super 16mm cameras, the picture of "Desecration" is remarkably sharp and the colors are amazingly vibrant. Instead of the low-tech "Blair Witch Project"-look that you would expect from such an indie-horror production, the quality seen in "Desecration" almost rivals that of films shot on 35mm. Coupled with the production's haunting score (composed by the director's brother Michael), impressive production design, and special effects, Tomaselli has crafted a great-looking film that bears witness to the budding director's meticulous attention to production planning, his appreciation of classic Italian horror cinema, as well as his sheer ingenuity.
Unfortunately, that is all that "Desecration" has going for it. The film's plot doesn't make much sense, as it never adequately explains what is motivating Bobby's dead mother to return from the grave, why she is splitting image to the nun that Bobby accidentally kills, and why the other people around Bobby are also being killed off. Likewise, the film unfolds without a sense of purpose, as though the plot was constructed around the film's more eclectic set pieces, such as a gateway to Hell inhabited by killer clowns, or a strange hallucinatory flashback recounting Bobby's 'abuse' at the hands of his late mother. As a result, sitting through "Desecration" is more of a chore than an engaging movie experience. Other than the film's only memorable sequence which has a nun is attacked by a pair of scissors under some phantom control, I didn't find myself particularly frightened, let alone emotionally vested, by what was happening to the characters on the screen.
The acting in "Desecration" covers all extremes. On the one hand, newcomer Danny Lopes is credible as Bobby, and he more or less succeeds as the emotional center of the film, despite the thin material he has to work with. Irma St. Paule, a veteran of many Mafia-related films, is decent as Bobby's ailing grandmother, though she tended to go overboard with the dramatics more often than not. On the other end of the spectrum is Vincent Lamberti, who plays Bobby's abrasive father and is probably the worst actor in the entire production. In addition to remaining steadfastly 'abrasive' throughout the entire film, his line-delivery is stilted beyond reproach. In-between these two extremes is the director's own mother, Maureen Tomaselli, who plays the school's secretary and does a tolerable job spending most of the film reacting to fog.
Though I would have liked to have given "Desecration" a glowing recommendation (the director personally sent me a DVD copy for review), the truth is that Tomaselli's feature debut is closer to an abstract art film than a genuine nail-biter. Sporting some interesting choices in production design and sumptuously-shot, Tomaselli definitely has potential to become an outstanding director. Unfortunately, "Desecration" is hampered by a weak script and mediocre acting which quickly dissipate the haunting atmosphere that Tomaselli strives so hard to create. Hopefully, these two issues will be resolved in time for his sophomore effort, "Horror", which includes among its cast, interestingly enough, the Amazing Kreskin.