Nurse Charlotte Beale arrives at the isolated Stephens Sanitarium to work, only to learn that Dr. Stephens was murdered by one of the patients and his successor, Dr. Geraldine Masters, is not very eager to take on new staff. Charlotte finds her job maddeningly hard as the patients torment and harass her at every turn, and she soon learns why Dr. Masters is so eager to keep outsiders out.
“Don’t Look in the Basement” (aka “The Forgotten”, “Don’t Go in the Basement”) is a movie I have seen around for ages now. Ever since the days of the VHS boom, this is a title I have been interested in. Not for any real particular reason, just curious, and the fact that it had appeared on the infamous UK Video Nasties list. I never know much about it, though not much horror to be viewed, it still manages to be a rather bizarre film that focuses on the peculiar patients of the most ridiculous mental home ever portrayed on screen. Directed by S.F. Brownrigg (Don’t Open the Door) and written by Tim Pope (The Crow: City of Angels) is interesting enough though nowhere near being the classic I thought it would be.
Dr. Stephens (Michael Harvey) is the head of hospital for the mentally ill that, while advising his patient Judge Cameron (Gene Ross) to take his aggressions out on a log with an axe, quickly falls victim to the said weapon in a fit of rage. Moments after, Nurse Jane (Jessie Lee Fulton) falls victim to another patient, Harriet (Camilla Carr) who will do anything to protect her baby (the baby is a doll). Dr. Geraldine Masters (Annabelle Weenick) takes over the task of running the home. Charlotte Beale (Rosie Holotik) shows up for a job that Dr. Stephens had assigned her. One that Dr. Masters knew nothing about. She reluctantly allows her to star and Nurse Beale begins to be tormented by the patients and truths about the horror within the home become revealed.
Why this film was put on the Video Nasties list, I will never know. There isn’t much bloodshed at all. The film kind of bounces around from character to character, giving each of the patients a moment to show off. I guess this is what makes the movie somewhat interesting since these characters either A. incredibly interesting like Harriet or Allyson, or B. just incredibly ridiculous like Sgt. Jaffee or Danny, who just keeps popping up and acting like a maniac with his annoying laughter. For the time period the film was made, which was 1973, the characters are pretty colorful and if for no other reason, make it worth watching. The crazed Vietnam veteran, the big galoot, the sex addict, the screeching madman, prophetic old lady, and the list goes on. Each have their moment to torment poor Nurse Beale.
The problem in the film lies mainly in the films pacing and some miss direction. While the proceedings are entertaining to a point, the film drags in the middle. This was a very small budgeted film, I think around $100,000 and shot in under two weeks. While much was accomplished, it is apparent that lack of funds was an issue. Especially since this psychiatric house has almost nothing in it. There are no medical supplies or anything else that would indicate that it is some sort of medical facility. I for one happen to enjoy a film for what it has to offer. Even if it is minimal, this film is somewhat worthy of a view. There are a few great lines. Like Allyson belting out “I do taste like strawberries! Taste me!”
This is a film where you should be giving serious credit to the actors, since it is them that make the film interesting and them alone. The script is dull and story is paper thin. The actors give the film a reason to, well, I guess exist. I am willing to bet that this is the reason the film has endured and become a minor cult classic. I am also willing to bet that, at least the title, was inspiration for Edgar Wright’s entry to the faux trailers in between the two films in “Grindhouse”. Still a fun movie on some level and recommended but I am still wondering why we shouldn’t look in the basement. There wasn’t anything there.
Don’t Look in the Basement (1973)