OCTOBER 26, 2011
If the sort of sub-genre of “Don’t” movies that peppered our drive-ins in the 70s and early 80s is ever going to make a revival, we can’t have movies like Don’t Look In The Cellar trying to kickstart it, as it’s a terrible movie that’s barely even worth my time to review (indeed, there are no external reviews on the IMDb as of this writing), let alone yours to watch. While some could argue that the shot on video homemade productions of today are the equivalent of those low-budget cheapies from the 70s (particularly the similarly titled Don’t Look In The Basement, which was a regional production), those movies at least had the good sense to shoot in locations that fit their damn story.
Even if they had the best mental hospital location in the world, this movie would suck, but it hits new lows by shooting the entire thing in a very un-spooky suburban house somewhere in Los Angeles - which we are supposed to believe is a mental institute. Even if they said it was a mental institute that was turned into a house (as idiotic as that might be), it wouldn’t work – the two buildings share almost no similar qualities beyond the fact that they have four walls. We’ve all been to an institute of some sort (nursing home, regular hospital, etc) – have you ever seen a goddamn cat “tree” (scratching post) by the door or an end table with photos of someone’s family in the living room? Or even a living room period? Hell there’s even a nice single car garage!
Worse, it’s not even that big of a house, rendering the movie entirely incomprehensible as characters routinely “go off” and get killed – but they’re in a house! No murder in the entire movie should have gone unnoticed, as the others would have been at most 30-40 feet away in a different room. In an actual institute, this would make sense – you’re in a different wing, or two floors above, or whatever. Here, if you think about the actual logical placement of characters, the entire cast would have to be deaf and partially blind in order for it to work.
That none of the actors can actually act is another problem; you’ll spend a good chunk of the movie internally debating who among them is the absolute worst. None of them act like human beings either; I was particularly baffled at the girl who literally beats the shit out of her older sister when the latter refuses to let her go to a party (not a mere slap and angry storm off, she throws her around, kicks her, etc), but yet they get along fairly well in the later parts of the movie as they try to “escape” the “hospital” (read: try really hard to pretend that they can’t open the front door; tell the audience but not show them that the windows all have bars).
Of course, someone will come along and say “It’s SUPPOSED to be cheesy!” Sure. The director took the time to hire actors (let’s call them that for argument’s sake), rent equipment (it actually doesn’t look that bad, as these things go; the trailer is not how the movie itself looks), presumably cater the cast and crew, edit it, get it distributed, etc., and INTENTIONALLY shot a movie in what is probably his own house when it’s clearly supposed to be set in an institution. I’m sorry, where exactly is the humor in that? It might work for a sight gag, like in Spice World where they have a cartoon bus do a big stunt when they couldn’t afford to do it for real, but for an entire movie? It’s not even funny on first sight anyway; are we supposed to be laughing all the way through, like when they have a “padded room” that’s clearly just someone’s bedroom with a bunch of tissue paper taped up on the walls?
Ever notice that most of the Police Academy movies ended on fairly straightforward action setpieces? You know why? Because jokes wear thin! You can’t build a movie toward yet another scene of Michael Winslow making voices just to piss off GW Bailey. Same principal here, except the climax of the movie takes place in the same damn “mental institute” (house), instead of out in the woods or something that would allow us to latch onto some semblance of reality as the movie reached its conclusion. Instead, anyone with half a brain will still be sighing and wondering why the fuck this institute had such a nice front porch.
See, here’s my problem with movies that are “intentionally bad”. For starters, I think it’s bullshit – I think it’s something a filmmaker says was his intent when he finishes the movie and realizes that it’s a piece of shit and thus tries to save face. But let’s assume that there are guys who gather up their crew and say “OK, we’re going to make a bad movie that everyone will hate, but it’s not going to magically appear and thus you’ll still have to shoot long hours, take time out of your lives to do it, you crew guys will have to light and set up the cameras and such… basically you’ll have to work as hard as you would on a real movie.” So if they say that, my response is “Why?”. What purpose can it possibly serve, in this day and age, to go out of your way to make something that is so dull and terrible?
Because here’s the thing – we have enough bad horror movies that were legit attempts to be good. As much as I disliked Fright Night 3D, the actors gave it their all, the locations were well suited for the material, etc. Hell it even entertains to some degree, ultimately failing due to ill-advised script choices and things of that nature, not across the board incompetence. The genre will always have a fairly embarrassing hit-miss ratio even if you remove horrid excuses for movies such as this. Good movies are in short enough supply as is – we certainly don’t need guys like Dennis Devine intentionally making that ratio worse. Speaking of Devine, I had considered that perhaps he was a high school or college student and perhaps couldn’t legally get permission to shoot anywhere besides his parent’s home, but then I looked him up and discovered that he has been making films for 20 years (this is his 14th feature film).
So screw him, screw Netflix for stocking it, screw whoever designed the artwork that features an actual institute on the cover, and screw anyone else who pisses on my genre with this sort of drivel. The audience for this sort of thing shouldn’t exist anyway, but they do, and they already have enough options to last them forever.
What say you?
P.S. I did like the mask – a burlap sack with a smiley face on it. Too bad they didn’t bother giving him anything else; apart from the mask he’s wearing bland, everyday clothes. At least give him a jumpsuit!