DON’T LOOK IN THE BASEMENT. 1973. PRODUCED AND DIRECTED BY SF BROWNRIGG. WRITTEN BY THOMAS POPE AND TIM POPE. STARRING ANNE MACADAMS AND ROSIE HOLOTIK. REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS ©
I adore horror films that have instructions in the titles. DON’T LOOK IN THE BASEMENT. DON’T GO IN THE HOUSE. DON’T LOOK UNDER THE BED. DON’T OPEN THE CURTAINS. DON’T ANSWER THE DOOR. DON’T PAY THE FERRYMAN. I’LL BURY YOU TOMORROW. DON’T ANSWER THE PHONE. DON’T FLUSH THE TOILET, IT’S BEEN BACKED UP THE LAST COUPLE OF DAYS AND WE’RE WAITING ON A PLUMBER. And so on and so forth.
They’re usually cracking good fun and are done in a style that is recognisably rough around the edges and unpolished-looking, but good ‘n’ gory with enough of the gooey red stuff to satisfy all but the most bloodthirsty of horror movie fans.
This one is a terrific video-nasty-style horror film from probably the best era for this kind of film, the early ‘Seventies. It tells the story of pretty young nurse Charlotte Beale who arrives to take up a new job in an out-of-the-way mental institution.
She’s as keen as mustard to get stuck in, so imagine how gutted she is on arrival at the sanatorium to be told that things have changed for the worse since she was last in touch with them and her new job is now in jeopardy.
She is informed by the second-in-command, Dr. Geraldine Masters, that the head doctor who hired her, Dr. Stevens, has been killed by a patient. Actually he’s been walloped with an axe by a middle-aged man who thinks he’s still a practising judge on his bench. Charlotte isn’t put off by this. She persuades Dr. Masters to let her stay and take up her new job, even though Dr. Masters isn’t keen.
Dr. Stevens’s Sanatorium is run a little less strictly than perhaps Charlotte is used to. Patients with some pretty bad mental problems wander around at will without any locks, keys or seemingly even any treatment of any kind bar the odd capsule of something or other here and there.
Aside from the Judge, who by the way is allowed to keep his axe with him (!), we have a sex-and-love-starved woman who wanders around flashing her tits at every opportunity and trying to get the male patients and even random handymen to show her the least bit of affection.
A woman who has clearly lost a child at some stage in the past is allowed to keep a doll with her at all times and treat it like a baby. She threatens to kill anyone who touches her ‘baby.’ There’s a guy who runs around giggling inanely at everyone and everything. There’s a weird old lady who goes around telling Charlotte she needs to get away from the sanatorium or bad things will happen to her.
There’s an ex-soldier who thinks he’s still a soldier, there’s a giant of a man who’s been lobotomised by Dr. Stevens so that now he has the mind of a child, and finally- I think- there’s a young woman who doesn’t speak at all because she’s clearly been traumatised by something awful in her past.
All these damaged, volatile people are wandering around the asylum without restraints of any kind driving each other even more nuts than they already are. It’s like a pressure cooker waiting to explode. No mental asylum in real life would permit such shocking laxness on the part of the staff but hey, this isn’t real life, it’s a movie.
Then old Mrs. Callingham, the resident doomsayer who’s been advising Charlotte to hightail it the hell out of Dodge, is found one morning still alive but with her tongue mysteriously cut out…
‘She’s obviously done it herself,’ insists Dr. Masters, who is the star of the show for me and brilliantly played by Anne MacAdams. But then the body count starts to skyrocket and a terrified Charlotte is caught in the middle as the lunatics literally take over the asylum.
My one beef with the film is that at no time is anyone in it ever told not to look in the basement. There is one scene set in the basement but it’s by no means the pivotal point of the movie. Still, it’s a great title and a great film and I thoroughly enjoyed it. It livened up a dreary Tuesday night no end. DON’T LOOK IN THE BASEMENT…? As Homer Simpson might say, don’t tell me where not to look…
AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.
Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based performance poet, novelist, film blogger, sex blogger and short story writer. She has given more than 200 performances of her comedy sex-and-relationship poems in different venues around Dublin, including The Irish Writers’ Centre, The International Bar, Toners’ Pub (Ireland’s Most Literary Pub), the Ha’penny Inn, Le Dernier Paradis at the Trinity Inn and The Strokestown Poetry Festival.
Her articles, short stories and poems have appeared in The Metro-Herald newspaper, Ireland’s Big Issues magazine, The Irish Daily Star, The Irish Daily Sun and The Boyne Berries literary journal. In August 2014, she won the ONE LOVELY BLOG award for her (lovely!) horror film review blog. She is addicted to buying books and has been known to bring home rain-washed tomes she finds on the street and give them a home.
She is the proud possessor of a pair of unfeasibly large bosoms. They have given her- and the people around her- infinite pleasure over the years. She adores the horror genre in all its forms and will swap you anything you like for Hammer Horror or JAWS memorabilia. She would also be a great person to chat to about the differences between the Director’s Cut and the Theatrical Cut of The Wicker Man. You can contact her at:
ANNA MEETS COUNT DRACULA: AN EROTIC HORROR NOVELLA.