don't look in the cellar poster

John Clements is another Horrornews buddy of mine. Over there, he writes book reviews – some well-known, others published limitedly – but he takes time with all of them. He’s also got his own horror review blog, AEHorror, where he covers all kinds of movies. Unfortunately for John, his participation in this year’s Halloween Fifteen is marred by the terrible film that is Don’t Look in the Cellar. John takes a peek below, and probably wishes he hadn’t.

John’s take

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A haunted asylum, an escaped patient who’s a killer, young and horny college students looking for a good time having a costume party in said asylum, a witness to the original murders that caused the asylum’s closure in the first place, and a dark & dirty cellar. On the surface it sounds just like everything you could ever ask for in a good horror film.

Unfortunately all the asking in the world won’t turn 2008’s “Don’t Look In The Cellar” into that particular good horror film.

If you are good at taking things for granted, then maybe this will work for you. For instance if you take for granted that the ‘asylum’ is really your grandparents’ old house, or that the padded rooms are really just bedrooms with fake padding put in, or even so far that the few patients still left in the old ‘asylum’ aren’t actually stuck there, they can walk outside and leave if they want, they just choose not to, then it might work for you. It didn’t for me though.

Now past the glaring plot holes, horrible acting, complete lack of nudity (yes, really), and relatively lackluster death scenes, I guess there are a few points to be made that give this film a more than zero rating.

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For one, Randal Malone. For two…ok, well maybe Randal is it. Randal’s performance is far from stellar, but in comparison to every other aspect of this film he is the one shining star. From complaining about being the only one who’s going to clean up the killer’s many messes, to warning the students they should never go into the cellar, to preferring to stand upright in the corner of his asylum room (which is never locked, incidentally) instead of escaping, his quirkiness saves the entire show. He is ever related to the killer! Seriously, how can you find a better character? Just watch the film, you’ll be agreeing with me within the first five minutes of it, guaranteed.

By the end of the film it’s probably quite easy to say you’ve seen far worse films (“Bloodthirst 2: Revenge of the Chupacabras” comes to mind) but I definitely don’t see any self-respecting horror fan saying this is the anywhere near admissible in their list of favorites in the haunted house/asylum sub-genre.

The Moon is a Dead World’s take

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If Don’t Look in the Cellar actually came as a DVD (and I really feel sorry for any unknowing schlub who would purchase that DVD), the title would work better if it were Don’t Look in This Box. Don’t Look in the Cellar is such a low-budget film, with a cast of actors who clearly have little to no acting experience, that it seems an undergrad film student pulled all of his classmates together, adapted someone’s fan-fiction slasher script, and then grabbed two cameras of different qualities to shoot a movie that doesn’t make any sense, and won’t be entertaining for anyone.

Those are harsh words, I know, and to be honest with you, Don’t Look in the Cellar is one of the better no-budget films I’ve seen. That doesn’t mean it’s good at all. I don’t mind when these movies look homemade; I don’t mind that the actors aren’t the best with their deliveries; I don’t even care if the film uses a nu-metal soundtrack, because money isn’t everything. But the one thing that really gripes me is when a film just doesn’t make any sense. Don’t Look in the Cellar is like that. Nothing about its plot makes a lick of sense. But at least it’s set on Halloween – sort of.

In the opening of the film, we’re treated to a couple of naughty nurses who, on a sorority dare, decide to head to their local asylum to get a lock of an inmate’s hair. This asylum is quite obviously somebody’s crappy house (with a cat tree, in case the inmates like to scratch), and it’s guarded by exactly nobody. The girls break in, they find a “padded” room – meaning sheets stapled to the wall – and quickly learn that they should not, under any circumstances, go into the cellar. Cue music – not the spooky stuff, but the Benny Hill theme.

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Later on – ten years later, to be exact, because this film works on a timeline that’s nicely rounded to the tens – a bunch of college kids decide they want to do their final project for a class at the asylum. The professor is the same girl who was stabbed those years ago in the asylum, although she miraculously survived along with her friend Cheryl (Shevaun Kastl). Why she would think it a good idea to send her students back there – why she would make a good professor to begin with – is a question that plagues the film from the beginning.

But the best part of Don’t Look in the Cellar? The bathing suits. There are, like, seven or eight chicks in this film, and all of them find themselves in some sort of undress, although there’s never any legit nudity here. It’s almost like a tease for the audience, and it’s pretty obvious that director Dennis Devine was looking for places where he could throw in boobies.

All of these kids head to the asylum on Halloween, but you wouldn’t know it was Halloween except for the fact that they tell us it is – there aren’t any decorations, no pumpkin
s, and the only thing that’s remotely reminiscent of the holiday are the costumes, though those aren’t very spooky but skanky or fairly underwhelming.

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Over the course of the film, people are killed by a giant blade that spurts blood into the victim’s face, there are tons of really dull dialogue scenes, and there’s a girl who’s so dysfunctional that whenever someone talks to her, she hids behind her hair like a man trying to hide behind a tiny bush.

Is there anything good worth mentioning? Not really, but Don’t Look in the Cellar is so hilariously bad I almost had a good time watching it. There’s a twist at the end of the movie that makes about as much sense as the fashion sense in this film. Don’t Look in the Cellar‘s title feels more like a warning about the movie itself – this is bottom of the barrel horror, and there’s very little of redeeming quality here.


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