Exclusive Interview: Dante Tomaselli Director

Dante Tomaselli took a minute to answer a few questions from Scott (DMW) our evil interviewing fiend with 3 arms. Ok so no he doesnt have 3 arms, but yes he's evil and is a fiend. Or so the ladies tell us. So without further ado here is his interview. Dante is quite infamous for his work on The Ocean and Satans Playground both movies that make you go "mmmmm horror" Dante Tomaselli has been quoted as saying: "For as long as I can recall, I've always been drawn to the macabre. Even as a child, I knew that I wanted to one day become a magician/parapsychologist horror filmmaker." With the recent completion of the soon-to-be-released Satan's Playground (2004), Tomaselli's third feature film, the Italian-American director is achieving his boyhood dream with astonishing success.  Born in Paterson, New Jersey on October 29, 1969, Tomaselli received formal training in filmmaking, art and design, as well as advertising copywriting at Pratt Institute in Brooklyn and Manhattan's New York School of Visual Arts. Desecration (1996), his first short film, received instantaneous acclaim for its nightmarish visuals.. Now that you have the background on this fine director, lets get to the goods on the interview.

Satan's Playground is your latest film; can you give our readers some insight on what the film is about?

Sure. The film is just about finished. This Sunday I'll be putting final touches on the soundtrack. Satan's Playground is about a vacationing family lost in the woods and unspeakable evil lurking in the shadows. It's a candy-colored nightmare. Very atmospheric old school fear film. Watching the movie is kind of like experiencing a drug rush.

 I aim to push buttons...in the subconscious. Unlike Desecration and Horror, I wanted to tell a tale that was understandable and yes, entertaining. It's still...very enigmatic. I don't like to spoon-feed the viewers. I like to set up a mood. Satan's Playground speaks in dream language. It really is a horror film about paranoia, the fear of being lost...stalked. The idea that death is right around the corner, playing, bidding its time.    

What's the current status of "Satan's Playground"? When can we expect to finally see this film and are we going to get a theatrical release?

Well, I know for sure there is a very good chance the film will be released theatrically in 2005. I just can't say anything official -- not yet. Hopefully, you'll be hearing a formal announcement soon.

With "Satan's Playground" you promised a "return to 70's horror". I've noticed several horror films trying to go back to their "old school roots". Why did you want to do this and what is so special about 70's horror?

I've heard that...a "return to 70's horror" so much these days and all I can say is that it was never a trend for me. I am genuinely influenced by those movies. In fact, I gage each year in the 70's by what horror film came out.

In 73 I was 3 and it was Don't Look Now and The Exorcist. In 76 I was 6...and I saw The Omen, The Sentinel, The Hills Have Eyes. In 79, I was 9...Halloween, The Brood, Phantasm, The Fog...I'm leaving a lot out but you know what I mean.

My mother took me to see these movies because she knew how much I loved them. (Giggles). She got in trouble for taking all my 9-year old friends to see the R-rated shocker, "Halloween" on my birthday. Some of the kids were traumatized. I loved it.  70's movies are etched in my psyche. It was the best time for horror.    

How much of a thrill is it to work with the likes of "Felissa Rose", "Ellen Sandweiss", "Edwin Neal" and "Judith O'Dea"?

Too much, right? Actually, I didn't work with Judith (Night of the Living Dead) O'Dea yet. That'll happen on my next film The Ocean. Felissa, Ellen, and Edwin are super actors not to mention bona-fide cult horror stars. It was a blast. I have to admit the conditions we were shooting under were brutal...below-freezing temperatures, working from like 3 in the day till 6 in the morning.

Fun and lightheartedness aside, it was damn tough work. Since designy camerawork is so paramount in Satan's Playground, they really had to hit their marks. Not easy. All these performers gave it their all. I think this is the movie where I finally have an ensemble of spicy, colorful actors.

 I'm proud and lucky to have worked Felissa, Ellen and Edwin. Now they're part of my filmmaking family. I'm very loyal to my actors and I enjoy them.  Also...Irma St. Paula as "Mrs. Leeds", Christie Sanford, Danny Lopes, Sal Piro, Raine Brown...they're great. I usually pick actors who have a puppet-like quality to them.       

What other "iconic" actors/actresses would you like to work with?

Jessica Harper from Suspiria. Of course, Jamie Lee Curtis. I've always been obsessed with Halloween and The Fog. And I think she seems like a really intriguing person. Um....Cindy Hinds....the little girl from The Brood. Linda Blair, although I heard she has no interest in doing horror now. Ditto Karen Black. What a shame. Jessica Walters was chilling in Play Misty for Me.

 Debbie Harry...so mesmerizing in Videodrome. Betsy Palmer from Friday the 13th...evil. P.J. Soles from Carrie and Halloween, a blast from the past. Lynn Lowry from Shivers, very slinky sinister. Richard Lynch from the Premonition and God Told Me To... what a ghostly, creepy guy. I wish Oliver Reed was living. I missed out on him. Jack Nicholson might be hard to get a hold of but of course he was the ultimate in The Shining.        

I've seen the final teaser poster for "The Ocean" your next film; I love the visual style. Can you give us some details about the film and who's going to be in it? ( the teaser poster is below for readers to see )

I'd really rather hold off on speaking about The Ocean. I'm still writing the script. Satan's Playground is my main priority right now. I want it to find a safe home. I want it to be launched successfully. I really think it's the best work I've done so far. It's on a different level from my last two movies.

Looking beyond "The Ocean", what's next on Dante's list? Do you want to stay in the horror genre or maybe try something different?

Oh I'll always be in this genre. I'll probably be doing ALICE, SWEET ALICE 2, a sequel to my cousin's 1976 film. For sure, I will be doing horror film after horror film. My passion is in making these movies. 

What's the one movie you want to "make" or "remake"?

Whenever I move onto larger budgets, I'd love to make a horror disaster film, a hard-core EARTHQUAKE-type of movie with supernatural elements. But no CGI! I'm intrigued by the idea of nature revolting. THE BIRDS - now that was frightening. I was affected THE BLOB for some reason; I used to have lots of nightmares about that.     

I've read that you've always wanted to own a Funhouse. Now that is one of the coolest things I've ever heard. Are you any closer to obtaining one and what would we find in Dante's Funhouse?

That's true -- where did you hear that? Yeah...I will pursue that...soon, when I have more money. I'd model it after my childhood fantasy. The funhouse would be cave-like, hallucinogenic; the effect would be like an out-of-body experience.

You'd go from one dimension to the next. It would be a journey...you'd have to walk though it; there'd be tunnels, apparitions. Things would jump out at you that are not quite human. It would be a shock machine. I would try to replicate a paranormal experience. Maybe I'd call it SCREAM IN THE DARK. 

Christmas is just around the corner, what is Dante Tomaselli's "Top 5 ? All I Want for Christmas List"

  • 1.)  A Coffin Joe Box set.  
  • 2.)  I wouldn't mind a new synthesizer. Right now, I have a Roland Fantom X-6.
  • 3.)  A Sidekick. So I can check my emails anywhere.
  • 4.)  Intellivision. You know, that early 80's game that came out around Atari. I miss it
  • 5.)  More sample CDs and sound fx for my humongous sound library.  

What's the one question you wished somebody would ask, but never did?

Well...I intend on releasing, at some point, a surreal electronic album called SEX, DEATH & THE SUPERNATURAL. I composed and designed the synth soundtracks for all my movies so far -- so it feels like a natural progression. I love being in the studio. I'm not a singer or a performer. I don't want to be a rock star. I just love to construct soundscapes.

 I'll write the lyrics and arrange the compositions and collabaorate with other composers -- but I won't sing. I'd have different artists cameo on it. Debbie Harry, where are you? Half of it will be dark, brooding, atmospheric compositions -- much like my soundtracks -- with no singing. I'm inspired by artists like Depeche Mode, early John Carpenter, Kraftwerk, Brian Eno, Severed Heads, Vince Clarke, Laurie Anderson, Jean Michelle Jarre, and Ric Ocasek. 70's, early 80's stuff. I love layering sounds. 

I'm gonna put you on the spot. You said, "Movies Online is definitely THE place to go to for all the latest info on every type of film" ( early news item here ) and you've watched us grow. It's awesome you feel that way about us, but with all of the internet movie sites that are out there on the net, in your opinion, how does MoviesOnline differ?

There's a real sense of immediacy. It's a window to what's current in the film world.    

We want to thank Dante for taking the time to answer these questions for our readers. We are really happy hes a fan of our site slash community since we are huge fans of his work. Be sure and check out our Satans Playground Movie section and The Ocean Movie section for all the latest dirt and info on Dante's two new films. As always if you have something to add drop us a scoop we are happy to share it with the readers!

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