Retro-review: New on Bluray/DVD as an S.F. Brownrigg Grindhouse Double Feature: Ultimate Edition from MVD Visual/VCI Entertainment; help me out and pick it up on DVD/BluRay here on Amazon!
DON’T LOOK IN THE BASEMENT (1973)
aka THE FORGOTTEN, BEYOND HELP, THE SNAKE PIT, DEATH WARD #13, DON’T GO INTO THE BASEMENT
Directed by S.F. Brownrigg
Written by Tim Pope
Starring Bill McGhee, Jessie Lee Fulton, Robert Dracup, Harryette Warren, Michael Harvey, Jessie Kirby, Hugh Feagin, Betty Chandler, Camilla Carr, Gene Ross, Annabelle Weenick, Rosie Holotik, Rhea MacAdams
While at times it’s amateurish and other times it’s downright boring, the lunatics overtake the asylum flick DON’T LOOK IN THE BASEMENT does seem to get a lot right in terms of how these places used to be run and some of the problems mental health institutions often go through. I’m no expert on mental health in the 70s when this film was made, but having worked in the mental health care field for over a decade in and around the Chicago area, I’m sad to say some of the conditions and sequences in this film aren’t that far off from real life.
When the lead doctor is murdered by a patient in a sequence reminiscent of FRIDAY THE 13TH PART 5: A NEW BEGINNING, it’s up to the resident head nurse and a newly assigned assistant nurse to run the secluded asylum, but they soon find that keeping all of these crazy cats wrangled is harder than they think. Soon, the crazies are taking over and the sane people taking care of the facility seem to be fraying around the edges as well.
Someone behind this film, be they the producers, the writers, or the director once worked in a metal facility because while some of the performances are over the top, none of them are the Hollywood crazy we often see in modern cinema. These patients seem to be a little more realized than that, which gives this film a little more of a palpable terror than most films of this kind. Actual psychosis seem to be referenced and the regular day to day stuff seems right on the money, so in terms of looking like the real thing, DON’T LOOK IN THE BASEMENT works.
Well, the acting is pretty bad and the story is not that strong. There are some sequences that seem to not really have a script so much as just acting out some kind of barebones blueprint of a scene, or maybe that’s just the amateurish deliveries from some of the cast. There really isn’t a lot of chills here, either, as the gore consists of just some blood running over the faces of the cast and there’s some random violence here and there among the patients, but other than that, it’s pretty chill-free.
Still, DON’T LOOK IN THE BASEMENT culminates in a pretty impressive climax where almost everyone ends up dead. It’s kind of fun seeing everyone go nuts on everyone, and this film definitely breaks the mold in that it isn’t so much about one killer offing people but a bunch of people offing each other in a BATTLE ROYALE sort of way. For this unconventionalism and eye for accuracy in the mental health field, DON’T LOOK IN THE BASEMENT ended up being a poorly acted but weirdly entertaining little messterpiece.
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