Saturday, February 11, 2017
Don't Look In The Basement (1973)
DIRECTOR: S.F. Brownrigg
WRITER: Tim Pope
Jessie Lee Fulton
When Dr. Stephens is murdered by one of his patients at the mental institution that he is in charge of. He was in the process of hiring a new psychiatric nurse to assist him. When she soon arrives after his passing, she discovers that something is not right with the asylum. While trying to help the patients, she is put through varying degrees of torment by the very people she is trying to help. Little does she realise that someone is also murdering the patients.
Don't Look In The Basement which is also known as The Forgotten is a movie that I had never heard of when I was compiling my list for my slasher retrospective. I had no idea if it was even a slasher when I had added it to the list of films I must watch as a part of the retrospective. I've found that when I've added a few of the movies to the list, they haven't turned out to be very-slasher like. So reading comments about this film, I was a little worried going in that I would watch this and it wouldn't be a slasher film.
Researching the film after I got a chance to watch it. I had no idea this movie was on the Video Nasties list. One of 72 films to join the infamous list of films that the BBFC had stated it violated the Obscene Publications Act. I also found out that while doing research that in the early seventies, this movie had played at drive-ins on a double bill of Wes Craven's infamous The Last House On The left. If you look at some of the posters for the film, it has the same tagline and poster design as that film.
After watching the film, this definitely has several elements of the slasher genre. It has a killer who is picking off patients one at a time, the plot also plays like a sort of whodunnit mystery, and the ending has the big killer reveal. This film, however, is set within a mental asylum and that's where this film plays very differently for the first hour of the film. I think this is a movie that a lot of people will either turn off or not stick around for as this is very slow burn in its approach to the storytelling.
This movie spends a vast majority of its running time introducing us to and asking the audience to go along and watch a bunch of unsavoury characters who are the patients in this mental asylum. I found this part of the movie to be a real trial to get through. While I enjoyed the fact that this is an asylum that doesn't lock up any of the patients and lets them simply roam the corridors, the characters were just hard to tolerate at times as they ranged from disturbed to downright crazy and a lot of these scenes played quite cheap.
Having the patients being able to just move around this asylum at their own free will and letting them act out all their craziness was an okay idea for the simple fact that being crazy, everybody is a suspect and anyone could be the killer. It gave this film a sense of uneasiness as the two female nurses are the only ones on duty and they are trying to keep all the patients under control. This feeds quite well into the whodunnit side of the plot. It keeps you guessing until the film starts getting messy and bloody in the third act.
Where the film does get a few points is that it delivers a pretty clever twist. It's the sort of twist that if done today, I could imagine that M. Night Shyamalan would've probably come up with it. It's a pretty nice reveal, and back in the seventies, it may have even been a solid gut punch. I think the twist is a moment in this film that sort of elevates and holds the movie up. Had this film ended any other way, it may have been a complete disaster and a waste of time. I wouldn't have gifted this film a five, that would've been way too high without this twist.
The acting in Don't Look In The Basement is very hit and miss. I am only going to mention the ones that I really enjoyed. The standout performances are delivered by Annabelle Weenick and Bill McGhee. For the entire cast, a lot of the supporting cast and their characters playing mental patients come across as pretty annoying. The saving graces are Bill McGhee and Annabelle Weenick who both deliver frantic and frenzied performances.
When it comes to gore and bloodshed in Don't Look In The Basement, it actually has a lot of substantial carnage in the third act. We have an excellent scene that involves a female patient's head being slammed down on a metal skewer with gory results or one of the leading characters who is hacked up by an axe by a group of patients. This scene is bloody, and the screams will chill you to the bone. While the scene is called for, I can understand this would have messed up audience members of the film back in the early seventies.
DEATH TOLL: 12
BLOOD AND GORE:
- Someone has their throat slashed.
- Someone's head is bashed in with a toy boat.
- A man is hit in the neck with an axe.
- A nurse is killed by a patient.
- Several patients are killed with an axe.
- Someone's face gets pushed onto a metal skewer.
- A nurse is repeatedly hit with axes by a group of patients.
- Someone's tongue is cut out.
Don't Look In The Basement is a film that missed the mark for me. The first hour of this film is incredibly dull if I'm completely honest. The movie spends a lot of time introducing us to the characters of a mental institution. A lot of the characters are quite annoying and not very likable. It becomes tough to tolerate these characters. Where the film does go right is a bloody and violent third act and a nice twist that would've played well back in the seventies. For being on the Video Nasties list, it deserves a watch for that alone.