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Shriekfest Review: ‘The Basement’ a Simple, Effective Thriller

As the theater darkened to the world premiere of The Basement at the 17 Annual Shriekfest film festival, I had no idea what I was in store for except the brief summary in the program that read: “A seemingly innocent man is abducted by a notorious L.A. serial killer, who forces his victims to switch roles with him so that he can enact his own capture, torture and murder.” While the tagline in the program isn’t wrong, I was expecting something different, but the film delivered a much more interesting, chilling sequence of events.

Cayleb Long (The App, Ascent to Hell) plays musician Craig Owen, at the height of a career that has brought riches that he shares with his wife Kelly: played by headliner, Mischa Barton (The Sixth Sense, L.A. Slasher).

Craig (Long) is abducted and wakes to finds himself in the basement of Bill Anderson also known as the Gemini Killer, played by Jackson Davis (Palm Swings, Perfection). What follows is a strange journey as Anderson (Davis) assumes the personalities of people in a fantasy where Craig is forced to role play a scenario where he is caught and goes on trial for the Gemini murders.

Aside from just a handful of scenes, the film almost exclusively takes place in the basement of a San Fernando Valley house, and Jackson Davis is captivating, as he plays the roles of the officer who “arrests” Long’s character, to the Killer’s remorseful Mother.

The film has hints of Silence of the Lambs, Saw, and Split wrapped up in a low budget feature, but that low budget tag shouldn’t scare away viewers as the Davis is fascinating to watch as he changes characters and each time the door to the basement opens brings a new character and new dread.

Writers and directors Brain M. Conley and Nathan Ives have really brought something special to the screen and to low budget horror. Kenneth Stipe’s Cinematography was well done capturing each moment and character well, even though it takes place on one set. I also have to give kudos to the Special Effects and Make up departments; there were scenes that were delightfully hard to watch, and everyone who came out of the theater was talking about that “Teeth scene.”

My one criticism is, there’s a twist in the film which seemed unnecessary and while it was justified and explained, I felt the film would have been stronger going a different route. This is not to say the film isn’t worth watching, it is; however to go into it any further would spoil too much and I’m not willing to do that here.

Overall, this is an enjoyable ride, and it shows what some creativity, good actors and one set can provide. Again, the real treat is watching Davis transform into each character, seeing Long try different techniques to try to appeal to the Killer’s humanity and Barton frantically try to search for her missing husband.

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