New Horror Releases: The Basement (2018) Reviewed

The Basement is another entry in a popular subgenre of horror: a person is kidnapped by a sadistic serial killer, taken to their lair and tortured. There is only so much variance that can be thrown into this plotline, though this film does try to sprinkle a couple of different twists in. First of all, refreshingly, the victim is a man. Usually, this kind of plot ventures into exploitation territory while watching a woman attempt to escape from a psychotic killer. Secondly, the villain is so remarkably bizarre that there is mystery around what he is doing and why. That carries things for a little bit but, eventually, his strangeness causes the horror to dissipate. It is a violent and bloody movie that is surprisingly dull at times. Although a few moments work, too many scenes drag on for so long, well after the point has been made. 

Since The Basement gets to its central action within its opening minutes, the story is necessarily simple. Craig gets knocked out leaving the store and wakes up tied to a chair in a dark basement. Meanwhile, his girlfriend gradually grows concerned (she is played by Mischa Barton, the biggest name in the production, therefore she is given a decent amount of screen time despite having little to do). That is it. The drama comes from the unpredictability of the man keeping Craig captive.

Well, hello there. Has anyone seen the basement of the Alamo?

That would be Bill, played by Jackson Davis in a tremendously challenging performance. Due to the nature of his character, viewers only learn about him in bits and pieces. Even then, it is difficult to put the information together in a way that makes sense. Bill is very inconsistent. Does he know what he is doing, or is he insane? 

Getting the audience guessing could add creepiness to the proceedings. Here it is mainly confusing and sometimes unintentionally funny. I lost interest in the answer long before it was revealed. Davis, to his credit, is able to muster up some intrigue. This whole movie serves as a highlight reel showcasing his range. I have no idea how he could have kept his motivations straight from scene to scene. However, he fares pretty well, all things considered.

In order for a film to successfully scare its audience, creep them out or just make them really uncomfortable, it needs to maintain a consistent tone of dread. The possibility that something awful could be about to happen should always be at the front of its viewers’ minds. The Basement is so weird and slow that it was never able to keep its tension simmering for very long. 

The gimmickry, plus Jackson Davis’ showy performance are mildly interesting, but this is not a good movie. The plot is not as smart as it thinks it is and, ultimately, lacks much of a point. Despite its attempts to appear different, you have undoubtedly seen better from the genre. It is an odd film with one or two clever ideas repeated over and over again until its conclusion. It feels a lot like a short stretched out to feature length.

-Ben Pivoz