Written and directed by: Tim O’Rawe
Starring: Dennis Driscoll, Kathleen Heidinger, David Webber & Scott Corizzi
Reviewed by: Brett H.
“You have gone where it is forbidden and released the evil. You must confess.”
Wallowing in my own nostalgia, I once longed for a forgotten horror film I’d never heard of to pop up on DVD with a great title and even better cover art; the type of movie from Wizard video in an 80s video store that us clueless kids somewhere out of The Monster Squad would rent based off what little we learned from the promotional big box itself. I discovered Satan’s Wife, which fit the bill with its gratuitous, shocking cover art and a decent title made more interesting in that it was Italian. My fantasy was destroyed with one of the most boring pieces of crap I’ve ever seen. I wasn’t looking for the next Zombie, just something remotely memorable. Fast forward (literally – yes!) a couple years later and our friends at Camp announced my next target, The Basement, a 1989 horror anthology not only to be seen for the first time ever, but to be released on a legitimate red VHS tape, complete with classic big box style cover art and packing 4 other films to boot. Despite having had a crummy week, nothing could bring me down as I opened up my box and beamed my eyes at a brand new, pristine, fresh as a virgin’s honey pot big box tape in my hands with a VHS logo on the side the size of a billboard. You’ve sung about your nostalgia enough, Milsap, I’m lost in the eighties tonight!
Four people wandering in a dank basement encounter a sentinel, hell’s soothsayer to the potentially damned. In a distorted voice, he informs them that they must confess their sins, not of the past, but of the future. What the dickens?! This leads us to our first short with Swimming Pool, a story about a vengeful women feeding a big snake living in her pool the bodies of her enemies. Trick or Treat features a psychopathic, student-hating teacher who mourns the loss of his deceased love at their most hated time of year, Halloween until monsters visit him and teach him a thing or two about messing with the great tradition of All Hallows’ Eve. Directors beware, as Zombie Movie sees real zombies seek the flesh of an egotistical horror film auteur that hates scare film fans and their heroes, like George Romero. Lastly, Home Sweet Home tells the tale of a house inhabited by a murderous demon that sees certain that anything the enters its sacred home never makes it out. Can the four escape the horrors of The Basement or are they as hopeless as the souls in their future sins?
The Basement is a charismatic little super 8 film that probably wouldn’t have gotten a second look from me had it not been for Camp’s unique marketing scheme. In the 70 minutes it took for the tape to roll from left to right, the acting is poor, post-dubbing completely brutal and filmmaking faux pas like crossing the line are committed. Truthfully, the film brings nothing to the table we haven’t seen done better before. Unless you’re out of tune with reality, these flaws are to be expected from a budgetless, lost film completed over 20 years ago. What impressed me about The Basement was the fact that a half dozen horror fans didn’t just hit the woods to make a cheap, boring slasher film, but instead tried to craft a real anthology film to the best of the cast and crew’s ability. So many low budget fan-made films overstay their welcomes at short running times because of a totally predictable script that goes nowhere and really accomplishes nothing. While The Basement doesn’t break new ground, it never seems tedious thanks to the fast paced, variety-based anthology format. It's like a buffet of Beelzebub!
Like Gallery of Horrors, my favorite part of the film is actually the intro/wraparound story and score where the cryptic sentinel provides a schlocky Seventh Seal meets The Beyond vibe. Swimming Pool comes across as very Creepshow-ish, even going so far as to have the main character doodle in a Stephen King novel while letting the monster that lives in her pool do her dirty work for her. While fun, it’s very short and direct, featuring a ton of foul language and quotable bad dialogue (“I hope he drowns, that fucker!”) that subsequently sets the tone for the rest of the movie. Trick or Treat raises the bar in an almost unique revenge story sure to please horror fanatics who cherish our trademark holiday with some decent cheap monster effects and a completely un-PC plot involving a holiday-hating teacher daydreaming about graphically slaughtering his students.
Zombie Movie is a self-referential episode sporting many horror jokes, clichés and fan perspectives to liven up the viewer with a few intentional laughs for a change. The director is seen as a whore mongering cocaine fiend ruining horror’s good name with flesheaters in leather jackets and rock guitars for a few mainstream bucks and inevitably encounters a “scary”, atmospheric rotting zombie horde to pay him back for his bullshit. Home Sweet Home doesn’t make much sense in terms of the sentinel’s foreseeing future sins since the lead character doesn’t really do anything wrong, simply moving to a supposedly haunted abandoned home and becoming possessed by a demon to kill his Jim Beam (“our old buddy”) drinking friends. Let this be a lesson to those willing to buy a place on the cheap because someone was murdered there years earlier; you might save the bucks, but you’re still going to pay for your decapitating ways in the afterlife even though a demon forcibly took control of your body. As a whole, the movie features about a dozen interesting monsters, lots of gore effects with Home Sweet Home taking home the blue ribbon for kill of the night when the demons obliterates a man’s entire head. Pretty cool stuff.
In what is certain to be my home video release of 2011, The Basement is released on big-box VHS/DVD combo (take that, useless digital copies) and includes outtakes, a couple shorts, feature commentary and four other movies, including the great Video Violence 1 & 2, Captives and Cannibal Campout (reviews forthcoming; and all of these films have commentaries and special features too!) making this the essential Camp Motion Pictures release for horror fans, collectors, completists and bang for your buck box set seekers. The Basement isn’t good, but it is a chaotic frenzy of monsters, gore, fog, graveyards, zombies and psychotic hellfire & brimstone. In a nutshell, The Basement exemplifies most of what we love in horror movies despite budget and professional restraints. Ultra fitting is the fact that this isn’t just a mock re-release of an old gem available on higher resolution DVD, here we have an unseen film that will only look as good as the tape presents, making it the perfect release for nostalgia buffs and people living in the now who want a taste of the past that is actually something new. As a movie, I can’t give The Basement critically anything more than a cheesy Rent it!, but if you’re a self respecting horror fan, you need to buy this mega set now. If ever it should go out of print, it will be one of horror history’s most sought after collectables. I would love to see more unreleased 80s dreck released on big box VHS… the most suitable way a film such as this could ever be released.
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