I must open this review with a warning. If you’re only interest in this film lays in the hopes of some hot basement related action, you will be sorely disappointed. Within this review’s intro, I have literally exceeded the number of times the word “basement” is actually uttered in the movie. I’ve now said it 200% more times.
The film is set in a secluded, private sanitarium where the patients are cared for by live-in doctors and nurses. It’s a healthy open-concept ward where there are no locks on the rooms and the patients are free to interact with everyone. No troubles could ever arise from this methodology. The film opens with one of the nurses attempting to tender her resignation. While doing so, the main caregiver, Dr. Saunders, is struck with an ax by a patient referred to as The Judge. Another doctor, Masters, comes to see what’s amiss and takes control of the situation.
Following the attack, the nurse continues with her plan and is quickly killed in the process. None of these are spoilers, they both happen very shortly in the movie. Plus, the movie is 42 years old and I’m pretty sure it’s past the statute of limitations on spoilers. That being said, I shall do my best not to give away any major plot points just in case this review peaks your curiosity and your desire to see a 1970s insane asylum movie with the word “basement” in the title, but not in the film.
Soon after the chaos, a young nurse, Charlotte, arrives to obtain a job that had been promised to her by Dr. Saunders. At first, Dr. Masters is reluctant to let her stay because she had not heard of the hiring. Charlotte was able to provide proof and due to the earlier mishaps, she is allowed to stay. During this meeting, Dr. Masters informs Charlotte of the open nature of the facility, (“we’re like a family”) and about some of the unorthodox practices that had been set into place by Dr. Saunders.
One by one, we are introduced to the rest of the patients and now the movie can move forward. By now, considering the title, you would have expected one of the patients or Dr. Masters to be the harbinger and warn Charlotte about the forbiddenness of the basement, but no.
There is no real plot present. Instead, it’s basically just one interaction after another. There is actually one thing you’d be surprised to find in a movie like this: there is somewhat actual character development and character individuality. For something so low buget and so cheesy, that’s quite an impressive feat. The actors themselves weren’t recognizable to me at all until near the end of the movie when I started to recognize them from earlier in the movie.
Now about that basement. There were nine minutes left in the movie before the audience is even made aware that there is a basement, and the person whom enters has no trouble doing so. No one is shouting, “don’t go down there” or “you really shouldn’t be doing that” or “it’s a mess down there and there’s nothing you really need to see” and there’s not even a lock on the door (which jibes with the practice of the facility). In fact, by the end of the movie, the word basement literally has not been said by anyone.
Ironically, 70 seconds into the very next movie I watched, which had no relation to the preceding movie, and nothing to do with basements, the word basement is used. I know I’m getting hung up on the word basement but if you’re going to have it as a warning in the title, use it as a plot device. I will try to refrain from using the word again.
The killing in the movie is much like the use of the basement (sorry, I tried), most of the action takes place near the end of the film. Sidenote, while trying to finish this review, my nine-year-old son is attacking me with a battery of balloons and keeps telling me that I’m “Owned!”
All in all, this is a decent horror flick. You’re made to care about some characters and hate others. When the deaths finally occur, they are fairly grandiose. There are a couple of clever plot twists. As long as you can go into this movie knowing your lust for full-on basement carnage will not be fulfilled, you should be able to enjoy this for what it is, a nearly basementless exploitation film that had the promise of a basement. The review is finished, the balloons are still present. Now where’s my son? He’s about to get a lesson in ownership.