Don’t Look in the Cellar

Don’t Look in the Cellar?  Don’t Look At This Movie!

Main cast: Tara Shayne

Director: Dennis Devine

Ho. Ly. Crap.

I’ve seen some terrible movies. I mean I’ve seen some REALLY terrible movies. And while Dennis Devine’s 2008 stink fest Don’t Look in the Cellar isn’t the worst thing I’ve ever seen, it’s the worst thing I’ve seen in at least a year.

I added this movie to my Netflix queue after reading the brief description, a bunch of college kids stay in an abandoned asylum overnight and run afoul of Smiley, an old inmate who still resides there. Sounds cheesy, but what the hell, right? Little did I know the “asylum” was going to be someone’s house, and it’s not even a very big house. They literally used someone’s living room, kitchen, guest bathroom, and rec room for the “asylum”. They stapled white plastic to the walls for the padded room. Sure they tried to deceive the audience into thinking the place was bigger than it really was but if the character leaves a room with a white, paneled door, then in the next scene is exiting a room with a brown plywood wood, it kinda gives away the illusion.

And that’s not even the only time Devine tried to pull one over on us. In a later scene, a couple is attacked in the bathroom, but when he yanks the girl off the toilet–which she said she had to use–the lid is down. Not just the seat, she was sitting ON THE LID.

The story itself, if it can be called that, is pretty basic and exactly as the description had it. At a nothing community college somewhere in a small California town, a handful of 20-year-olds need extra credit for a history class, so they decide to go into the old asylum and hunt for clues about what REALLY happened ten years ago when the place was closed down.

But, it’s Halloween night, so they decide they’re going to investigate in their costumes. But they’re also going to party while they do it. Apparently their investigation consists of hunting up a nice room to get drunk in, break out some booze and play the most boring game of truth or dare I’ve ever seen. One of the girls storms off in a huff and gets killed by Smiley. Two others go off in search of her and get lost in the labyrinthine maze of the one-story ranch house. The other couple, the girl says she has to pee, so she and her boyfriend go off in search of the bathroom, which, as we’ve said, doesn’t work out for them. All that’s left in the party room now are the lesbian couple and Melissa, the shy one.

Melissa’s overprotective sister barges in and takes her away, leaving the lesbian couple to be attacked by Smiley who magically appears behind the door when they close it.

Meanwhile Melissa and her sister Cheryl get lost trying to find a way out which is odd because, in the opening scene, we see Cheryl was here ten years ago when she and a sorority sister (who later is the history teacher at the community college, telling urban legends about the old asylum) broke in on an initiation dare to get a lock of hair from a patient. The friend was attacked, but lived, while Cheryl, in her haste, apparently let all of the inmates out when she fled. All except Smiley. And Wendell, another inmate who had been there his whole life, didn’t want to leave, and is still there today, warning trespassers that they’d better leave before Lendell (Smiley) finds them.

The plot here was so ridiculous and ill-conceived, there is no way anyone–even the director–saw this movie afterward and decided “Yeah, that makes perfect sense. And it’s way interesting.” Because it doesn’t, and it’s not. Despite all the terrible movies I’ve ever seen, this was the first time I recall thinking, only ten minutes in, “I’ve just made a terrible mistake.” But by then it was too late to start something else, I was already in.

I know a lot of movies are made on no money, but sometimes they actually try to look like they had a few bucks to spend anyway, whether it’s in set design or wardrobe or effects. Don’t Look in the Cellar, however, didn’t even make the smallest attempt. It had all the signs of being shot on a home video camera with a group of friends on the weekends when they weren’t at their day jobs at Wal-Mart and the local gas station.

The “asylum” is OBVIOUSLY someone’s house, the effects amount to nothing more than a little blood spatter when someone gets stabbed (and if you can explain to me how someone getting stabbed in the gut results in spatter all over their own face, I’d love to hear it), and the acting? No, that wasn’t acting. That wasn’t even close to acting. These guys were supposed to be in community college? Community college drama classes saw this movie and were pissed they were giving community college-level talent a bad name.

The whole idea of this movie isn’t a terrible one. It’s a well-used one, which should have made this one a no-brainer. I mean the template is right there in about a million other movies, so this one should have been a breeze, but instead Devine and company dropped the ball at every turn. I can’t even, in good conscience, rattle off the cast as I’d just as soon protect their identities lest they face unending ridicule, which would surely happen if word got out they appeared in such a piece of crap (I’m sort of surprised they haven’t petitioned IMDb to have all their names changed to Allen Smithee!).

I’m all for the DIY approach. I root for the underdog. But, jeez, man, at least pretend to put forth an effort. Don’t Look in the Cellar wasn’t just cheap–that I could have lived with–it was LAZY. And that’s just not gonna fly.

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