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Thursday, July 28, 2011

Don't Look in the Basement (1973)


Sometimes, I come across a movie that I'm not sure HOW I feel about it.  Part of me enjoys a film, while another part KNOWS that the film is just bad.

Charlotte arrives at the Stephens Sanitarium shortly after Dr. Stephens suffers an accident at the hands of an axe wielding patient.  The assistant director of the facility briefs Charlotte on her duties, and the patients.  Soon, however, Charlotte realizes that her life is in danger... and not just from the patients...

"Don't Look in the Basement" was originally a drive-in movie shown as part of a double bill with Wes Craven's "Last House on the Left"- sharing the tagline:

"To avoid fainting, keep repeating to yourself: 'It's only a movie.. it's only a movie.. it's only a movie..."
This movie is bad.  Really bad.  But fun at the same time... IF you're in the right frame of mind.

The acting is pretty atrocious- but then again, I'd find it hard to make the dialogue sound natural and scarey.  I did find it bad enough to be funny, albeit unintentionally funny.  William McGhee, as Sam, was the best of the lot- though I also thought Rhea MacAdams' turn as Mrs Callingham was pretty good.  The others were just over the top in their performances- almost like stereotypes of insane people.  I'll admit that I also enjoyed Rosie Holotik as Nurse Charlotte Beale- she was somewhat believable as a nurse, and nice to look at as well.  I think alot of it had to do with her eyes... they expressed fear quite well, actually.  Annabelle Weenick, as Dr. Masters was pretty good too, up until the "surprise twist"- then she was a little over the top.

While the acting may have been laughable, the gore was not.  There was some decently done grue in this film, but rather than having it spread evenly throughout the film, it pretty much comes all in one quick rampage at the end.  The two early kills- and their effects were well done as well.

I was surprised by the starkness of the sets.  It's almost barren and minimalist in nature, which I actually liked.  It was like watching a play almost.

The story wasn't bad, and had a lot of potential to it.  The main problem was a lack of focus, I think.  Rather than building suspense by having things happening to Charlotte, the scenes tried to make us uncomfortable by focusing on the patients jabbering and interacting with each other.  It just kinda wandered around for the majority of the movie.

Despite all the serious flaws in "Don't Look in the Basement," I still had fun watching it- even if it probably wasn't the sort of fun the film crew had intended.  Because of that, this movie falls just short of being part of "The Bad".. and sits in "The Ugly"

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