12th Sep2018

‘The Basement’ Review

by Phil Wheat

Stars: Mischa Barton, Tracie Thoms, Bailey Anne Borders, Jackson Davis, Maria Volk, Kareem J. Grimes, Jessica Sonneborn, Sarah Nicklin, Pamela Wistrom, Cayleb Long, Christa Conley | Written by Brian M. Conley, Nathan Ives, Sean Decker | Directed by Brian M. Conley, Nathan Ives

BASEMENT-KEY-ART-FLAT

Actress Mischa Barton, once beloved on TV’s The O.C., became something of a cause célèbre as her star fell following a number of personal problems -  in much the same way as Lindsay Lohan did following her meteoric rise to fame – has recently carved out solid career in independent genre cinema after falling out of favour with the Hollywood mainstream. In fact, starting with her lead role in 2009′s Walled In, Barton has become something of a staple of indie horror: this year alone she’s credited as appearing in four horror films including this, her latest, The Basement - which has one hell of an intriguing premise…

The Basement sees Barton’s husband Craig (played by Cayleb Long) abducted in a parking lot after buying some booze at a local supermarket. Waking up in a dank, dark basement, Craig faces the oddest of captors.  You see Bill (Jackson Davis) is a twisted serial killer who wishes to reenact his own capture, with Craig playing the part of Bill and Bill playing everyone else. As Bill tortures Craig, he cycles through a number of personas, all while Craig tries desperately to find a way into Bill’s pathology in order to save himself. Told you the story was intriguing.

Essentially a two-man play, The Basement is an example of how you make a creepy, bizarre horror movie on a low-budget: minimal settings, a small but well-chosen cast and a set-up that allows your two leads to put on tour-de-force performances is all you need to make what is very much a direct-to-market riff on M. Night Shyamalan’s Split. And one that features a central performance, from Jackson Davis, that’s easily as good as James McAvoy’s.

Bill’s personas have very distinct personalities, each very different from the other, and Davis’ performance captures that brilliantly – even when said personas are, in appearance, very similar. There are small touches to Davis’ take on each persona that really help elevate what is something of a gimmick to awhole new level. It helps that Bill’s personas appearance in a particular sequence, each new personality telling the next part of Bill’s tale, helping to create a well-rounded character and story. Plus Davis has a great foil in actor Cayleb Long who, as the film progresses, really tries to match Davis pound-for-pound, giving more and more to his performance as each “Bill” appears before him. So much do that by the time the films stunning denouement happens, you really feel for the captive Craig.

Speaking of denouemnent. Wow. Just wow. The Basement has some gory set pieces but I doubt ANYONE would expect what ultimately happens to Craig… Or his captor. Or Craig’s wife.

A fantastic, grisly, look into the mind of a serial killer, his psyche and his family,The Basement is on limited release across the US now and comes to VOD on September 14th.

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