Monday, August 9, 2010

'Don't Look in the Basement' is
average low budget

Don't Look in the Basement (1973)
(aka "The Forgotten", "Death Ward 13" and "Don't Go in the Basement")

Starring: Rosie Holotik, Annabelle Weenick, Bill McGhee, and Gene Ross
Director: S.F. Brownrigg
Rating: Six of Ten Stars

Beautiful Charlotte (Holotik) comes to work at the Stephens Sanitarium, hoping to be part of Dr. Stephens' revolutionary treatments for the mentally deranged. Soon after her arrival, terrible, violent events occur, and she starts to fear the insane are literally running the asylum.

"Don't Look in the Basement" is a cheaply made horror film that has "amateur" written all over it. The acting is about average for a low-budget horror flick, the camerawork is dodgy and the lighting even moreso. However, as the film unfolds, an evergrowing atmosphere of strangeness and dread start to fill it, and this helps overcome the shortfalls and draws the audience in.

The film is also helped by its straight-forwardness. It keeps to its mystery-oriented, proto-slasher movie plot, making some nice attempts to keep the audience from guessing what is really going on at Stephens Sanitarium but still playing fair with those who are paying attention. Entirely too many modern horror movies fail to properly set up their "suprise twists" in the third act; here, we are given all the clues up front to the true state of the asylum and its doctors, so when the Big Reveal happens, it doesn't feel like a cheat. Instead, for those who have been paying attention (or those who have seen waaaaay too many films of this genre), it's a satisfying one, and for those who haven't been, it's a shocking suprise that they will feel like they should have seen coming.

"Don't Look in the Basement" is a staple of the DVD horrror and thriller multipacks, and it should be considered a value-adding feature to any one it is included in. (I'm not sure I'd recommend getting it any other way, but it is a film that anyone thinking about making a slasher or mystery film should take the time to see. The plotting is well-deserving of being a textbook example.)

By the way, this was one of the 70+ movies that made up a list of movies banned in Great Britain (known as the "Video Nasties."

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