In this review, we talk about the second film in the blu-ray horror double feature, CELLAR DWELLER. Yup, you read that right, it’s a rhyming title. However, when in the context of the actual film, the title does make sense. I’ll tell you soon. But is CELLAR DWELLER any good, or did we get a double feature of crap at Hastings today?
Well, I’m happy to report that—possibly due to setting the bar pretty low—CELLAR DWELLER is certainly worth at least a viewing. My expectations were low going into it, which I already explained as might being why I liked it, but it met and slightly exceeded those expectations.
Here’s the story. 30 years ago a cartoonist was drawing the latest issue of his Tales from the Crypt rip-off (which we’ll delve into deeper, later) comic, CELLAR DWELLER. He also just so happens to have an evil tome that, when combined with his nightmarish comic drawing, brings an evil beast to life. Now, present day, the house is now an art commune. Girl comes to art commune interested in doing the same sort of work as the 30 years dead cartoonist we saw in the prologue of the film. She finds the evil tome, and draws a very similar monster as did the 30 year dead cartoonist that starts killing everyone in the house as drawn by girl. Insert final battle. End credits.
Does this plot sound anything like an old story/episode of TALES FROM THE CRYPT called ‘Korman’s Kalamity’? Well that’s because it is, shamelessly. This film was made well after the story of ‘Korman’s Kalamity’, but was a few years before the story would become an episode of TALES FROM THE CRYPT (second season, one of my all-time favorite episodes). That by no means justifies it, but them’s the truth. But the Tales from the Crypt stuff doesn’t end with the plot. The comic in the film, Cellar Dweller, is shown looking a lot like the old Tales from the Crypt comic covers.
My favorite part of viewing this film was the prologue. I kept trying to figure out if the cartoonist was played by Jeffrey Combs or not. It was a baby Jeffrey Combs, and he hadn’t grown any character into his face at the time, so the whole prologue I kept trying to convince myself it was Jeffrey Combs. Pretty soon I stopped paying attention to the prologue and was just analyzing the cartoonist and coming up with a definitive answer as to whether it was Jeffrey Combs or not. Well after the prologue, the opening titles played, and even though he’s only in the film for about eight minutes, he gets near top-billing.
I was mulling over this review as I was finishing the movie. I had already figured that I genuinely enjoyed it, it didn’t commit the sins of other horror films I’ve seen (CATACOMBS, I’m looking at you!) recently. Then came the ending, which was ridiculously a happy ending. I was so furious and on the verge of throwing things around the room. The film is horror and humor (not as well balanced as EVIL DEAD II, but then again, what is?) and the happy ending kinda screws up the entire tone the film has created, undermining it. Luckily, 45 seconds later, the actual ending started playing and I breathed a sigh of relief because now I can write a positive review. So if you watch this film and you get to a happy ending and it has you gritting your teeth in rage, just keep watching, it’ll turn itself around right quick.
The centerpiece of the entire film is the monster, looks like a cross between a werewolf and the goblins from TROLL 2 (oh yeah, that’s right…I used the ‘T’ word!!!). It’s definitely a guy in a suit, but the face had to be electronically operated and they did a damn fine job because it looks really good. Really, really, good. Let that be a lesson to you, if the main character is your monster, make sure that monster look fly, yo!
Not everything is coming up roses for CELLAR DWELLER, though. The acting is atrocious, and it’s a film that deals with art and art criticism. I realize the irony of what I’m about to write, as I am writing a review of a movie, considered to be art, but screw it and let’s do it anyway. I’ve never really understood art (of the non-film varieties), and so when a movie decides to dedicate some of its precious runtime on characters that look at art and say things like “Your form belies the angst that is jumping off the campus”. It’s great that people can do that, put words out of their mouth, but I just hear that and instantly shut down because I don’t know what it means, and I’m vaguely suspicious that the person that said that is making stuff up to look like he belongs. No pretension here, show me a drawing or a painting, I can tell if I like it or not, but why is completely out of my realm of understanding, let alone putting it into words. So all of that in the film left me feeling confused, cheated, and slightly sleepy.
Fortunately the story elements that make up the rest of the film are interesting and even a little bit fun.
So as far as the double feature goes, one out of two ain’t bad, that’s a 50/50 split. So I don’t feel cheated with my purchase of this double feature of CELLAR DWELLER and CATACOMBS. Try to get your hands on a copy of CELLAR DWELLER, it’s a lot of fun.