Filmmaker Stanley Farmer (Charlie Floyd) puts a casting ad online for a “reality-style horror film,” where he offers $1,000 to those who are brave enough to spend a night in his basement. As the casting auditions get underway, Stanley expresses that he wants to evoke true fear, and only cast those who can give a truly honest performance. He then lures them into the basement and, you know, tortures them or worse, which is about as “reality-style” as you can get with horror.
Roger Sewhcomar’s Do You Like My Basement? is a meta-horror delight that seizes upon a sentiment that even I’ve expressed before: in the entertainment industry, people make decisions that would end up in their demise had they been in a horror film. I have numerous examples in my personal life, from letting a complete stranger with a suitcase full of ropes and chains crash at my condo at Sundance to hopping into a bus to drive out to the middle of nowhere to stare at Elvis memorabilia in a guy’s house (ahem, Graceland Too). And every one of my horribly poor horror film decisions is rationalized with, “they’re a filmmaker” or “I’m at a film festival.” Worst part is, usually at the same time, I think, “This is how horror movies start…” or “If this were a horror film, I’d be f****d.” And yet I do it anyway!
So I found particular joy in watching the characters in this film, whether they be the actors dropping by for auditions or the other strangers who get caught up in the story in some way or another, get charmed by a guy simply expressing that he’s a filmmaker, and all the strange things they’re seeing or hearing is part of a film. Some may be hesitant, but mostly they’re intrigued as the thought of fame and fortune cloud their better judgement. You could watch this and say, “are these people nuts; no one acts that way, ever…” but I can assure you, I see it all the time!
Which is what makes this film that much scarier, because even the idea of a filmmaker wanting to make an artistic statement about horror and really pushing the envelope to murder and torture wouldn’t be all that surprising to me nowadays. People justify a lot of insanity by saying they’re doing it for “art,” so a snuff film full of willing participants suddenly showing up on the fest circuit sometimes seems less like an absurd notion and more like an inevitability. I hope I’m wrong.
The premise of the film, that the footage you’re watching is either coming directly from the filmmaker’s handheld video camera or from the hidden cameras throughout the apartment and basement, pretty much dictates the visual quality. Which is to say that it is very lo-fi and dirty, but strangely enough not overwhelmingly so. There are just a few moments that get so visually bothersome as to take you out of it but, for the most part, the aesthetic does its job.
The acting in the film can be pretty hit-or-miss too, though maybe that’s the point (after all, these characters are answering an online ad where the premise of the “reality-style horror film” they’re to be in is spelled out, and they still showed up). Still, there was really only one sequence that truly bothered me on the acting front, and that was poor tortured Raul on a bed in the basement. His screaming and freaking out was not the problem, but this sequence goes on for a while (as other characters come in and out of the scene), and one second he’ll be screaming in agony and then the next second he’ll be quiet and react when someone enters the room as if he’s been awakened from a nap. Basically, even when I tried to rationalize it away as “he passed out from the pain” or something, it still didn’t work with the frequency with which he goes from screams to silence to screams over the course of the sequence.
Overall, I liked Do You Like My Basement? and found myself more than a little frightened by the entire idea behind it. While this film may be fictional, it wouldn’t surprise me if somewhere out there someone was working on a similar premise, but for real. Likewise, it wouldn’t surprise me if the victims walked into the trap willingly. Something about the entertainment industry just makes folks open to making bad decisions under the guise of art. Then again, when those seemingly bad decisions do pay off, the reward in the face of the risk is that much sweeter… or so I keep telling myself…
This film was submitted for review through our Submission for Review system. If you have a film you’d like us to see, and we aren’t already looking into it on our own, you too can utilize this service.