Movie Review: Oh, the horrors you can find in “The Basement”


Every time you think “torture porn” is dead and gone, here comes another blood-and-bludgeoning tale to try and revive it.

A famous, rich musician is tased and yanked into a van only to wake up lashed to a school desk in “The Basement.” As we’ve just seen Craig (Cayleb Long) texting his girlfriend while on a liquor store run for his wife, maybe he has “sins” to atone for.

Shades of “Saw.” Every “Saw” movie. Ever.

The twist here, the variation of an excruciating theme, is that his captor (Jackson Davis), is some sort of performance artist. He’s messing with him, play-acting  a sadistic English-accented clown, a cop, a drawling doctor, an old school detective, a prison guard, a priest, parents, a lawyer, a psychotic inmate…

“Welcome to SAN QUENTIN!”

Even as he’s slapping, punching, teasing, firing a pistol near Craig’s ear, tearing out his teeth — “Chew’em!  Swallow’em!” — gouging and lopping off, well, you’ll see — Craig is trying out strategies for getting out.

Threats, pleading, bargaining, empathizing with and play-acting along with this guy, who must be “Billy,” “The Gemini Killer.”

“Please Doc, you took an oath to HELP people!”

“It’s natural to lash out! Here’s my card.”

To the lawyer — “What about my INSANITY plea?”

Anything to buy time, to figure out some way to break loose in between “performances,” which of course entail costume changes.

Meanwhile, wife Kelly (Mischa Barton) Kelly nags the police, questions the liquor store clerk (Tracie Thoms) and confers with her best friend (Bailey Anne Borders), who happens to be Craig’s secret side-chick, and both wonder if he’s “relapsed.”

As we’ve seen a blowtorch and a nearly-naked woman victim in the first scene, we fear the gruesomeness to come.

But every now and then, Craig forgets his pain, sensitively recounts his fading career, his failing marriage, “fumbling along in a haze.” He starts storytelling, weaving suggestions into his tales, connections with his captor, struggling to outsmart him.

The odd pointless chest-eye-view camera shot, endless red herrings, false hopes, middling acting, graphic injuries graphically administered and sets that look like “sets,” an epilogue “twist” that comes after we’ve given up on the movie — “The Basement” has it all.

If only it didn’t.


MPAA Rating: unrated, gruesome, explicit violence, torture, nudity

Cast:  Cayleb Long, Jackson Davis, Mischa Barton, Tracie Thoms, Bailey Anne Borders, Kareem J. Grimes

Credits: Written ad directed by Brian M. Conley, Nathan Ives. An Uncork’d release.

Running time: 1:28

About Roger Moore

Movie Critic, formerly with McClatchy-Tribune News Service, Orlando Sentinel, published in Spin Magazine, The World and now published here, Orlando Magazine, Autoweek Magazine
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