Cellar Dweller

We all know that in horror, it’s best not to go in the basement. But don’t take our word for it, there’s a movie called Don’t Go in the Basement (it’s also got the more descriptive title, The Forgotten, which it’s largely been). Cellar Dweller hopes we heed the basement advice as well.

For the horror rhyming enthusiast in your life, it’d be good to recommend Cellar Dweller after they’re finished with Jack’s Back, The Driller Killer, and Fright Night.

A straight-to-video obscurity from the late 80s, Cellar Dweller is a film that invests a bunch in its practical effects, at the expense of everything else.

Set in an arts retreat (dubbed “a colony” by its matriarch, Mrs Briggs) Cellar Dweller focuses on the doin’s of a bunch of artist-types, each with their own specialty: Whitney the budding illustrator, Amanda the visual/new media artist, Norman and Lisa the method-actors, and Brian, the abstract expressionist who’s abstractions aren’t too expressive (he has a sparse-looking bovine watercolor that he’s dubbed “Angst.”)

They’ve each been instructed not to go in the basement. But we all know that that won’t happen, right?

In the film’s prologue, graphic artist Colin Childress (played with nerd-verve by everyone’s favorite 80s gore-geek Jeffrey Combs) is illustrating a beastly creature in his subterranean studio. His art springs off the page, and literally comes to life, attacking him.

Fast forward 30 years and Childress’ lore lives on, even when the artist does not.

So what lurketh beneath in that basement?

In a very spare 77 minutes, you’ll find out.

Directed by John Carl Buechler, who most of you will know from Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood (first appearance by Kane Hodder as the man behind the mask), this one whips by fairly quickly and falls into the category of solid time-waster.

**3/4 (out of 5)

The Faculty

This one is The Invasion of the BEd Snatchers, as teachers one by one seem to be transforming weirdly at Ohio’s Herrington High.

The Faculty¬†teachers have had their mental faculties altered by a malevolent force that’s coming for the students, “hey, teachers leave those kids alone.”

The school’s resident nerd, Casey (elfin cerulean-eyed Elijah Wood) finds a pelagic slug far from where its home should be in this, a land-locked state. He brings it to the science teacher, Mr Furlong (Jon Stewart) and before you know it, the thing sprouts weird tendrils before biting the biologist and rolling the narrative ball downhill.

Herrington is all Breakfast Clubbed when it comes to cliques, with teen dynamics any demographic will recognize. The Faculty wisely invests in its disparate cast(e): the criminal, jock, new girl, Goth, stoner, nerd, goddess, etc, all of whom must band together Stranger Things-style to take out the queen parasite of the hive mind (it’s no accident the school’s team nickname is The Hornets).

They’re soon compelled to put differences aside and begin poking around the science lab trying to figure out what’s making the teachers act so odd. And all the while, they’re stymied by indifferent authority figures.

The Faculty comes to us at the tail end of the unforgiving 90s, a time when the horror genre was in a real slump (come to think of it, the Golden Era of Rap excepted, the same could be said for music). It’s since recovered, but after sustaining many a self-referential / ironic body blow.

Written by Scream’s Kevin Williamson, this one is all over the map tonally, complete with obvious song choices (School’s Out/Another Brick in the Wall) and too long by 20 minutes. Still, it’s hard to go wrong with this talented cast and the bleacher-creature finale is off-the-charts.

*** (out of 5)