September 10, 2018 The Basement (Movie Review)
Mischa Barton stars in the new Horror-Thriller offering The Basement, which arrives to select theatres, as well as VOD, on Friday, September 14, 2018, thanks to Uncork’d Entertainment. Screening locations include Los Angeles at Laemmle Music Hall; Cleveland at Tower City Cinemas; Atlanta at AMC Southlake Pavilion; Chicago at AMC South Barrington; Houston at AMC Gulf Pointe; Minneapolis at AMC Apple Valley; Phoenix at AMC Arizona Center; San Francisco at AMC Deer Valley; and Dallas at AMC Grapevine Mills.
In Los Angeles, poor little rich girl Kelly (Barton: The Sixth Sense 1999, The O.C. series) runs out of champagne and sends her husband, Craig (Cayleb Long: The Traditions series, Happy Baby 2016), to the store to restock. Here, the famous guitarist pauses for a moment to chat with a friendly shop clerk (Tracie Thoms: Rent 2005, The Devil Wears Prada 2006) before he begins trading texts with his lover, Bianca (Bailey Anne Borders: The Change-Up 2011, The 5th Wave 2016). Before much time can transpire, Craig heads back to his car and finds himself dragged into a non-descript van bearing an advertisement for a children’s clown, Baylee.
Here is where the plot sickens: Craig awakens to find himself restrained to a desk in the middle of a basement, unable to escape and now a forced audience to Baylee the Clown’s antics – giant red shoes, juggling, and all. Just as the clown seems to go completely looney tunes, he disappears upstairs, and then a cop (Jackson Davis: Vida series, Shameless series) appears. Craig will have a shocking realization when the truth hits: this cop and Baylee are actually one and the same. With a multitude of personas waiting for their moment in the spotlight, Craig must strap himself in for this wild ride of gruesome drama that is playing out in the kooky killer’s mind. But what does the Gemini Killer want with Craig specifically?
Clocking in at 88 minutes in-length, The Basement was directed by Brian M. Conley and Nathan Ives (It’s Not You, It’s Me 2013, A Christmas in New York 2016), and was written by the pair along with Sean Decker (L.A. Slasher 2015, Scary Endings TV short 2016). Billed as straight Horror, the film is a Thriller with Horror elements that all plays out in a slow-moving, painfully predictable, poor man’s intimation of M. Night Shyamalan’s 2016 film Split.
So, that’s the painful truth of The Basement, but, thankfully, there are a few sunny spots. These come to us largely thanks to the film’s two lead actors – Long (Craig) and Davis (split personality Bill). Considering he spends the bulk of the film tied to a desk, immobile, and being tortured, Long does a good job of never being completely ridiculous or laughable; he definitely has his moments and provides several emotionally moving monologues. There are a few cringey moments, sure, but that is largely due to the horrible script and its wretched dialogue. It is a credit to Long’s talents that, despite portraying a character that is entirely meant to be a helpless victim, he holds his own.
The true savior of this sinking ship is Davis, who gives an exceptional performance as the ten personalities that compose serial killer Bill. There’s a story behind the characters, yes, and Davis’ portrayal ties everything together into a fairly-cohesive plot line. While each persona has its own separate and distinct wardrobe, Davis also changes his voice to suit his varying roles – from the quirky, somewhat deranged doctor (with shades of Harry Connick Jr.’s Daryll Lee Cullum from 1995’s Copycat) to the blonde-haired mother, to the priest who offers Craig absolution for his sins.
The personalities are often cliché and/or just ridiculous, but Davis is able to sell each of them with his commitment. In fact, he had to be fully aware of how entirely ridiculous he looked dressed as Bill’s mother in a body-hugging pink latex dress, stilettos, blonde wig, and fake eyelashes – all with his chest hair curling outward – and yet Davis offered a 500% commitment to his role that makes for a fairly moving scene between “mother” and “child.” Plus, that pink lipstick is totally his shade!
Unfortunately, Davis’ stellar performances and Long’s solid victimhood cannot, on their own, save this Titanic of a production. At twenty minutes into this tale, the story already feels predictable and, ultimately, just plain boring – and that leaves viewers to practice a game of futility in surviving the remaining hour of runtime.
Sadly, the ludicrous idea of a clown who beheads his victims with a blowtorch does not, in this instance, make for a great Horror flick. Yes, there is some gruesome flesh-sewing, some bashed in teeth – along with a twist ending that you will see 100 miles off – but no amount of gore can save The Basement from being about as exciting as, well, a basement. For these reasons, CrypticRock give The Basement 3 of 5 stars.