In the opening scene of The Basement, a horror film that opens on Friday at Tower City Cinemas and also arrives on VOD that same day, a guy wields a blow torch while a topless woman screams while strapped to a chair. It's a gruesome start to a movie that aspires to be a cult classic but falls woefully short of the mark, even if that initial scene does make you want to see how things got to that gruesome point.
After the shock and awe of the opening, the filmmakers subsequently dial things back in the next scene that finds a yuppie couple speaking sweet nothings to each other before hubby Craig (Cayleb Long) gives his wife Kelly (Mischa Barton) a quick kiss and zips off to the convenience store in his sports car. While there, he begins texting the woman with whom he's been having an affair, and before they can rendezvous, a half-crazed clown (Jackson Davis) abducts him and ties him up in a dark warehouse. And thus, the torture, both psychological and physical, begins.
Preposterous even by horror standards, The Basement resorts to rudimentary suspense as it concentrates on the role-playing that takes place after Craig is captured, and the clown takes on the personalities of everyone from a prison warden to a concerned mother to a priest.
The abrupt change in tone is jarring as Craig admits he doesn't really know who he is and feels "lost," as he puts it in a tear-filled testimony. "I'm not perfect, but I'm a good man," he says as he begs for his life from the psychotic killer who admits he was once kidnapped himself and seeks to recreate the traumatic experience with Craig. The gore returns in the film's penultimate scene, again signalling another abrupt shift in tone (and at one point, things go completely overboard).
Better actors might've elevated the pedantic script, but the cast here simply isn't up to the task. Even though she's potentially the story's true villain, Kelly plays such a minimal part in the proceedings, you wonder why she's even in the movie.
One publication declares the film features "stellar lead performances," but the back and forth that takes place between Long and Davis isn't anywhere close to being on the level of something like Silence of the Lambs or Funny Games.