The Cellar Review

PLOT: When a family moves into an old house, it doesn’t take long for them to discover that the place has a dark history… and there’s something evil lurking in the cellar.

REVIEW: After being absent from the genre for fifteen years, Elisha Cuthbert has returned to horror, taking on the lead role in writer/director Brendan Muldowney’s haunted house movie The Cellar. The movie does greatly benefit from having Cuthbert as the lead, but her involvement is also one of the most notable things about it. The Cellar covers some rather familiar ground, and doesn’t do much to stand out from the many films it can be compared to. As a genre fan watches it, they’ll probably be reminded of several other, better movies along the way. Movies like The Evil Dead, Insidious, Hellbound: Hellraiser II, and maybe even Phantasm.

You know the set-up, you’ve heard this one before. A family moves into an old house and soon realize they share the place with evil supernatural forces. In this case, American expat Keira Woods (Cuthbert) and her Irish husband Brian (Eoin Macken) have bought an old house in the Irish countryside at an auction, with no knowledge of the place’s history or why there are strange symbols placed above every doorway. There are also mysterious mathematical equations scribbled in the cellar and a phonograph that comes with a record of more equations being spoken out loud. When Keira and Brian’s children – teen Ellie (Abby Fitz) and tween Steven (Dylan Fitzmaurice Brady), both of whom share their father’s Irish accent – play that record while home alone one night, it stirs up the evil that inhabits the cellar. When the lights go out, Ellie has to go down into the cellar and check the fusebox… but she never comes back out. With her daughter missing, Keira has to dig into the history of their newly purchased home in an attempt to figure out what happened to her firstborn.

The Cellar Brendan Muldowney Abby Fitz Eoin Macken

The Cellar isn’t a bad telling of a familiar tale, it just doesn’t do anything that makes it seem special. Cuthbert does a fine job of carrying the film on her shoulders, but it would have helped if she had more interesting characters around her. Given that Ellie shows a lot of personality in her few minutes in the film, butting heads with her mom and giving her some teen attitude, it might have been better if young Steven had gone missing and Keira and Ellie had to work together to figure out what happened. As it is, Keira works on this alone. Steven just hangs out in his playroom and occasionally comes off as creepy, while Brian is barely present. When Brian is around, he proves to be an incredibly bland character who barely seems to care that Ellie is gone and questions Keira’s investigation.

The mystery Keira has to solve is somewhat intriguing and there are some cool visuals – most of them packed into the climactic sequence, which is when the “that reminds me of another horror movie” moments really start piling up. There is some effective creepiness here and there, especially in the scene where Ellie disappears, which is re-used from a short film called The Ten Steps that Muldowney made back in 2004. I’m someone who grew up with a fear of the dark basement in their childhood home – I always felt like something was going come after me when I was going up the stairs – so there were some scenes that made me think of that old fear. But there really isn’t much going on for the majority of The Cellar‘s 94 minute running time.

The Cellar Brendan Muldowney Elisha Cuthbert

It’s good to see Cuthbert in a horror movie again, and I hope she’ll continue to do genre work from time to time, with shorter gaps than fifteen years in between. It’s just a bit of a shame that her return comes in a movie that’s so easy to shrug off and forget. At least it’s substantially better than her last horror movie, Captivity.

If you want to kick back and watch a low-key variation on something you’ve seen before, The Cellar is a decent time killer. Just go into it with low expectations.

Shudder and RLJE Films will be releasing The Cellar in theatres and through the Shudder streaming service on April 15th.

Arrow in the Head reviews The Cellar, starring Elisha Cuthbert. Coming to theatres and the Shudder streaming service on April 15th.

The Cellar



Source: Arrow in the Head

About the Author

Cody is a news editor and film critic, focused on the horror arm of, and writes scripts for videos that are released through the JoBlo Originals and JoBlo Horror Originals YouTube channels. In his spare time, he's a globe-trotting digital nomad, runs a personal blog called Life Between Frames, and writes novels and screenplays.