After four poorly-dubbed people find themselves mysteriously trapped in someone’s unfinished basement, they come face-to-face with The Sentinel, a spirit who informs the group that they have found the portal to hell, and now they must confess their sins. Not their sins of the past, however, but the sins they will commit in the future!
Written and directed by Timothy O'Rawe (Ghoul School), The Basement is a shot on Super 8 anthology film that went unreleased until 2011 when Camp Motion Pictures released the film as the main feature in a 5 film Retro 80s Horror Collection. Interestingly, not only did the film go unreleased, it actually sat in storage, unedited, for 2 decades before the film’s director of photography, Michael Raso, took to restoring it in 2010.
The Basement is an extremely low-budget riff on 1972’s Tales From the Crypt, in that a group of less than desirable people come to learn that the poor choices they make will lead to their undoing. This leads to four not-so-inspired tales of terror, starting off with The Swimming Pool.
Focusing on a Black Widow-esque female character who lures men into a swimming pool for one final swim with a sea creature that sort of looks like a garden hose, The Swimming Pool is both a horrible and a wonderful way to kick off the anthology. The segment is bad in every way possible, but it’s bad in the silliest of ways thanks to the dialogue and performance by the lead actress. Of course, the entire situation is so preposterous – especially in how cheaply executed it is – that it’s difficult to believe that the segment is actually a part of reality. As I alluded to at the start of this review, The Basement has some of the very worst ADR work I have ever heard in any film – which is quite the feat considering some of the movies I watch – and this is most true with The Swimming Pool. To be fair, however, a movie this bad only benefits from such incompetence, simply because it adds yet another layer of unintentional humor.
The second segment, Trick or Treat, is A Christmas Carol style tale about a disgruntled teacher who hates children and Halloween, and he has no problem expressing his distaste. However, his angry ways come back to haunt him when on Halloween night he is visited by a variety of creatures such as demons, witches, and the undead, all warning him that he basically needs to stop being such a jerk. Trick or Treat is one of the best segments of The Basement for a few reasons, one being the heavy focus on make-up effects, which are actually quite impressive despite the low budget. Something else that really stands out in the Trick or Treat is a dream sequence where the teacher goes on a classroom-murder spree, killing off all of his students, one by one, in a variety of bloody ways.
The third segment is Zombie Movie, a moderately enjoyable story that takes place on the set of a low-budget zombie film that becomes infested with real zombies. The main focus of this segment is a sleazy director who has no respect for horror, let alone the film he’s making. To him, it’s all about making a quick buck, and he has no problem being a complete dick about it. It’s obvious that Zombie Movie is commenting on the studio horror films and sequels that were churned out for a quick profit at the time, which is funny as people still seem to have the same complaints nowadays, despite looking back fondly on horror cinema from the 1980s. Funny how that works.
The final segment, Home Sweet Home, is about a young writer who buys a run-down home, despite being warned that it’s haunted. Shortly after moving into the dark and creepy house, one of the writer’s best friends shows up, and the two spend the evening getting wasted and talking about how this will be the perfect house for them to work on future horror projects. Unfortunately for the friend, however, there will be no future, because he is soon murdered by a demon. Overall, Home Sweet Home is a weak entry in The Basement, though it is kept afloat by some impressive creature makeup effects. The only other notable aspect of the segment is the fact that, as opposed to the characters in the previous segments, the lead character really doesn’t do anything wrong to make him deserving of spiritual reprimand. Makes almost as much sense as the 50 tea lights that are surrounding the bed that the main character and his girlfriend use to make sex.
The Basement is only 109 minutes long, so minus credits you're looking at about an hour or so of movie. With there being four segments, such a short runtime equals very little time to do much with each segment in terms of building up suspense. With most films that might be an issue, but in the case of The Basement, I think it helps. Spending too much time on each of these already anemic segments could be a cause for boredom, which is the worst sin that any B-movie can commit.
Overall, The Basement is an astoundingly inept film made by people whose hearts were in the right place, which is a huge part of making a truly bad movie an enjoyable one for those who savor such entertainment.