Sadistic violence in film is nothing new, though propagators of so-called “torture porn” would say otherwise – probably because they’ve never seen a film produced before 1990. The previous century delivered a fair share of onscreen cruelty dating back to silent films, though the heyday proved to be in the 1970s with post-”roughie” rape-revenge flicks, cannibal atrocities and proto-slasher giallos. The Basement, a new film directed by Brian M.Conley and Nathan Ives, strives to join this gallery of monstrosities with uneven, though watchable, results.
Arrogant musician Craig Owen (Cayleb Long) runs to the liquor store after his wife Kelly (Mischa Barton) complains that there’s no more champagne. The proprietor mentions a newspaper article about a local serial killer. Just before getting into his car, Craig is knocked out and abducted, only to wake up strapped to a school desk in – you guessed it – a basement, where a creepy clown (Jackson Davis) smacks him a few times, makes some ambiguous statements and runs upstairs. This sets off a sequence of characters coming to the basement, each someone a serial killer would encounter after being captured. Craig must now either talk his way out of this role reversal or find a way to cut the ropes that bind him.
“…a newspaper article about a local serial killer. Before getting into his car, Craig is knocked out and abducted…”
The film actually succeeds on several levels. Long and Davis both turn out strong performances, bolstered by above-average writing by the directors. The strongest element, however, comes in Julia Hapney’s gruesome gore effects. Here, the pain registers beyond anguished screaming to portray damaged flesh that looks all too squeamishly real, especially when it comes down to the final kill.
Problems weigh just as heavily, though. Despite the chemistry between Davis and Long, their banter gets repetitive and tiresome with Davis changing his wardrobe between every scene like a Use Your Illusion-era Axl Rose with every character less interesting than the previous. Interlude sequences between Kelly (Barton) and her best friend attempt to break the monotony, but are so contrived they only add to it. In the end, we’re offered a mediocre twist that simply elicits “meh” at the end credits.
When it comes to low-budget horror, The Basement certainly isn’t the worst example, but it’s far from the best. It’s a good time-killer with great gore and decent performances, a nice background while you play that game on your phone. Don’t expect anything more.
The Basement (2018) Directed by Brian M. Conley and Nathan Ives. Written by Brian M. Conley, Nathan Ives, and Sean Decker. Starring Jackson Davis, Cayleb Long and Mischa Barton.
6 out of 10 stars