Directed by: Vozo Zoltán Végh, László Illés
Cast: Caroline Boulton, Richard Rifkin, Takács Zalán
Congratulations are in order to directors Vozo Zoltán Végh and László Illés, who helm the incredibly strange, sometimes found footage, sometimes not-so-found-footage story of a group of 20-somethings who perform a séance and open the doorway to something hideous. The Basement is the first flick I’ve seen in quite some time that left me totally and completely flabbergasted, incapable of forming a single definitive opinion. So, congrats, I’m pretty much speechless, and it takes a lot to make that happen.
Unfortunately, confusion and speechlessness don’t necessarily equate to something positive. In the case of The Basement I’m just confused. Really, really confused.
The movie opens with a look at a super colorful character that we immediately assume is going to be the leader of a paranormal investigative crew, guiding us through cliché but potentially stellar sequences. He’s bubbling over with personality. He’s animated and humorous and it’s easy to understand why the guy could front a film; his hair alone deserves its own reality show. But just five minutes later he’s dead, and we see that the entire opening is nothing more than an introduction that ends up feeling a little useless. It’s nice to have a hook in a film, but this one feels strangely out of place. And it pissed me off royally to know that the most exuberant personality in the flick (seriously, the guy is awesome, and he alone has more pizazz than anyone else in the entire ensemble and would completely justify the price of admission… if he was a substantial part of the story) really… isn’t quite in the film.
Now, fast forward an undetermined amount of time and we see a mini-rave unfolding in a small apartment in a cramped complex. The cops show up, the fun gets shut down, so one of the few individuals who remain at the apartment decide it might be cool to have a séance of some sort and reach out to the dead. Some paranormal activity seems to be occurring, and the disappearance of a pet cat (no, I’m not making that up) leads a half-dozen, half-drunk ragers into the basement of the apartment complex (the same basement featured in the intro) where they run into what seems to be a deformed woman… with murderous tendencies. What follows is essentially a subterranean game of cat and mouse, and of course, the bodies pile up during this twisted game.
Now, that all sounds familiar and, to a degree, safe regarding plot outline. But the execution itself is so far beyond strange it will leave your head spinning so fast a possessed Regan MacNeil would run in terror. Every single character responds strangely to damn near everything. When you think someone might be a little leery, they’re overreacting on an astounding level. When you expect someone to be responding like their life is on the line, they’re cool and collected. There are frequent outbursts that come out of nowhere, and a sense of calm in the least likely of moments. It’s weird. It feels like every scene was shot without the performers themselves knowing what scene they were shooting… like they themselves were never even directed in how to accurately respond to the different situations in the movie.
I simply could not wrap my head around what I was seeing. For about 20 minutes I thought the movie might be a parody, or a spoof. I realized that wasn’t the case. The shifts between found footage and standard format are so random and unpredictable it throws off the viewer. There’s no rhyme or reason to the entire production. I’m still so confused by what I saw that I can’t even tell you if I enjoyed the film or not. There are definitely a few eerie moments (an early scene in a room full of bloody mannequins is terrific, and we get an awesome jolt in the final act), but the in-between is discombobulating, to say the very least.
Does The Basement get a recommendation? I have no idea. The gent in the introduction is worth seeing, and – again – I liked a few of the scares – they’re genuine build-up shocks, not just basic jump scares, which definitely earns points. I suppose the picture may be worth a single look, but don’t expect your typical viewing experience, at all. This one if so out of touch with situational awareness that it becomes an odd experiment more than a typical horror movie session.