How did you get into the horror
By being relentless.
I understood that you started out making
short horror films which is normal for any
filmmaker that's starting out. What was your
first horror short?
My first horror short was called 'EMOTIONAL
VIOLENCE'. Actually there was one before
that -- a short film I made to get into
Pratt Institute in Brooklyn. It was about an
Ouija Board experience -- but it had no name. So
- yeah - 'EMOTIONAL
VIOLENCE'. I was 17. It was a
collage, totally nonlinear,
color-saturated. It centered on a girl
terrorized by uncontrollable images in
her mind. A theme I've always been
Where did it play and what kinds of
response did it get?
It didn't play anywhere. It was just
something I showed to people to get them involved
in future short films. In my late teens
and throughout my twenties, I made a series
of shorts. The next one was 'MAMA'S BOY'.
These NYC-based 16 mm experimental
horror films made me a lot of allies...and a
lot enemies. I was polarized from the
beginning. There's a lot of horror that
inevitably goes on when your in such early stages
of independent fimmaking. A lot of crazy,
insecure cameramen and special effects
artists...a lot of fear, paranoia about
money, or I should say raising money....and
overblown egos -- sometimes your own.
What inspired you to make the feature
flick of Desecration?
Dante: When I was in college, I made a strange
painting of faceless nuns. It was pretty much
celebrated at Pratt - I got a lot of good
comments about it. Then the weekend I
brought it to my family's house - I went
into some kind of weird spell and started
destroying it. In a trance, I went to
the kitchen, opened up the refrigerator and
pulled out mustard, ketchup, mayonnaise,
anything gooey and disgusting that I could find.
I splattered it all over the
painting. I...desecrated it. When I started
writing the screenplay for my first feature, I
just knew it had to center on the image of a
faceless nun. I knew it had a lot of
power...that vision. And with that image,
I meshed it with my childhood
nightmares...things I couldn't shake from my
psyche. Desecration was
born. I wrote in a very stream-of-consciousness
way. It was like automatic writing, playing
with an Ouija Board.
What kind of budget was the film made
It was an unusual story. What made you
decide to make it different than most horror
Dante: It came out that way naturally.
It was a little difficult to follow the
story but I remember possessed nuns and Danny
Lopes playing a full grown kid named Bobby Rullo
in a cage like he was still a baby and Christie
Sanford playing his Mom scaring him. What was it
Dante: I know it was hard to follow. It's a
puzzle film. 'Desecration' is
about a boy haunted by his mother's death. This
Catholic boy believes he's going to hell.
The only person who can possibly save him is his
dying grandmother. They share a psychic
Greg: How did you find Irma St. Paule who played the
crazed Grandma Matilda? She has been acting in
many other films and TV shows and is a name in
She sent me her headshot and resume in
the mail and auditioned. Irma responded to a
casting call in Backstage Magazine. She came
in and read for the part and got
What was she like to work with?
Dante: It's exhilarating working with Irma because she's
such a fine actress. She's a veteran - I'm
in awe of her abilities. I have to say, she did
have some diva moments on the set of 'Desecration'.
But in retrospect, it was justified. Because the
conditions were so cold and she had to go through
so much physically...climbing stairs,
getting attacked by balloons... I love Irma.
She's spellbinding in 'Satan's Playground'.
Wait till you see her in that!
Was there problems with Desecration during post-production?
Dante: Um, actually...no. It ran pretty smoothly.
Did it make it to any film festivals? If
so which ones?
Oh yeah. It was in lots of festivals.
The Fantafestival in Rome Italy - that's where it
made its world premiere. Was standing-room only.
I don't like Festivals.
It did well on DVD and you had a cult
following with the flick. Do you think a sequel
Dante: Hmm, you never know. I doubt it. I'd be
I loved your film Horror about
kids escaping from a rehab and evil things
happening to them. It was almost like a
psychological Stephen King experimental type of a
film. Were you influenced by his work like The
Thanks. Yeah - actually Stephen King and
'The Shining' - the book by him
and the movie by Kubrick - huge influences.
Definitely growing up in the 70s and 80s, I
always had a book by King around. 'Carrie',
'Cujo', 'The Stand',
'Salem's Lot'. So many great
ones. But this film, Horror, was really kind of
like a sequel to 'Desecration'.
Bobby's still going through hell. And the kids
escaping from the drug rehab have developed a
psychic bond with him. Guilty and sinful, they're
going down too. Pure Grace is the
sacrificial lamb. 'Horror'
is about being trapped in your childhood.
What brought up the idea to make it?
Dante: I guess I just wasn't through exploring the
universe that I had started with 'Desecration'.
Were these kids really just imagining
zombies, evil parents and reverends attacking
them cause of their drug addictions?
Dante: Yes - it can be interpreted that way. Reality is
just a perception. And guilt is a very
What made you cast the Amazing Kreskin
as Reverend Salo since he was never an actor?
Dante: He contacted me out-of-the-blue. Kreskin wanted
to audition for the role of Reverend Salo.
Apparently, his agent saw a casting
Were there any bloopers during the shoot
or scenes you had to cut out?
Dante: Bloopers? Um, hmm, I'm not sure. I'd have to to
go back and look at the footage. There were no
major scenes I cut out. I shot Horror in
only 18 days.
I thought Christie Sanford's role as
Mrs. Salo was great as it was similar to her part
in Desecration. Why did she turn
evil on her daughter?
Why did she turn evil on her son...in Desecration?
Why do people turn evil? The mysteriousness,
the lack of reason, of logic...is what scares me.
My favourite part was Felissa Rose's
cameo as the Art Therapist. Did she have any
other footage that was never shown?
That was my favourite part too! It
was exciting filming that scene. I was in
heaven. Felissa Rose. We have an electric
chemistry. She's a force of nature. No
- there was never any footage that wasn't
shown, just different takes of the same shots you
see in the film.
Greg: Her psycho
side in the film was a lot like the ending in
Sleepaway Camp. Were you trying to make
her role resemble it? Either way I thought it was
terrific and effective.
Thanks, yeah that one shot of her mouth
wide open is an homage to her "scream"
in 'Sleepaway Camp'. I saw that
movie in theaters when I was like 14. I'll never
forget that final frame. You don't get any more
freaky and bizarre than that.
Horror got accepted at many film
festivals before it went to DVD. Which venue did
it have the best response at?
DVD. Elite Entertainment ('The Evil Dead',
'Night of the Living Dead', 'The
Re-Animator') put it out in May 2003. It
was An Amazon.com Top 10 Bestseller under
different horror categories. Horror was also, for
one week in 2003, # 7 on the IMDb-Pro, out
of all the movies. Do a search on the
Internet - there are many
many reviews. Some hated it. Some loved
it. But like Desecration, it did got a lot
of attention in the horror world. It even
got reviewed in Variety Magazine.
Now you have just finished
post-production with Satan's Playground as
Felissa has a lead in it this time. Will this be
considered your best work?
Dante: I think it will, yes. I feel I've grown as a
filmmaker. It's definitely my most accessible
work. But it's bizarre and dreamlike too; I just
can't help that. 'Satan's Playground'
will have a much wider audience than my other
two films. I just know it. We screened 'Satan's
Playground' for an audience in NYC
recently and the response was excellent.
What budget was this film made on? Was
it bigger than Desecration and Horror
or about the same?
'Satan's Playground' was made
for around $500, 000 - my highest
budget yet. 'Horror' was
$250, 000 and 'Desecration' was
Where did you find Ellen Sandweiss since
she decided to retire after her work in
Evil Dead to start a family?
Dante: We were both featured on the cover
of Rue Morgue in June 2002. Inside the
magazine, I read that she was touring with the
other Ladies of the 'Evil Dead'.
I sent her an email. We talked on the phone, met
some months later...and the rest you will
experience when you watch Satan's
Playground. Ellen is a classy lady and
a great friend now. I think she's
terrific in the film.
You were wanting Linda Blair to star in
it. What happened with that?
Dante: I never pursued Linda after I heard from a very
reliable source that she no interest in doing any
more horror movies.
Will she be in your future projects?
Dante: Probably not -- if she has no passion for working
on horror films then I probably wouldn't
want to work with her, even though I loved Linda
in 'The Exorcist'. But who
Another disappointment was that Michael
Berryman had to drop out shortly before shooting
time. Did he have too many commitments?
Hey - that's life. Michael was shooting something
the exact dates we needed him. This is no one's
fault -- it's just that our filming schedule kept
changing. I'm sure we'll work together on a
This must've been very intense for you
to find a replacement. Felissa brought in Edwin
Neal who worked with her in Zombiegeddon and
he was a cult favourite as the Hitchhiker in Texas
Chainsaw Massacre. Were you happy that
she found him?
Dante: Luckily, it was very easy to find Edwin Neal as a
replacement. Because not only did Felissa have
his number, but so did Chris Garetano, the editor
of Are You Going? Magazine. They both gave me his
home phone number and urged me to contact
him. Of course I loved his performance in 'Texas
Chainsaw Massacre', so I was eager
to communicate with him.
What was he like to work with? I heard
that he's quite a character.
Dante: He's phenomenal to work with. A professional
performer. He's a surreal guy, very quirky.
We got along very nicely.
Who does he play in it as he plays a
role named Boy? His pic looks scarier than when
he was the Hitchhiker in TCM.
Edwin's pretty scary in 'Satan's
Playground'. He plays a backwoods
beast. He sure treated Felissa's
Felissa's character as Donna Bruno a victim? Is
she intense or scary?
She's definitely the victim in this movie. She's
not scary -- she's being scared. You experience
the film through her eyes, really.
What about Ellen Sandweiss who plays her
sister Paula? Does she turn evil like she did as
Cheryl in Evil Dead? Any
No - she plays an innocent victim in this film.
Ron Millkie has a supporting role in
this flick as police Officer Peters.
It kind of makes me think of his role as Officer
Dorf in Friday the 13th. Is
there a resemblance to this character?
Dante: Yes, in a way...the swagger. What's
different is that in 'Satan's Playground',
he's on the receiving end of the gore. Ron didn't
get any blood splattered on him in 'Friday
I also understood that pre-production was tough
for you cause the violence in it is way more
graphic than in Desecration and
Horror, but I'm glad you finally got it
off the ground. What is different with this flick
than the others?
Dante: It's not that this film is ultra gory.
It's not. It's more suggestive. But the
violence is very intense, very
emotional. It's a dark film. Throughout, you
get the feeling of being stalked, relentlessly
There are rumours that this film is
similar to Evil Dead. Is that
Dante: Well, yes and no. It's not a gore movie
like 'The Evil Dead',
that's for sure. But in its stripped down,
cabin-in-the-woods feel, I can see how someone
could say the atmosphere is a
bit similar. Certainly 'The
Evil Dead' is an influence. That's one
of my Top 5 favorite horror movies of all
time. And Ellen Sandweiss had many moments
of de-ja-vu on the set of my movie. But 'Satan's
Playground' is a conglomeration of all
of the horror films I loved from the 70's
and early 80's. Lots and lots of films, too many
I think it's great you had four familiar
horror film actors in the film as already it's
getting publicity. You are trying to distribute
it to theater's. Any luck with that. If so what
company is interested? I think Cineplex Odeon
would be great!
The movie was just completed. So now the
producers have to sell it to a distributor. They
are definitely aiming for some kind of theatrical
release. I do know that.
When do we expect to see this film as I heard the
storyline is terrific?
Dante: Thank you. I hope you'll be seeing 'Satan's
Playground' within the next five or six
Now you are in pre-production with
The Ocean and again you cast Felissa in
this flick. Is Ellen and Edwin going to be in it?
Any other names we might know of?
Yes - next up is 'The Ocean'.
And it does star Felissa. Ellen and Edwin? Ya
never know. Ellen's daughter, Jessy, who has
a cameo in 'Satan's Playground', will
be in it. She'll be possessed actually, just like
her mom was in The Evil Dead. I
love the idea of interlocking characters.
Have you ever considered Jonathan
Tiersten, Brinke Stevens, Judith O Dea, P.J.
Soles, Bruce Campbell or Gunnar Hansen for this
Oh yeah...Judith O' Dea ('Night of The
Living Dead') will have a cameo in
'The Ocean'. So will John
Fallon (aka The Arrow) from the
well-known site Arrow in the
Head. He'll be a surfer. More names
will be coming soon.
What is the story all about?
Dante: A small coastal community terrorized by
mysterious and deadly riptides. It's really about
a woman haunted by the
violent drowning death of her husband
and son. She inherits a mansion overlooking the
crashing surf. Very gothic, atmospheric, twisted
When will you start shooting it?
Dante: Summer 2005.
Your next flick will be the sequel to
Alice Sweet Alice. Who do you have in
mind to play in it? Do you think Felissa, Edwin
and Ellen have a chance?
Dante: I can't think of 'Alice, Sweet Alice
2' right now. After 'The Ocean',
I'll talk about it. Each project is
different. Whatever feels right each time.
Felissa, Ellen and Edwin will definitely be in my
future horror films no matter what.
Do you still plan to make the film Apparition?
Actually 'The Ocean' IS 'Apparition'.
Same story - I just changed the title.
Now here's some fun stuff: What
are your favourite horror films?
In no particular order...'Don't Look Now,
Halloween, The Brood, Texas Chainsaw Massacre,
Suspiria, Nosferatu, Night of the Living
Dead, The Fog, Tourist Trap, Carrie,
Rosemary's Baby, Let's Scare Jessica to
Death, The Shining, The Omen, The Evil Dead, The
Changeling, The Exorcist, The Sentinel, The House
with Laughing Windows, The Incubus, Black
Christmas, A Nightmare on Elm Street, The Hills
Have Eyes, The Premonition, Trilogy of Terror,
The House That Dripped Blood, Creepshow, The
Blob, Videodrome, The Fly, This Night I'll
Possess Your Corpse, At Midnight I'll Take
Your Soul, Legend of Hell House, The Thing,
Damien Omen 2, Dolls, The Sender, Mother's
Day...of course Alice, Sweet Alice...'
Who are your favourite horror film
Dante: You mean people who I haven't worked with yet?
Male - I'd say...hmmm, I'm not sure. No one pops
into my mind immediately. I'm more in awe of
women in horror...Jamie Lee Curtis, Jessica
Harper, Glenn Close, Karen Black, Debbie Harry,
Greg: If you were
a big time horror film director whether he's
alive or dead just for a day who would that be?
What makes you happy out of life?
Ummm....making movies and having
really good sex. Those are the main reasons
I live. I'm not kidding.
What would you change out of a film that you made
if you wanted to change it?
Dante: The model plane attacking Sister
Madeline in 'Desecration'.
I purposely edited it in a fragmented,
unreal way. But I went too far and everyone
thought it was a mistake. Bad judgment there.
What is your most treasured work you
What is your ambition in life?
Dante: To have a whole catalogue of movies, horror
movies, by the time I'm old and withered in
my 70s. It's always been my ambition in life. In