Don’t Look in the Basement (1973)

Article #535 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing date: 9-2-2002
Posting date: 1-25-2003

A nurse begins work at a sanitarium where the doctor has just been killed by one of the patients. She begins to discover that things are not as they seem at this place.

This low-budget horror film from the seventies borrowed the ad campaign from THE LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT with its “It’s only a movie” tagline, and it belongs to some extent to that trend of horror movies at that time to put the unpleasantness factor to such a degree that they become hard to watch. These movies aren’t necessarily worthless, but they aren’t exactly what I would call “fun.” This one has a hard-to-swallow premise (that the psychiatric method in use allows the near-homicidal patients to have free reign of the asylum and access to all areas), especially when one of the inmates specializes in terrorizing the other patients by tormenting them at their weak points. The extreme nastiness of the ending also feels somewhat unnecessary, and the whole premise lends itself to a lot of people shrieking lines at the top of their lungs, which, though it can be effective in getting under your skin, always feels to me to be taking the easy way out. Nonetheless, the characters are quite interesting, and the acting from the cast of unknowns is excellent for such a low-budget movie, and there are enough moments sprinkled throughout the movie that show a sense of real sadness and a sense of humanity that give a greater texture to the proceedings. Ultimately, the strong points make the movie work, and I can appreciate it well enough, even if it does remain in that realm of movies that are simply not much fun for me.

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