Horror Movie Review: Don’t Look in the Basement (1973)
A nasty that doesn’t deserve the name, Don’t Look in the Basement is a 1973 horror film directed by S. F. Brownrigg, written by Tim Pope and starring Bill McGhee, Rosie Holotik, and Anne MacAdams.
Also known as The Forgotten and Death Ward #13, the film is set in a remote and secluded mental institute called Stephen’s Sanatorium. Here, the chief doctor, Dr. Stephens (Michael Harvey) has found a unique way to treat his patients. He allows them to act out their realities, safe and away from prying eyes.
Well, that is until Dr. Stephens is seemingly killed by one of his patients in an unfortunate accident. Another member of staff is then killed by another patient, leaving Dr. Geraldine Masters (Anne MacAdams) as the sole doctor in charge.
That is until Charlotte Beale (Rosie Holotik) arrives to take up her post having been hired the week before by Dr. Stephens. Something that Dr. Masters isn’t happy about but begrudgingly goes along with.
Charlotte spends some time meeting the residents. The likes of a lobotomized and childish man named Sam (Bill McGhee), a nymphomaniac and schizophrenic named Allyson (Betty Chandler), an emotionally dependent woman named Jennifer (Harryette Warren), an elderly woman named Mrs. Callingham (Rhea MacAdams) who seems to suffer from dementia, a juvenile prankster named Danny (Jessie Kirby), a shellshocked Sergeant (Hugh Feagin) who lost his mind after accidentally killing his men in Vietnam, and a crazed ex-judge named Oliver (Gene Ross).
It’s a large cast but to the film’s credit, it gives them all time to shine even if the portrayal of their mental health issues isn’t always the most respectful and believable.
Even though Dr. Master’s is harsher to the patients then Dr. Stephens was, the freedom they are allowed disturbs Charlotte. Though, what disturbs her even more is Mrs. Callingham’s tongue being ripped out of her mouth and a myriad of ever-growing issues at the institute. Dr Masters appears to be losing control and it is puting everyone at risk.
So, you might be wondering why, in that summation of the plot, the basement wasn’t mentioned once. Considering it’s in one of the titles, it must surely have some bearing on the movie!? Well… no, it doesn’t. There is a basement and it is visited near the end of the movie but aside from revealing the status of a character, there’s no basement dwelling going on.
It’s fine though because Don’t Look in the Basement is a very good movie. One that skirts the line between horror and thriller, neither one or other. What most will remember from this movie is the cast, the very strong cast.
It’s them that makes a slow-moving story all the more thrilling… up to a point. It does really begin to drag near the end, especially when the big reveal has happened.
Unlike many other nasties that don’t hold up to the moniker, you won’t be wondering throughout just why it got classified as such. Not because it is obvious, but rather how it holds your attention. Though an unnecessary brutal finale does stand out but for all the wrong reasons. As though the filmmakers became aware that they just didn’t have enough blood so went crazy with it at the end.
Don’t Look In the Basement is another quality video nasty.
Don't Look in the Basement
The Final Score - 7/10