Exclusive Interview: Torture Chamber’s Dante Tomaselli

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Dante Tomaselli is the director of Desecration, Horror and Satan’s Playground. His latest film, Torture Chamber has just been picked up by an international sales agent and, recently, a trailer made its debut. Dante talked with us about the tone of Torture Chamber, shooting on a budget, the upcoming remake of Alice, Sweet Alice, and more.


Shock Till You Drop: Tell us a bit about Torture Chamber…

Dante Tomaselli: In Torture Chamber, there’s a guilty and twisted religious family at the core. The youngest spawn is 13-year-old-Jimmy Morgan. He has unresolved parent-child issues. This is a boy who lights fires with his mind. He abducts his Art Therapy Teacher and she ends up on a torture rack in an old abandoned castle. The teacher, played by Lynn Lowry, reminds him of his mother. Her eyes. Lynn is like a wounded angel in this film. Like all of my characters, she’s revealed through dreams, flashbacks and hallucinations. In a sense, Jimmy could be a suicide bomber because he’s ready to explode and his family is shaping his fate. He’s imprisoned by his family. His parents even put him in an animal cage. Flickering in his mind is the devil, hell, sex and death. The spirit world is poking through. A supernatural void is being filled. A spell is cast. In America and all across the world, you hear about the sickest abuse cases and they almost always involve religion. Who would ever keep a child in a cage? Most likely a religious fanatic would. The title of the movie, Torture Chamber, is about state-of-mind. Not wanting to be there, wanting to escape. It’s being trapped in your childhood, the confusion of being alive. 

Torture Chamber is ready. I finished the sound mix in early 2012 and the film’s just been picked up by an international sales agent, Shoreline Entertainment. They’ll orchestrate where to premiere it, what festivals, which territories it will be sold in. I think people who enjoy my independent movies will find a lot of creepiness in Torture Chamber. It really is an explosion of my earlier films and should be experienced in stereo. You’ll think someone slipped you a strange pill. I’m interested in hypnotism, sort of putting the viewer in a trance. That’s what I like in a movie, any movie, to get lost in it, completely lost, to feel like a riptide is pulling me. I designed the soundtrack and worked on it non-stop. It’s subliminal, very interior, a dungeon in your mind, a shadowy dungeon. There’s a black mass-feel to the score, like something vicious and toxic invading…at the same time the images are colorful and candy-like. 

Shock: How do you deliver such polished films on a budget?

Tomaselli: Even though I worked on a low budget, I tried to give it the feeling of a much higher budget. I’ve done this since my first feature, Desecration, and hopefully I take it further with each film. I like to pack as much detail into my frame as possible. I’m always fantasizing about the scene. The images, when they’re strong and need to come out, they reveal themselves so clearly, like slides projected in my mind. If it’s a sound or melody I can see it. When I’m writing the script or scoring, it’s like I’m playing Ouija Board. Childhood trauma and its psychic reverberations, that’s what it’s about. I’m channeling. The texture and mood…straight from the occult dreams that I had growing up, being stuck in my bed while feeling something coming at me, something celestial, something satanic. I’m trying to replicate those childhood nightmares. I close my eyes, I see evil. I see family. I see hypocrisy. I see religion, warped. I always see color. I need to extract this stuff from my unconscious. I don’t question it anymore or feel too embarrassed about it. What is normal anyway? I always felt that I came into this world with my umbilical chord strangling me. I always knew what I wanted to do, I wanted to be a horror director…for as long as I can remember. Each one of my films will be horror. Funhouses of the mind. There’s so much more to explore. When the picture is locked and I add my sound design, which is 50% of the film’s equation, it should feel like an out-of-body-experience or…drug rush. Light, color and design galore. Also it’s shadowy, tactile. Torture Chamber really should be experienced in stereo. Any other way diminishes it. Symbols and sensations that you might not understand at the moment start to crystallize. There’s an unfolding. Like a funhouse, or maybe Willy Wonka’s mystery tunnel, you won’t know what’s around the next corner. You can almost touch the sound…and taste the color. It’s a bit of a mind-fuck. I tried to tell the story in a non-linear way because I believe life does not move in a straight line. 

Shock: What’s the status of Alice, Sweet Alice? 

Tomaselli: I just finished the Alice, Sweet Alice screenplay with co-writer Michael Gingold. When all is aligned, I’ll announce a production start date.