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The Basement (Movie Review)

The Basement (Movie Review)
7 10

PLOT: A cross between ‘Silence of the Lambs’ and ‘Split,’ The Basement is about an L.A. serial killer known as The Gemini (Jackson Davis), who tortures and ultimately murders his victims in the dungeon-like basement of his San Fernando Valley home. By the time the movie opens, Gemini has already claimed seven victims, all of whom he has horrifyingly maimed and decapitated with a blowtorch, but Craig Owen (Cayleb Long), the famed musician who Gemini has chosen for his eighth victim, and Craig’s beautiful wife Kelly (Mischa Barton) prove every bit the killer’s equal in the art of psychological warfare.

REVIEW: Stop me if you've recently heard this one. Brian M. Conley and Nathan Ives' THE BASEMENT centers around a kidnapping, and the man behind said kidnapping suffers from multiple personality disorder. To be a bit more specific, the film begins with our hero character Craig Owen played by Cayleb Long (ASCENT TO HELL) living it up in a massive mansion with his wife Kelly (played by Mischa Barton, THE TOYBOX, THE SIXTH SENSE). Craig is a celebrity musician of some sort and one night he heads out to the local liquor store to pick up some champagne for him and his baby Barton. Out in the parking lot, Craig is snatched up by a crazy kook in a clown outfit (as if there are any other kinds of crazy kooks in horror movies these days), and things quickly get all SILENCE OF THE LAMBS meets HOSTEL, with Craig tied to a chair in a dingy basement awaiting the horrors that are surely on their way.

Anyhow, that basic plot of kidnappings and multiple personalities may sound a bit too familiar. No worries, I get that. Yes, let's just go ahead and get this bit of business out of the way right off the bat: the set-up sounds somewhat like writer-director M. Night Shyamalan's recent UNBREAKABLE sequel and GLASS prequel SPLIT starring James McAvoy and Anya Taylor-Joy. In fact, the film has more than a few similarities to that PG-13 thriller, but all of that quickly falls by the wayside as there are more than a handful of significant differences between the two. The most prominent is the fact that this low-budget psychological shocker is rated R. Like in a big, bad way. Actually, there are large sections of this film that could fit right into that old somewhat beloved subgenre of horror that was all the rage in the early 00's "Torture Porn." 

Wait, no, don't run off just yet! Let it be known that to place THE BASEMENT in the subgenre of Torture Porn would be a misstep on anyone's part. But that said, there are more than a few close-up gore shots of torture and sadism that will be hard for mainstream audiences to stomach. You should have no problem sitting through the film, but your friends and family that get squeamish when teeth are slowly knocked out and fingers are removed one by one may want to sit in the other room as you enjoy the batshit nature of this motion picture.

However,  while there is some prolonged, close-up torture presented in this film, for the majority of the running time, the movie has more important themes and ideas in mind. One thing that sets this film apart from SPLIT, and torture porn movies like HOSTEL and some of the SAW sequels, is that this movie has a real sense of effective dark comedy. Yes, the comedy is about as pitch black as it gets, but it is there. And if you're like me and can find the humor in just about any crazy-ass situation, then you'll be delighted with THE BASEMENT as - if nothing else - the film is a funny movie. At times. Personally, I found the mixture of laughs and lurid violence to be a delight. Some might think the film tilts too much to one side or the other. But is having too much comedy in your horror movie, or too much horror in your comedy, ever really that bad of a thing? Nah, I don't think so.

One other thing some people might take issue with is, from the looks of the film's poster and whatnot, it would seem that the person kidnapped by the crazy clown man in this film is Mischa Barton. But let me just tell you guys right out, this isn't the case. In fact, for you handful of Mischa Barton fans out there, I guess it should be said here and now that she really isn't given much to do throughout the film's running time. Barton's absence might bother some of you, but I think most of you will have the same reaction as I did: "Oh, well. Moving on." Barton's absence for long stretches of time doesn't hurt the film one little bit. 

This film is super low-budget, yes, but directors Brian M. Conley and Nathan Ives never let this hold up the film. If this movie did have a mega-budget, I can't imagine what they would have spent the extra cash on considering the cast is (mostly) top-notch, and the sets are limited as hell. It helps that the contained thriller sports a quality screenplay by Conley, Ives, and Sean Decker which - as I mentioned above - knows best to keep the comedy coming - and gives lead psychopath Jackson Davis more than enough roles, layers, and meaty dialogue to chew all across the screen. 

And speaking of which, in the end, Brian M. Conley and Nathan Ives' THE BASEMENT is really Jackson Davis' show. And thank God for all of us watching because Jackson plays so many different men, women, and children, that if he weren't a true star in the making, this film would have been worth exactly bupkis. But Davis does carry the show, and he does so with such ease and charm that even if this movie fades off into obscurity, Davis will not. Mark my words. Overall, THE BASEMENT is a prime example of a zero-budget contained thriller done right. If you dig these kinds of films, like I do, then this movie should be just what you're looking for. Enjoy!

Extra Tidbit: The Basement gets a 10-market theatrical and digital release from Uncorkā€™d Entertainment on September 14 .
Source: AITH

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