Basement, The (1989)

Directed by Timothy O’Rawe
Camp Motion Pictures DVD

Four people arrive in a basement, confused and cheesed off. A being known as The Sentinel appears and tells them of their future sins in stories of varying length and gruesomeness. An anthology film from deep, deep within the world of low-budget horror filmmaking. Pulled up from the depths and presented to us for our enjoyment. Thank you, depths! This one is fun.

I may start out with a bias, though. Because I do love horror anthology films. I love the imagination and ingenuity that goes into them and, on occasion, doesn’t go anywhere near them. It’s a tricky genre but one that I always give a wide expanse to as they do their business. Hey, I enjoyed Gallery Of Horror. I’ve been dying to write/make my own anthology-something-or-other for ages. (Maybe a novel?) So, The Basement makes me smile.

It always interests me to see these films that are right on the cusp of the 1980s style of low-budget horror and the 1990s style. This one starts off in an 80s fashion, with some restraint. It’s as if they thought “Maybe we’ll get an R rating for theaters?” But, by the end, it’s close to Burning Moon territory and they’ve said “This is going right to your living room. Enjoy!” The element that sends this one teetering closer to the 90s is something rather obvious.

J.R. Bookwalter is featured in one of the tales. He plays a Fanboy crew-member wearing a t-shirt for The Dead Next Door. The Fanboy thing was a big part of 90s low-budget horror so that’s not it. It’s the realization that a lot of the same people were involved in making many of the 90s films (and beyond). The 80s was more parochial, with folks making one movie and vanishing. The 90s brought in people who were there for life, making film after film and helping out others. I don’t know why I didn’t spot this before. And, I’ve got nothing much to say about it now. Just an observation.

That said, I will not wreck any of The Basement‘s stories for you. Sorry, Marvin, I know your thoughts on synopses in reviews but I couldn’t, frankly, care less. The movie was recently unearthed and finished. People put time and effort into this. It’s not for me to gaily skip through the Fields of Story and tell you what’s happened. I will just point out that we’ve always said “There’s always one more out there.” And, if folks are actually going to keep completed pieces stashed away for later release, than that is super awesome.

Even though I won’t mess up the four stories, I will say that they’re not really going to flip your world around in the way that, say, the best Twilight Zone episodes may have. These are more humble, a la House Of The Dead. Some of these have a nice zing to them. Nothing huge but nice…and, where the zing isn’t quite there, we have imagery, verve and gore.

Shot on Super 8, this looks pretty darn good. A few shots go out of focus and occasional moments are a little dark but those are observations, not criticisms. The audio sounds a lot more professional than the film looks, which is a real conversation starter.

AND…I zinged ya! This movie comes in a really nicely-designed big box with three DVDs inside. The first one is The Basement and a ton of extras. The other two contain four more SOVs (Video Violence 1 and 2, Cannibal Campout, and the long-awaited release of Gary Cohen’s Captives)and extras. And, as an extra-extra, there is an orange VHS tape, with The Basement on it. That’s what I watched. So, in actuality, this review was written using an Extra, which makes this some kind of cool meta-review. Doesn’t it? Maybe? Well, regardless, I feel smug about the whole thing.

I’m glad this was found and I’m glad this is out. Just the sort of film that I enjoy spending an evening with (and that I will spend another with in the future because one of the stories is set at Halloween). This is not absolute Top Class entertainment. It’s grungy Americana low-budget filmmaking, energetically done and worth the attention paid.