Studio: Breaking Glass Pictures
Director: Laszlo Illes, Zoltan Vozo Vegh
Writer: Laszlo Krisztian Gera, Laszlo Illes
Producer: Laszlo Illes, Roy McClurg
Stars: Caroline Boulton, Gergo Szeker, Zalan Takacs, Marina Gera, Tom Nguyen, Sherin Bors, Shawn Clankie, Richard Rifkin
After a supernatural séance goes awry, several friends end up pursued by a masked maniac in a basement beneath Budapest.
There are movies that are so bad, they’re good. Then there are movies that are so subtly bizarre, they are still bad, yet weirdly fascinating to watch out of confounded curiosity.
That describes “The Basement,” a 2017 micro horror movie not to be mistaken for the Mischa Barton thriller with the same title and release year. We’re not talking cult classic catastrophe like “The Room” or “The Evil Within” (review here). “The Basement” isn’t unique or outrageous enough for such status. But its misconceived construction and floundering execution make the movie something you almost have to see in order to fully grasp its muted kookiness. That doesn’t mean you should.
Hailing from Hungary and featuring a multicultural cast, dodgy English is the least cumbersome issue. What really ends up lost in translation is the film’s entire cinematic language for sensibly spinning a scary story.
“The Basement” sets itself up as though it is going to be a routine “found footage” paranormal investigation. A mildly obnoxious Youtuber of some sort takes a woman and his cameraman into a reportedly haunted Budapest basement spanning an entire city block. All three are slaughtered offscreen in short order, blood that looks like pink Gogurt squeezed from a melting pouch drips down a door, and front credits roll with only four minutes taken off the clock.
The “found footage” frame takes a break, kind of, when “The Basement” shifts swiftly into a supernatural haunter gear. Occasional cuts to a first-person camera nevertheless continue for no real reason throughout the movie. “The Basement” may know it has no narrative need for erratically included “found footage” following the prelude, yet can’t quite bring itself to chuck the format.
Also for no real reason, other than boredom after cops break up their house party, six friends including an unnamed man masquerading as a horse stage an impromptu séance. Things don’t go smoothly of course, though as far as horror film fates go when “the other side” is contacted, everyone here gets off comparatively easy. The worst thing that happens is “Horse-Masked Guy,” which is how he is listed in the cast list, wanders off to parts unknown with someone’s pet cat.
This action inspires an ill-advised idea that the best place to look for the faux horse and real cat is the creepy basement beneath the building. Shortly after making this move, “The Basement” goes into straight-up slasher mode as the friends find themselves trapped underground while stalked by a murderous madwoman in a broken mannequin mask.
Maybe the séance summoned a monster. Maybe the masked maniac always lurks in this subterranean cellar. One thing is for certain, “The Basement” can’t figure out which direction it wants, taking turns so suddenly that the film spins itself dizzy with kitchen sink inclusions and stylistic indecision.
Less than a half hour in, actual plot development essentially evaporates. “The Basement” basically becomes a 60-minute sprint of five people navigating concrete hallways with a deranged killer in hot pursuit. There’s no real story moving anywhere meaningful by this point. It’s a lot of flashlights illuminating dirty doll parts, inconsequential arguing that is sometimes in Hungarian, and willy-nilly wackiness infecting every aspect of the production.
It doesn’t appear as though the directors realized their movie has no control over its tone. Character behaviors abruptly change course from exasperated panic to jokey cheerfulness at a finger snap. Dramatic music suddenly drowns out hammy acting in moments so overinflated they nearly sail away into the sun. From the Hungarian Jonah Hill putting a knife to his pal’s throat out of frustration to a ludicrous last-minute reveal dealt from the bottom of a tired trope deck, “The Basement” makes a mess out of itself and never even notices.
You’ll certainly notice, however. Come at “The Basement” with some of that previously referenced curiosity and there may be mild entertainment in amusedly admiring its quirkiness. Should you only see shortsighted shortfalls for what they are, you won’t only wonder what went through the heads of the filmmakers while they made the movie, you’ll wonder what you were thinking when you chose to watch it.
Review Score: 35