The Basement Movie Review
Written by Stuart D. Monroe
Released by Uncork'd Entertainment
Directed by Brian M. Conley and Nathan Ives
Written by Brian M. Conley, Nathan Ives, and Sean Decker
2018, 85 minutes, Not Rated
Released on September 14th, 2018t
Mischa Barton as Kelly Owen
Cayleb Long as Craig Owen
Tracie Thoms as Lauren
Jackson Davis as Bill Anderson
Bailey Anne Borders as Bianca
Kidnapping, torture, and psychology go together like bourbon, scotch, and beer. It may be a bit of a trope, but I prefer to think that the ideas you see repeatedly are seen that many times for a reason. Granted, that all comes down to your outlook—cynical and jaded or understanding and optimistic. Me? I prefer the latter. I love horror and all the rehashed story lines that it encompasses, so I take it with the proverbial grain of salt. The important thing for a film that’s “been done before” is to do it in a way that uses a fresh take and has strong leads. Fortunately for me (and you), The Basement meets those criteria (with a catch).
The Basement starts by giving us Craig Owen (Cayleb Long, Ascent to Hell), a rock star guitarist living in Los Angeles who goes out to the corner store for a bottle of hooch. While there he receives a quick text from his mistress that he deletes. Before he can even get back into his Lamborghini he’s dragged into a seedy van that advertises “Baylee the Clown…Children’s Parties and Events”. Craig awakens to find himself tied to an old school desk in a dirty basement. He soon meets Baylee the Clown, Dr. Jack Goodman, and a host of other personalities, but they’re all really Bill Anderson, a.k.a. The Gemini Killer (Jackson Davis, NBC’s Days of Our Lives). What follows is a cat and mouse game of reverse psychology as Bill turns the tables on Craig with role reversal, doling out clues as to his motivations and history. All the while, Craig’s distraught wife, Kelly (Mischa Barton, The O.C.), is trying to find her husband with the help of her friend, Bianca (Bailey Anne Borders, The Ice Cream Truck), who happens to Craig’s side-piece.
The psychology, while it does take a bit to find its legs and hit full stride, is well-crafted and performed with some real skill and subtle nuances. Bill and Craig work very well together, and the basement scenes are (as you would expect given the title) the highlight of the film. There’s a fully developed backstory laid out for the deranged Bill that lends a surprising amount of sympathy to the serial killer. The order the reveals are presented in also works in its favor. You need strong leads for what is essentially a two-man show. Cayleb Long and Jackson Davis make the most of it. Hopefully this will lead to some larger roles as both show some chops.
The torture scenes (especially the finale) are done with a well-budgeted blend of effective camera work and solid SFX. There’s a little something for all the gorehounds out there—teeth terror, minor amputations, flesh-carving, and anatomical alteration with a blowtorch. The cringes induced were genuine. The cinematography is also on-point with excellent use of light and shadow in the basement scenes and well-lit splendor in the Owens’ palatial mansion that feels very L.A.
The catch I mentioned earlier? Surprisingly, it comes in the form of the two “name” actors—Mischa Barton and Tracie Thoms (The Devil Wears Prada, Rent, Death Proof). I will admit that I didn’t watch The O.C. (by choice), so I’m not familiar with Barton’s work. However, she is so damn wooden in this! Her dry-as-a-cheap-chardonnay delivery and blank expression sucks the chemistry out of her scenes, which have a serious dampening effect on a well-written and presented twist on the ending. As for Thoms, her appearance is practically a cameo.
Movies that advertise the “names” at top bill when they are hardly on screen really piss me off, especially when the lesser-knowns knock it out of the park and carry the movie. Okay, rant over.
Overall, The Basement is definitely worth a good, hard view. With solid psychology, inspired performances, and an L.A. look, there isn’t much to hate on in this one. Just look past Barton’s mail-it-in performance.
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