The Video Nasties #20 – Don’t Look in the Basement (1973, SF Brownrigg)

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‘Mrs Callingham…your tongue’s been cut out!’

What can one say about a film in which absolutely fucking nothing even happens until the last ten minutes or so?

Don’t Look In The Basement is a nightmare that seems unending, and for all the wrong reasons. I knew I was in for a rough ride when I first got bored and checked the time. I was 3:46 into the picture. I’ve never really enjoyed films set in insane asylums, because it usually means the bulk of the film is fish eye lens close-ups of people screaming and laughing and shoving their face into the camera. For fans of that kind of garbage, this film does not disappoint.

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Everything about Don’t Look In The Basement is poor. The script decides to ignore the old adage of ‘Show, don’t tell’ by including a very, very long scene in which the head nurse Dr Masters goes over the case history and backstory of EVERY. SINGLE. PATIENT. And this is shortly after a six-minute scene of the new nurse arriving at the clinic and trying to convince Masters that yes, she has been given a job here. There’s no drama, no interest, the pace is sluggish.

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The characters are all ghastly stereotypes (nympho, burly simpleton, ex-army nut) and often times it’s hard to make out what people are saying. The cinematographer can’t seem to decide what’s more important, framing or focus, and decides on neither. The lighting consists of a single spotlight blasted straight onto the characters. The music alternates between a crappy sounding military drum roll and a sitar theme more suited to a Prince of Persia video game.

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It’s a waste of time, and if it’s not the worst Nasty, it’s surely the most boring.

Finally, at minute eighty, we get down into that damn basement. Things are finally happening, a few murders here, an obvious twist there, but by this point the film had lost me. I suppose the reason for the inclusion on the Nasties list comes down to the fairly violent death at the end of the film, but frankly I’m surprised anyone ever made it that far. If I wasn’t obliged to watch the whole film for this blog, then I would have switched off long before the climax. Please guys…don’t make the same mistake as me!

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