The Basement (1989)

DVD Cover (Camp Motion Pictures)
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Four strangers are summoned to the basement of a abandoned house by a mysterious entity known only as The Sentinel. One after another, they are forced to witness heinous deeds they have yet to commit - and which will damn them for all eternity. --IMDb
Review by Chad
Added: July 25, 2011
Now here's an interesting little movie, one that is finally available to the masses. Shot back in 1989 on Super 8 and directed by Timothy O'Rawe (Ghoul School), The Basement was never released to VHS and, prior to its September release date, has never been available on DVD. I couldn't tell you why that is the case as it is never mentioned in the promotional material that was sent out to promote this release, but there you have it. Anyway, come September, this movie will finally be made available to horror fans in an awesome box set courtesy of Camp Motion Pictures. I don't normally detail the contents of such sets, but this one is just too cool.

So, you get The Basement on both VHS and DVD, and... wait, yes, you get the damned movie on VHS as a retro throwback item. Very neat. The Basement comes complete with deleted scenes, outtakes, commentary, short films, and all that good stuff. Next on the list of what you'll get from this set is Captives, a long-lost film that briefly popped up on VHS as Mama's Home and is currently all but impossible to find. Also included are a trio of previously released films from Camp by way of Video Violence, Video Violence 2, and Cannibal Campout. You have to check this set out.

Getting back to the movie at hand, The Basement is an anthology horror flick in the same style as Tales from the Crypt. It begins with four people entering a room, where they encounter what appears to be a mummified man who tells them that they have been sent here for their future sins. You see, later on in each of their lives, they will do something extremely nasty to someone or a handful of people, and thus, they have been sent here to pay for their sins. Each of the four people are shown what it is that they will eventually do, and of course, the entire thing is capped off with a twist ending involving said people.

The first story involves what the box cover calls a "water spirit." Basically, a woman is sitting beside a pool when her husband, who she can't stand, decides to jump in for a swim. There are some bubbles coming up from the bottom of the pool, the man splashes around for a bit, and then he just disappears. We then find out that his wife knew about what was in there, and that she also has a book full of the names of the people that she wants to see flailing about in that pool. What could possibly go wrong here?

Honestly, I wasn't a fan of this story at all. As mentioned, the DVD cover says that there is a "water spirit" inside that pool, but nothing of the sort is ever mentioned in the actual film. People jump in or are thrown in, they splash around a little bit, and that is it. Did they drown, get eaten, disappear, what? I have no idea, because there was no explanation given. It's wrapped up with a rather lame "twist", and that is the end of story number one. We're off to a bad start with a 3/10 for the first story.

Next up is the tale of a high school teacher who hates Halloween with a passion. We don't know why, but we do know that his wife also hated it before she died, and now, he hates it even more. Well, the holiday eventually rolls around once again, and this causes our hero to start fantasizing about stabbing, slicing, and shooting his students in the classroom. He then starts to receive visits from some of the classic movie monsters who teach him a thing or two about the importance of the holiday. There's a zombie, a witch, a mummy, and others, and yes, this is the horror version of that classic Christmas tale.

I dug this one, for the most part. The monster effects were incredibly well done, and the story itself was pretty damned neat. Granted, it's based on a tale that you have heard countless times over, but it adapted to the horror genre rather well. The only problem I had with this one was the ending, or to be more specific, the lack of an ending. You see, the story plays out as I mentioned above, it seems to be building to something, and then... then, it just ends. Another five minutes worth of footage would have made this one incredible, but with the disappointing ending, I just can't say that. 7/10.

The next story involves a horror filmmaker creating a new zombie film. The only problem is that he has no idea what a good zombie movie should consist of, and even though his crew tries to tell him, he brushes them off. Good makeup and great gore effects? Nah, we just need white face-paint and some guitars to appeal to the metal fans. "Fuck Romero and fuck Fangoria", he says, before returning to his trailer full of hookers and blow. This prompts a horde of real zombies to emerge from the cemetery to teach him a thing or two about the walking dead.

This story shares the same fate as the previous one, in that I enjoyed the entire thing... up until the ending. It's a creative take on the zombie genre, there are some great zombie effects, and some of the sets are downright spooky. The "director" plays his asshole role to perfection, and really, there's nothing negative that I could say about the story... until it comes to a screeching halt and just stops. Again, another five minutes to properly cap the tale off would have worked wonders. 7/10.

Finally, we come to the tale of a man who just wants to own a house out in the woods, but unfortunately for him, he purchases a house that previously belonged to a mass murderer who made the Leatherface clan seem normal. That man raped, tortured, and killed over twenty people in the house before disappearing, and soon after our hero moves in, he realizes that something is definitely "off" inside this humble dwelling.

They definitely saved the best for last in this compilation. This story was perfect in just about every way: it has a great story (and the story is properly concluded), there are plenty of fantastic gore effects, and everything about it just works. I could gripe about the lack of lighting in certain scenes and it would be a valid complaint, but honestly, it sort of added to the atmosphere of the movie; after all, the script does call for a house with no electricity, so to expect everything to be brilliantly lit would be silly. Still, it would have helped showcase some of the gore a little better, but that is really my only complaint. 9/10.

Overall, The Basement is an interesting horror anthology with one strike, two slightly-flawed stories, and one home run. Averaging the scores together, we come up with a 6.3 rating... I'm going to go ahead and round that up to a 7/10, which seems more appropriate based on my overall enjoyment of the film. The box set itself is definitely worth checking out though, as it is a true labor of love from a company that cares about their fans.
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