Don't Look In The Basement (1973)

DVD Cover (Image Entertainment)
S.F. Brownrigg S.F. Brownrigg
Bill McGhee Bill McGhee
Jessie Lee Fulton Jessie Lee Fulton
Robert Dracup Robert Dracup
Harryette Warren Harryette Warren
Michael Harvey Michael Harvey

4.7 / 10 - Overall Rating

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Genres: Horror, Slasher Film, Thriller
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Review by Chad
Added: September 12, 2007
There was an episode of Tales From the Crypt that I saw for the first time when I picked up that particular season on DVD (I forget which season it was on and I wouldn't spoil it anyway) that really struck a chord with me: that episode was everything that Tales should be. It had an original storyline, great characters, and a twist ending that genuinely shocked the audience and made perfect sense in the end. When I heard that this episode borrowed heavily from a little video nasty known as Don't Look in the Basement (which borrowed from the original Tales comics, but I digress), I just had to pick it up and see how the two compared. The verdict? As the judge in this film would say, "Guilty!"

In one of the opening scenes of the film, we find ourselves at a remote sanitarium where a doctor is attempting to treat his patient by allowing him to chop a block of wood with an ax. How this helps the mentally ill is beyond me, but then again, I'm not exactly a doctor either. Anyway, the ax eventually finds itself buried in the good doctor's skull, and it doesn't take long before a new doctor takes over the house and the patients within. Dr. Geraldine Masters (Annabelle Weenick) is the new caretaker of this dysfunctional little family of loonies, and she promises to make some radical changes with how they're treated. This brings us to nurse Charlotte Beale (Rosie Holotik), a young lady who had been hired by the now-deceased doctor before his untimely death, and she almost immediately notices that something is a little off in this house: the patients are allowed to freely roam about the premises, the treatments are a little bizarre, and the new doctor of the house isn't exactly the definition of niceness. That's all fine and dandy, but when people start dying, Charlotte realizes that something is genuinely wrong here, and not everyone is who they claim to be...

I mentioned the Tales From the Crypt episode up above so that I could compare the two "formats" upon which these two stories were told. You see, the episode of Tales worked perfectly because the storyline fit so well with the format of the show: the director had a little less than thirty minutes to tell the story, and truthfully, that's about all that he needed. Here, the director has about ninety minutes to kill with what is basically the same storyline, and let me assure you that there is a lot of padding and a lot of fluff to be found here. As this film proves, there are some stories that simply don't work outside of the short story / film format, and the result was a film that I really wished that I hadn't wasted my time with.

Well, perhaps that's a little harsh; after all, the film wasn't a complete bust, but it's certainly not something that I could recommend to anyone either. I really enjoyed the base storyline that was presented here, but as mentioned, I felt that it was done a lot better in that Tales episode and I also felt that the amount of padding ruined the overall product. We get that this is an asylum and most of the people contained within are batshit insane, so why did we have to keep watching scene after scene that does nothing but reaffirm this fact?

However, I have to admit that the actors playing these parts did a damned good job with keeping it as entertaining as possible given the circumstances. Rosie Holotik was pretty good in the leading role, and although I wouldn't call her performance a work of art or award-winning, it was much better than one normally associates with this sort of film - especially when you consider that her appearance in Playboy was what led to her acting career. The real scene-stealer, however, was Bill McGhee as Sam. Sam is a big ol' boy that happens to have the mind of a child due to a failed lobotomy, and he played this role to perfection. I'm actually pretty shocked that McGhee didn't get more work than what he did; again, he's not an award-winning actor, but he's the type of guy that I could see appearing in countless low-budget horror flicks (and that's not an insult).

Unfortunately, two good performances and a storyline that holds potential isn't enough for a recommendation. Give it a shot if you pick up one of the countless "three billion movies for ten bucks" DVD sets that it appears on, but only do so after you've watched most of the better titles in said set. 4/10.
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bluemeanie #1: bluemeanie - added 09/13/2007, 07:27 PM
This one's a classic. Not an amazing one, but a classic nevertheless. I was hearing things about this film when I first got into films, purchased it based on all the hype and was extremely disappointed. Interesting story and I would love to see it remade, but the original is very lacking. 5/10.
Ginose #2: Ginose - added 09/13/2007, 07:31 PM
A remake? You too? A friend and me wer just collaborating on a script for a remake... weird, huh?
Tristan #3: Tristan - added 10/29/2009, 10:23 PM
I'm sure it'll make you a fortune.

This film could have been decent...had something actually happened. There were just too many scenes thrown in that didn't move the story along at all. Surprisingly the acting was pretty damn decent, and aside from a lot of padding, the story was pretty solid. Not the greatest thing ever made, but certainly eons better than I expected it to be.

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