The Basement (1989) review

The Basement posterDirector: Timothy O’Rawe

Starring: Dennis Driscoll, Kathleen Heidinger, David Webber, Scott Corizzi

“You have gone where it is forbidden and released the evil. You must confess.” (The Sentinel, The Basement)

Here’s an interesting little oddity: an ultra low-budget anthology film that was never finished, left for dead and finally released more than 20 years later.

The Basement was a cheapo Super 8 film shot over 22 days in 1989 and “abandoned almost as quickly,” its director of photography Michael Raso recalls.

Rather than putting together the finished film, writer/director Tim O’Rawe decided to move to LA instead, leaving all the shot footage with Raso with the simple message: “Good luck.”

The Basement sat (appropriately) in Ruso’s basement, garage and storage units until finally, in 2010, a small DVD publisher called Camp Motion Pictures decided to take the film, give it a new audio mix and re-edit and finally release it.

The result is a hilariously bad movie with easily some of the worst acting I’ve ever seen, and considering the utter shite I’ve watched over the years that’s saying something.

This was pretty much the look on my face after it was finished
This was pretty much the look on my face after it was finished

In the style of other anthology films like Creepshow and The Vault Of Horror, The Basement consists of a number of short stories (four in this case) bookended with a prologue and epilogue tying them all together.

Here our four main characters find themselves in a mysterious basement, where they come face-to-face with an equally curious hooded chap called the Sentinel.

The Sentinel informs the four that the basement is actually a confessional, and they are given the chance to confess their sins: not the ones they’ve committed, but the ones they will commit in the future.

Many felt that George Lucas had gone too far by releasing another Star Ward Special Edition with ET as a Jedi
Many felt that George Lucas had gone too far by releasing another Star Wars Special Edition with ET as a Jedi

Once the obligatory “what the fucks” are distributed, the Sentinel shows each of them, one by one, a vision of their future: one in which they each do something fairly dickish and meet an unpleasant end as a result.

Naturally, these visions take the form of four short stories. The first, Swimming Pool, focuses on an adulterous 50-something woman who discovers a monster is living in her swimming pool and so begins throwing all the people she hates into it. Guess what ends up happening to her.

This is by far the worst acted of the stories, but it’s also easily the shortest, lasting only roughly five minutes or so, so the cheesy charm doesn’t really get a chance to wear off.

Brilliantly, the new opening credits have a '©2010' message on them, as if this hairstyle would fool anyone
Brilliantly, the new opening credits have a ‘©2010’ message on them, as if this hairstyle would fool anyone

This is followed by Trick Or Treat, which is essentially a Halloween version of A Christmas Carol. In it, a miserable school teacher hates everything to do with Halloween and fantasises about killing his students.

He’s visited by the ghost of his dead wife who warns him to embrace the spirit of Halloween or else he’ll suffer the same fate as her. Not having it, he’s then visited (and scared shitless) by three further ghosts, all in varying states of decay.

More cheese abounds here, but given the film’s desperately low budget the creature effects in this one are actually pretty nifty. Someone clearly had fun putting these little bastards together, and that enjoyment is pretty contagious.

The new hot sauce Simon had bought certainly had a kick to it
The new hot sauce Simon had bought certainly had a kick to it

The third story, simply titled Zombie Movie, is clearly some sort of an attempt at commentary on the state of horror as the ’90s approached. The ‘star’ here is a hack film director, making a shitty rock ‘n’ roll zombie movie purely to make money, with no actual love for the genre.

As he partakes in cocaine snorting and groupie exploitation, a bunch of real, ‘proper’ zombies emerge from the nearby cemetery and decide to teach him a lesson in what real terror is.

This story has a few unintentional laugh-out-loud moments but loses steam during the end, partly because one the night scenes kick in it becomes fairly difficult to see what’s going on due to the age and condition of the footage.

Dougie had the feeling the queue to the men's toilet had been infiltrated by an outsider
Dougie had the feeling the queue to the men’s toilet had been infiltrated by an outsider

This sadly becomes worse in the fourth and final story, Home Sweet Home, which takes place almost entirely in the dark. It also breaks tradition from the others in that the main character doesn’t really do anything morally wrong, he just ends up in a house that’s haunted by a demon.

Unfortunately, I can’t tell you much more than that because this final story is so difficult to see that watching it must be what working in a coal mine without your glasses on must be like.

Forget the fourth story, then, and The Basement is a wonderfully cheddar-scented reminder of why I love the horror genre.

The new hot sauce Simon had bou... fuck, I've done that one
The new hot sauce Simon had boug… fuck, I’ve done that one

I love that a group of people clearly poured a lot of love and effort into this delightful piece of shit and genuinely tried their best to make something fun.

Is it the best film ever made? Put the crack pipe down, you fucking maniac: it’s probably one of the worst. But I laughed like an imbecile throughout and for that reason I say give it a shot.

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HOW CAN I SEE IT?
As mentioned in the review, The Basement was only actually released for the first time in 2011 courtesy of Camp Motion Pictures. It’s available in a US-only package containing five films on DVD – The Basement, Cannibal Campout, Captives, Video Violence and Video Violence 2. In a nice touch, it also includes a VHS version of The Basement for added authenticity. US readers can order it here, whereas UK readers (with a multi-region player) will have to order an import version.

SHOW ME THE TRAILER:

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