THE BASEMENT (Filmed in 1989/Released in 2011)
DVD Review by L.L. Soares
THE BASEMENT came out in 2011, in an odd box-set that included the movie in both DVD and VHS versions, along with several other movies on disk, in a box that looked like the old-time boxes VHS tapes used to come in. Why the strange packaging? Well, THE BASEMENT was made in 1989 and seemingly dropped off the face of the earth before it could be seen by audiences. It is something of a “lost” film, and the packaging is an attempt to recapture what its original release in the 80s should have been. It’s also a clever attempt at retro-packaging.
Unseen since its making, THE BASEMENT is finally available. And it’s kind of a treat.
An anthology film in the spirit of movies like CREEPSHOW (1982) or the Amicus films TALES FROM THE CRYPT (1972) and THE VAULT OF HORROR (1973), it begins with four people wandering around a filthy basement (we’re not sure how they got there), when they come across a strange door, which opens to reveal a monstrous creature in a hooded robe who says he is “The Sentinel.” He then goes to tell each of them what will happen in the future—and how they will die. Each story is a separate mini-movie within the whole.
The first story (“Swimming Pool“) is about an unhappy middle-aged woman named Victoria (Kathleen Heidinger) who is having an affair with a much younger “pool boy.” When her husband, whom she despises, goes for a dip in the pool one day, he is drowned by some kind of monster with tentacles, that churns up the water in a bloody froth. She’s able to dispose of some pesky neighbors in the same way, and seems both horrified and happy with the results. What kind of monster did her young paramour put in the pool? When she finds out herself, she doesn’t exactly like the answer.
The second story(“Trick or Treat“) is the most entertaining and involves a mean old school teacher named Charles Huff (Dennis Driscoll) whose wife died the previous year around Halloween. Despite the fact that he is a teacher and is around kids all the time, he despises children and hates Halloween most of all. One day during class, he fantasizes about walking around his classroom with a knife and a gun, killing all his students.
Later that night, his dead wife comes to pay him a visit and tells him he has to change his ways, and that he will have a special visitor the following night on Halloween. Considering it to be just a dream, the man ignores her warning and continues with his child-hating ways.
On Halloween night, he shouts at children to go away when they come asking for candy (in a special bit of 80s nostalgia – one of the children is dressed like one of the California Raisins that were popular in Claymation commercials at the time!), and he eggs other kids who are in his yard, preparing to toilet paper his house. His anger is actually pretty funny. But then he starts seeing those “visitors” his wife warned him about. Demons and witches and mummies who want to scare the hell out of him. If this story sounds a little familiar, it’s because it’s kind of a Halloween variation on A CHRISTMAS CAROL, where a mean old man is scared into changing his ways by monsters in the night. I really enjoyed this one, and it’s my favorite of the bunch.
The third story (“Zombie Movie“) involves a bad horror movie director named Mr. Adelman (David Webber) who attempts to make a zombie movie in a real graveyard. When his production assistant (a movie nerd who loves George Romero and reads Fangoria magazine, played by low-budget director J.R. Bookwalter!), tells him that the zombies are lame and he’s doing it all wrong, and that horror fans will hate his movie, the director threatens to fire the kid. But later that night, real zombies come up out of the earth to teach him a lesson.
The final story (“Home Sweet Home“) involves a guy named Scott Caplan (Scott Corizzi)who moves into a house that was previously owned by a murderer. He begins to see horrific things as the house’s victims appear to him and threaten the lives of his best friend and girlfriend, who come to visit. How will Scott confront the curse of the house?
We then go back to the confused foursome who demand to know how the “sentinel” knows these things and when these future events will happen to them. At which point we get a “twist” ending meant to jolt us.
I didn’t have high hopes for this one, since it was directed by Timothy O’Rawe who gave us the low-budget horror comedy, GHOUL SCHOOL (his only other directing credit, from 1990), a movie I didn’t particularly care for. However, THE BASEMENT is a much better movie (even though it was made a year earlier than GHOUL SCHOOL), despite limitations such as bad acting, bad writing, and the usual setbacks of ultra-low-budget cinema. The monsters, however, look kind of cool, despite the shoestring budget, and everyone here at least attempts to play things straight.
I enjoyed this movie, and it’s sad that it took almost 30 years for it to finally get released. But at least it was found and finally made available. Definitely worth a rental if you’re a fan of low-budget horror flicks, especially the kind you used to find in Mom and Pop video stores in the 1980s.
© Copyright 2012 by L.L. Soares
THE BOX SET INCLUDES:
Both VHS and DVD versions of the lost 80s horror film, THE BASEMENT
VIDEO VIOLENCE (1987)
VIDEO VIOLENCE 2 (1988)
CANNIBAL CAMP-OUT (1988)