Monday, February 20, 2012

On Second Viewing: Horror (2002)

Like it or not, those of us that review movies sometimes end up revisiting ones that we didn't care for when we first saw them. Call it a form of masochism, call it dedication to your craft, or you can call it a momentary lapse in judgement. Sometimes, we find ourselves enjoying said movies upon second viewing, while other times...not so much. Without further adieu, let's take a look at a movie I previously reviewed.

There's nothing worse than an interesting idea gone to waste. Case in point: Dante Tomaselli's 2002 film titled...well, "Horror." On paper, this film-clearly inspired by the likes of Lucio Fulci, Dario Argento, "The Evil Dead" and Don Coscarelli's "Phantasm"-seems like it could be a wonderfully surreal dip into the world of Gothic horror-but it's underdeveloped ideas, lack of focus and general poor direction and editing makes it more of a failed experiment than anything else.

The plot, as it were, deals with a group of youths who love drugs and are off to find some form of questionable salvation from a weird preacher. Meanwhile, a girl named Grace (Lizzy Mahon) is being drugged and enslaved by her parents, and keeps seeing visions of her late grandfather (The Amazing Kreskin.) Well, Luck (Danny Lopes), the leader of the group, shoots her parents during a drug induced hallucination, and then things take a turn for the worst.

Revisiting "Horror", I found myself a little more taken in by the visual approach and atmosphere it has to offer. Tomaselli has a way with creating an atmosphere of surrealist dread, and the use of things like Christmas lights and scenes like a portrait of a priest turning into a Satanic goat figure are genuinely striking. There's even a few moments that are actually effective-the most noteworthy is when Amanda (Raine Brown) sees something, and the audience is given the image of a silhouette of devilish horns slowly rising.

Unfortunately, Tomaselli fails in several regards. There's a lot of themes in the movie (damnation, religious hysteria, madness, brainwashing, drug related visions), but none of these ideas feel fully realized, which just makes the whole thing confusing. Granted, it's clear that the movie is meant to be confusing, as it quickly abandons anything resembling a coherent narrative. However, guys like Fulci and Argento were able to deliver scares in their illogical horror tales-Tomaselli kind of forgets how to scare the audience, throwing in scenes like people vomiting and zombies showing up for no reason that are just dumb and ultimately pointless.

Much of this is due to the fact that not only does the viewer not know what's going on, but because they aren't given any clue as to why. Even "The Beyond" and "City of the Living Dead" gave you a hint as to why the events that transpire happen. Here we don't know if a gate to hell has been opened, or if everyone's just really fucked up on drugs. Also, if a gate to hell has been opened, then why? Is it because of the parents being killed? Nothing is explained, and the vagueness of it all is frustrating.

There's also no real flow to the movie, as it ends up becoming a series of images that are meant to creep us out, but ultimately just come off as laughable thanks to the questionable editing and lack of focus and characterization. Nobody here outside of Kreskin's character is interesting, which makes it difficult to care about their fates.

After giving it another chance, I found myself not hating "Horror", as it does have some effective moments, has great atmosphere and it manages to create images that are genuinely startling. However, I ended up finding it more of a frustrating experience than I did a detestable one. There's lots of potential here, and the director does show some talent. Maybe if he managed to find a better editor and someone else to write his movies, he could hit one out of the ball park.

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