Starring Mischa Barton, Jackson Davis, Cayleb Long, Tracie Thoms, Bailey Anne Borders, Sarah Nicklin
Directed by Brian M. Conley and Nathan Ives
We’ve seen it before: Demented creep kidnaps hapless victim and the drawn-out suffering commences, culminating in a whole lot of pain. Think: everything from The Silence of the Lambs to the Saw series. Even the dark Hollywood comedy Swimming with the Sharks used the tied-up-and-tortured trope to make its point and to get the audience squirming.
The Basement is no different. Some might say, “Well, that’s not very original,” while other viewers think, “Hey, it’s a formula that obviously works.” While I tend to want more than just a basement and blood, I’m OK with the setup as long as there’s some kind of payoff. Fortunately, this movie has that.
What’s more, the villain, Gemini (Jackson Davis), is one sick twist – but he’s also (maybe) a truly troubled man who garners a touch of sympathy. Due to an alluded childhood of abuse, Gemini’s personality has splintered into more shards than Sybil and he’s got so many issues he’s got a lifetime subscription. Unfortunately for a Chris Martin styled British rock guitarist (Cayleb Long), he’s the target in the crosshairs. As the unwilling partner in Gemini’s latest self-help therapy session, he is forced to play along.
While the script is solid, it’s the actors who really sell it. I had never heard of Long or Davis before seeing The Basement, but I won’t forget them. In a contained thriller that’s also a two-hander, the actors are key. The filmmakers (Nathan Ives and Brian M. Conley) cast a couple of keepers. While Long as the victim has the less flashy role, he makes the most of his character’s quandary. Davis is astoundingly adept as the multiple-personality murderer, being everything from a circus clown to his own mother. Bravo! Actors who fare less well are the “names” on the poster, Mischa Barton and Tracie Thoms. Thoms can’t be blamed, for her role is tiny and gives her nothing to do. Barton isn’t bad, but she’s bland as the worried wife of the missing musician.
The Basement is a low-budget indie, and while those in the know on filmmaking technique might notice a few seams showing, nobody can be faulted for that. DP Kenneth Stipe has done a lot of TV, but here his lighting and composition are truly cinematic. The music is from another hardworking television veteran, Aaron J. Goldstein, whose sounds underscore the tension and few moments of comedy quite nicely. When it comes to the grue and gore – much of it cringe-inducing – kudos go to Julia Hapney and her team.
The movie doesn’t end with the quick sucker-punch it should have, making for a slightly wilted upshot. That’s all right, though. The Basement is well worth watching for its stellar lead performances.