Every now and then a movie comes along with a premise that makes you intrigued to see it, not just because of the concept but you wonder how that could possibly work.
The Basement was one of those movies for me. Here is the summery listed on IMDB: “a seemingly innocent man is abducted by a notorious L.A. serial killer who forces his victims to switch roles with him so he can enact his own capture, torture and murder”.
Immediately, those words sent questions bouncing around in my head. Such as, how does a killer force a victim to “switch roles” with him? I pictured the wrong way it could go down, “here buddy, take this knife and tie me up real good…. make it real convincing. Here’s your motivation.”
Thankfully The Basement was not like that at all. Perhaps the tag line they gave the movie is a better representation, “Two men. Twelve Personalities. One living hell.”
The majority of this story is watching Cayleb Long (“Happy Baby”, “The App”) as Craig, the man who was taken and tied up in The Basement by Bill, a serial killer making headlines for decapitating his victims with a blow torch. That is an original way to commit murder, I’ll give him that.
Another unique element is that Bill, the killer, has multiple personality disorder. So the nature of this switching places with his victims is Bill putting on a one man show as a large cast of characters that affected his life. People like his parents, a violent cellmate, his defence attorney and so on.
All the while, physical torture is inflicted on Craig and he plays along opposite Bill in the hopes of getting out of that night alive.
There are a few movies with the title The Basement, so to be clear, this is the 2018 film co-directed by Brian M. Conley and Nathan Ives. The pair are also producers and co-writers of the script, with additional writing by Sean Decker (“Abducted”).
For Conley, this is a promising debut feature as a writer/director. Nathan Ives, on the other hand made a lateral move, he is best known for making comedies and the romantic anthology movie A Christmas in New York. Not exactly a smooth transition into blow torch decapitation, and yet Conely and Ives deliver the horror genre goods.
The tension builds and, by the end, the story takes an unexpected turn. While the scenes play out in Bill’s basement, we see how Craig’s wife Kelly, played by Misha Barton (“The O.C. (TV)”, “The Sixth Sense”) deals with the situation of her husband being missing.
This secondary story served as a good reprieve from the main narrative and it all comes together nicely. There is strong acting all around in The Basement, with a cast that also includes Bailey Anne Borders (“The 5th Wave“, “Raze”) and Tracie Thoms (“Death Proof”, “The Devil Wears Prada”).
What The Basement explores more deeply than many other serial killer movies is the background of the killer and the psychological affects it had on them. By making Bill a character who compulsively re-enacts these traumatic events, it takes this approach in a way that is both cinematic and compelling.
It begs one to ask, how would you handle this unthinkable scenario, a serial killer making you try to feel what they have felt, see what they have seen?
Great care was taken into making this serial Killer a fleshed out character. Bill, is known in the media as The Gemini, we see that Bill has a tattoo of the Gemini astrological sign on his arm. It looks like a Roman numeral two (II) but with a curved top and bottom.
This distinguishing mark from Greek mythology is also a clever reference to the duality of the killer with multiple personalities. The day job Bill has is also a nice touch, something I do not want to spoil for you here.
The behavior of the characters are well thought out, after the full thread of the story is revealed to you some scenes will take on a different meaning. These are the kind of things I crave for in thriller or Horror films, so I appreciate that the filmmakers behind The Basement aspired for more than just the basic demands on the genre.
Visually, The Basement is of high quality. The lighting is thematic and the camera work is dramatic without being over-stylized. One great shot involves the snorricam, this is a technique popularized by Filmmaker Darren Aronofsky and his frequent DP Matthew Libatique, in which a camera is attached to an actor while they are in motion.
With a total run time of 1 hour and 29 minutes, those minutes will be well spent for horror fans. You will not have to wait long to see it, Uncork’d Entertainment will open The Basement with a 10 market theatrical and digital release on September 15, 2018.
Curt Wiser is the Writer/Director of the suspense feature Cam-Girl. As a filmmaker he is happy to give a kind word about other films and share them with the rest of the world. He tries to maintain one personality while doing it.