Did you watch The OC in the 2000’s? Do you remember Mischa Barton? If you do, and you’re wondering what she’s been doing for the last decade or so, then The Basement is for you. Like Tara Reid (Party Bus to Hell), Barton has found a niche in low-budget horror outings (The Toybox). Her latest, The Basement, is a Split rip-off with belated ‘Torture Porn’ overtures.
Musician Craig Owen was just making a quick run to the convenience store for his wife. But an unseen figure, waiting in the parking lot, grabs and drags Craig off in his van. When Craig wakes up, he finds himself tied in a dark basement. Soon he’s confronted by a deranged man dressed in clown make-up. But when the ‘clown’ disappears upstairs and a police officer arrives, Craig quickly discovers that they’re the same person. Now Craig realizes he’s being held captive by notorious serial murderer, ‘The Gemini Killer’. With no help coming, Craig must play a dangerous series of mind games with a killer inflicted by several alternating personalities.
The Basement is an Ugly Callback to Torture Porn
Clearly, The Basement is a micro-budgeted horror movie as evidenced by it’s ugly, cheap-o appearance. And consistent with its ugly aesthetics, The Basement cribs on the worst and ugliest of 2000’s ‘torture porn’ movies. At its best moments, ‘Torture Porn’ gave us grisly classic like Saw and Hostel. But as the well dried up, the subgenre spit out some truly ugly movies like Captivity and I Know Who Killed Me. Like more recent ‘Torture Porn’ efforts, including Would You Rather, The Basement falls into the latter category of mean-spirited and unimaginative fare.
Regardless of the effects themselves, The Basement’s violence is unimaginative stuff.
Directors Brian M. Conley and Nathan Ives set most of the unpleasantness in a dreary basement. Our Split-like killer cuts off fingers, knocks out teeth, and generally pummels his helpless captive. In one scene, a head is decapitated with a blow torch. For gorehounds, some of the effects are pulled off with moderate success. There’s some shoddy CGI gore later in the movie. Regardless of the effects themselves, The Basement’s violence is unimaginative stuff. Roland Joffe’s Captivity was an ugly movie, but there was at least some inspired lunacy buried somewhere in the carnage. In contrast, The Basement is dull and derivative. You may occasionally feel some discomfort, but there’s nothing here that comes remotely close to shocking like a High Tension, Frontier(s), or Martyrs.
Imitation Isn’t Always The Sincerest Form of Flattery
Outside of references to ‘Torture Porn”, The Basement is most likely to draw comparisons to M. Night Shyalamlan’s (The Visit, Glass) Split. And the comparisons are inevitable. A killer with multiple personalities who abducts a stranger in preparation for some cataclysmic end sounds pretty familiar. To their credit, Conley and Ives do introduce their own wrinkles to the concept. Specifically, The Basement’s killer is acting out the various stages of the death row process from interrogation to the final meal.
In the hands of more capable directors, a suspenseful ‘cat and mouse’ game could have emerged between the characters, even in the limited setting.
It’s a premise that sets up the promise of tense exchanges between captor and captive. As Cayleb Long’s ‘Craig’ figures out his captor’s deluded purpose, their exchanges take on an increasingly desperate tone. In the hands of more capable directors, a suspenseful ‘cat and mouse’ game could have emerged between the characters, even in the limited setting. Alas, Conley and Ives don’t have the chops to make their premise work. Pointless cuts to Mischa Barton’s frustrated wife don’t help with sustaining what little tension exists. If you think Barton’s character is superfluous to the movie, The Basement tries to work her into a final twist. Let’s just say that the ending won’t draw comparisons to Barton’s early career collaboration with Shyalaman.
Uneven Performances Sunk by Laughable Dialogue
In general, The Basement’s performances are a bit of a mixed bag. As captor and captive respectfully, Bill Anderson and Cayleb Long deliver better than expected performances. As the ‘Split’ killer, Bill Anderson, Davis will inevitably draw unfavourable comparisons with James McAvoy’s performance. Though he’s certainly not up to the same level, Anderson does enough with what he’s given to make the character as believable as possible. Likewise, Long convinces as a flawed man in an increasingly desperate situation.
It sounds like the kind of cringe-worthy dialogue you’d hear in The Room.
On the other hand, Mischa Barton turns in a dreadfully wooden performance. She has top-listing in the credits, but she’s thankfully in only a small portion of the movie. Of course, Barton gets no help from a clunky script. Conley and Ives saddle Barton with some of the movie’s worst dialogue. When Barton’s character is asked if her marriage is in trouble, she responds with, ‘No, we just had great sex’. It sounds like the kind of cringe-worthy dialogue you’d hear in The Room. Genre favourite Tracie Thoms (Death Proof, Raze) is wasted with a ‘nothing happening’ role.
Don’t Go In The Basement
Overall, The Basement offers little to recommend any horror fan. Too gruesome for the Lifetime thriller crowd and nowhere near intense enough for hardcore horror fans, The Basement is a dull, derivative, and ugly-looking movie. You may feel as tortured as the movie’s victims by the time the final credits mercifully roll.