If you’re wondering where all the ‘torture porn’ went, The Basement has you covered. The directing team of Brian Conley and Nathan Ives offer up a seemingly sympathetic victim and a bat-shit crazy kidnapper. In Conley’s first directorial effort, and Ives’ first foray into the horror genre, the pair wind the audience through some interesting twists in, more-or-less, a single-set film that largely plays out in, you guessed it, a basement.
Not to be confused with 2015 and 2017 films of the same name, The Basement stars Jackson Davis (Deserted), Cayleb Long (Ascent to Hell), and Mischa Barton (The Sixth Sense, The OC). The film kicks off, fairly quickly, when Bill (Davis) kidnaps Craig (Long) outside an urban convenience store. Meanwhile, Craig’s wife, Kelly (Barton) tries to track him down and becomes increasingly suspicious of Craig’s activities.
Of the cast, the film really only affords Davis an opportunity to shine as the mentally disturbed villain. The villain, Bill, acts out a bizarre capture scenario where he pretends to have been captured by the police. Referring to the victim–Craig–as ‘Bill,’ the real Bill, acts out a troupe of ‘characters.’ Don’t worry. It’s not as confusing as it sounds. The arresting officer, a detective, a prison cell-mate, a prison doctor, a priest, and even Bill’s own parents are among the characters Bill portrays to torture Craig. Meanwhile, the film wastes Barton in a role that, while pivotal, offers her little screen time and no character development.
Ultimately, Davis takes a drastically different approach from a performance like James McAvoy in Split. Eschewing the sinisterly subtly of McAvoy, Davis opts for an over-the-top stage actor approach which better fits his character(s). It’s unfortunate, and unfair, to even make the comparison due to the drastically different nature of the two films. Instead, the physical and mental torture takes center stage, as Craig tries desperately to find a way to relate to, and escape, his captor.
Ultimately, the best thing about The Basement, and the main reason to watch, is the gore. The torture imparted by Bill is brutal and unforgiving. Conley and Ives make great use of their practical effects team to visit a bevy of horrors upon Craig throughout his capture. These expertly crafted effects elevate an otherwise mediocre film, culminating in a disgustingly twisted climax that pushes the boundaries of the budgetary limits and good taste. Ultimately, the finale’s CGI arguably flew too close to the sun, but the result is excusable in service of the delightfully grotesque.
Without spoiling the twists (and there are several), it suffices to say that not everyone is what they seem. The story is paced well throughout, and the exposition, while clunky, is mercifully brief. However, most amazing of all, the film sticks the landing perfectly, and then inexplicably steps out for no reason. Rather than smash cut to credits, the film continues with an exposition dump flashback. Nothing in the final scene adds to the viewer’s knowledge, and sucks all the air out of the whammy twist served only seconds before. Cutting to credits about 3 minutes earlier would end on the gut punch and make for a more powerful film.
Overall, however, gore hounds in the mood for a solid torture porn with practical effects should definitely check it out. The Basement will be released in theaters and VOD on September 14th.
Should You Enter ‘The Basement’? [Review]