In the movies, does anything good ever come out of a kid having an imaginary friend? The Man in the Cellar doesn’t run against convention there; when a young girl informs her parents that she’s been chatting with “the man in the cellar,” it’s not the kind of news that is followed by happy times for all.
Dean Garris’ short film manages to lay some solid psychological track with the family before things get spooky, and in an 18 minute short, that is impressive. The film doesn’t look all that pristine; the digital “grain” is a bit too dirty for my tastes, but if it is an artistic choice, I can at least see the sense of it. The word “cellar” doesn’t conjure up cleanliness in the mind, does it? In this case, that could go for more than just the aesthetics of the piece.
The Man in the Cellar, despite playing within the creepy conventions of the unknown hanging out with a young child, manages to stay disturbing without getting too overt with the horror of it all. Instead you wonder if there is an imaginary friend at all, or just a kid dealing with a different sort of family darkness. Or maybe it’s not the kid at all.
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