Don't Look In The Basement
Written by Tim Pope
Directed by S.F. Brownrigg
Dr. Masters...Anabelle Weenick
Sam...William Bill McGhee
Judge Oliver...Gene Ross
The Stephens Sanitarium isn’t exactly what you would expect. The patients and the staff share living quarters, there are no locks on the doors, they don’t believe in the doctor-patient relationship—everyone here is family. And it’s Dr. Stephens belief that insanity isn’t so much a mental illness as it is a series of obsessions. He believes these obsessions must be nurtured and fed so that they grow so powerful that the patient is forced to utilize his willpower to combat them. This is directly responsible for his downfall, as patient “Judge” Oliver W. Cameron kills him during what can only be called “Axe Therapy.”
Enter Charlotte Beale, the new head nurse, who arrives to find the hospital in disarray as Dr. Geraldine Masters has taken the reigns of control. After many a dangerous encounter, she wants desperately to leave, but Dr. Masters won’t allow her. Perhaps that’s because the doctor is hiding something, and I suggest Charlotte look in the basement to find out what.
Any film taking place in an asylum is bound to have an array of interesting characters. We’ve got a moralistic madman, an old woman without a tongue, a shell-shocked war veteran, a “mother” who totes around a baby doll, a hulking lobotomy victim, a hyena-like prankster, and a woman who (thankfully) can’t seem to keep her top on.
The acting, however, isn’t always up to snuff, and the characters seem to rely on close-ups and exaggerated facial contortions to get their points across. Nobody really seems crazy, they just seem like they’re acting crazy—and not very well, either. Only Sam of the botched-lobotomy club is remotely believable, playing up the eight-year-old mentality trapped in the body of a giant.
The plot chugs along at a snail’s clip, and mostly it’s just one scene of cuckoo behavior after another, without having much influence on the rest of the film. Since the majority of the action is shown on camera, there’s no real suspense or major questions waiting to be answered. And although we never saw what was lingering in the basement beforehand, by the time we found out, we had already pieced it together.
Basically, this is just a decent waste of time if you enjoy a little ‘Seventies drive-in cheese now and then. And who doesn’t? But there are far better and far more entertaining such films.
ALSO KNOWN AS: The Forgotten; Don't Go In The Basement; Death Ward #13