Dante Tomaselli has been making movies since the late '90s. But, he has been garnering a lot of attention over the past seven years, with extremely intelligent, visceral, unrelenting films like Satan’s Playground and the much buzzed about Torture Chamber. Tomaselli is a director to watch. He is quickly becoming a household name to horror fans. He makes thought provoking, intense films that say much more than what we see on the surface.
FEARnet caught up with the genre great to get the details on his latest film Torture Chamber and his upcoming film, a redux of Alice, Sweet Alice. Tomaselli filled us in on why scoring his projects is so important to him, when we can expect Torture Chamber to be released, why the budget for Alice is going to be his biggest yet, and why he decided to relocate Alice to the 1970s for his re-imagining.
FEARnet: Can you give us an update on Alice, Sweet Alice?
Dante Tomaselli: Kathryn Morris’ production company Revival House and Mosaic Media Group are producing this remake of my cousin, Alfred Sole's 1976 horror film. I was 7 years old when the original made its splashy premiere in Paterson, New Jersey. I was too young to attend but I was told that some of my older Italian relatives, not accustomed to horror, covered their eyes and left the theatre screaming. At that time it was called Communion. A lot of my family members were involved with it, including my father, who owned a bridal shop; he supplied the communion dresses, veils and white gloves. Alice, Sweet Alice is a huge part of my childhood. The remake features the same main ingredients as the original...the creepy translucent mask, a Catholic family torn apart by jealousy, guilt, and murder. And religious fanaticism. Evil cloaked in the guise of religion. This updated version also veers off into new, unexpected terrain. It's still a mystery horror film.
The script, co-written by Michael Gingold and myself, is finished. The Alice, Sweet Alice remake is in development. Kathryn Morris will star in the film as Catherine Spages, Alice's mother. Kathryn is a chameleon who disappears into a part. She played Tom Cruise's wife in Steven Spielberg's Minority Report and starred in the CBS show Cold Case. Kathryn is Alfred Sole's good friend and Mosaic Media Group; the company co-producing the remake is Kathryn's management. So we're all interlocking to form the core foundation of this production.
Are you making the film independent of studio financing, as you have your past projects?
No. And for that reason this will have a bigger budget than my earlier four features.
The film is reportedly being moved forward a decade, to the 70’s. What made you decide to set your film in the 1970s?
I can relate to that time period better, the idea of painting a picture in the 70s...The atmosphere, the light, color and design.... There’s just something...I'm a product of that time. I was 10 in 1980. So when I look back on my early childhood I experience it through the lens of psychedelic eyes. Plus I thought that moving the story forward a decade would make it somewhat more recent while not at all losing its retro style. Alice, Sweet Alice is a period piece. I want to keep it that way.
Alfred Sole is Production Designer on the remake, so the director of the original film will create the sets. I don't think that's ever been done before but Alfred has always been different. I love his films, his production design. I'm one of his fans. He's a real craftsman and a legend in our family. All of my films, even though they've been low budget, have been very art intensive, art heavy. So by joining forces with Alfred, my cousin, director of my all-time favorite film, I'm channeling a spiritual, creative explosion.
Will you be composing the score to Alice, as you have for your previous films?
Absolutely. The sound design is so important to me; I'm fanatical about it. Post production is when I'm deep inside the movie. I'm a sound hunter and sound designer...I'll work with outside composers for the orchestral compositions. Also, I'll be re-mastering and remixing Stephen Lawrence's musical compositions from the original. All with special care...and respect.
Alice has such a dreamlike and terrifying theme...really ice-cold and incredibly beautiful at the same time. It's a sparkling lullaby centerpiece mixed with warped breathy female vocals and menacing low tones. The effect is hypnotic. I swear it's transmitted straight from Hell. In other scenes the swirling violins are nerve-wracking and in-your-face. And there are many small interludes too with haunted piano and reverb. The original contains some of the most effective horror music of all time. On all of my past films, I spent every day in the sound studio, just me alone with the engineer - every day - hand picking and applying every single layer. I like for the sound design experience to be three dimensional, all-encompassing...hallucinatory...like an out-of-body-experience. I like to incorporate many layers for subliminal effect.
Will Torture Chamber be screening at any upcoming festivals?
It made its world premiere at Sitges in Spain and I think there's a Vienna Festival coming up, I have to check.
Last time we spoke, an international sales agent had picked up Torture Chamber. Do you have any update on the film's distribution?
A review from Chris Alexander, FANGORIA Magazine Editor-In-Chief, is coming. Torture Chamber should be released later this year.
Do you have any plans to revisit The Ocean at any point?
Yes, I do. That's always been part of the plan. The Ocean will rise.