Don’t Look in the Cellar (Dennis Devine, 2008)
I have long been a fan of crappy direct-to-video horror films. I hit puberty just about the time that the home video revolution was just getting into full swing, so I was part of that first generation to be exposed to the DTV craze; as long as I’ve had a machine in my house to play movies on, I’ve been watching no-budget crapola that someone threw together for ten bucks, paying their actors in beer. Or, to put it another way, ever since I started watching movies as more than a casual fan of the medium, I’ve been convinced that I’ve seen pretty much everything when it comes to bad horror. And yet, somehow, there’s always something that comes along, snickers at me, and says “you ain’t seen nothin’ yet.” The most recent film to violate the darkest corners of my bottom-feeding mind: Don’t Look in the Cellar.
Dennis Devine’s idiotic attempt at…what emotion is it that movies like this aim to evoke in the viewer? It’s certainly not terror…has an extra odor to it thanks to its name so closely echoing 1973’s Don’t Look in the Basement that when I added it to my Netflix queue, I half-assumed it was a remake. If you turn your head and squint correctly, you might be able to consider it a sequel. Well, they both deal with a supposedly-haunted asylum, anyway. In this case, the “haunting” is done by Smiley (The Ghastly Love of Johnny X‘s Jed Rowen), who is still living in the asylum years after its abandonment. (Oddly, I’ve seen at least four movies in recent memory featuring someone hanging around an asylum long after it closed, including the documentary Cropsey.) The usual pack of young-and-beautifuls who decide to spend a Halloween night in said asylum, after being offered extra credit by one of their teachers, have no idea Smiley is still there—but they find out soon enough, one by one.
Sound familiar? It should, you’ve seen it all too many times. Devine does nothing to make it in any way original. Strike one. This is a cast who, if they were paid in beer, got far too much for the work they turned in. Strike two. And then it’s all topped off with a “twist” ending so ridiculous you won’t believe yet another Z-grade horror director has attempted to make it work. That it fails should not be any sort of surprise. Strike three—you’re out. ½