Cellar Dweller DVD review

101 Films is bringing this 80s monster movie to DVD - but does it stand up to modern eyes?

Let’s start with an overview. Artist Colin Childress (Jeffrey Combs, in an all too brief cameo) comes face to face with his own creation, a monster that he draws for his comic Cellar Dweller, and burns to death, but not before he sends it back to the netherworld.

Some years later, his home has been converted into an art school and a new, young and impressionable artist decides to update the Cellar Dweller comic book with horrific results as the power of the beast threatens to consume her. Can anything stop the Cellar Dweller as it goes on a murderous rampage seemingly guided by the artistic hands of Whitney?

The film has a rather smart opening sequence, showing Colin realising that his creation has been brought to life and banishing it from reality, as predicted by the pages that he’d been drawing. It leaves a few questions unanswered – mainly, if the comic book was successful, why hadn’t he seen it before? That, however, is quickly swept aside by an equally interesting title sequence, especially considering how a similar technique would be used in some modern comic book films, with its floating comic book panels giving a hint of the terror to come. Then, the sequence ends and it all goes a bit wrong.

Written by Don Mancini, who would later find success with the Child’s Play series of films, the script, and acting, wouldn’t look out of place in an 80s soap opera. The dialogue is stilted and many of the scenes over-acted, with the small cast having to put up with flimsy characterisations that offer little with which to work. Character development is abandoned in favour of exposition, the shock revelations lack any shock and the ending is a rushed mess with a twist that doesn’t really work due to the 77 minute runtime.

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The 1.33:1 presentation and an early video anomaly strongly suggests that the DVD was mastered from video tape. The presentation gives the picture a soft feel and, given it was shot in 1.85:1 film, it’s a surprise that, in this day and age, a label would choose to use such a poor quality source, especially given (at time of writing) that it isn’t selling a budget price!

It’s not all bad, though. The orchestral soundtrack that seems to sway from classical to jazz, is quite impressive and is far more accomplished than the film deserves. The creature, a hulking demonic form, is a rather impressive piece of costumery, with what appears to be an animated head. Even the death sequences, scripted from the comic book gives an interesting angle to the inevitable horror that befalls each victim. Interspersing comic book panels with the attacks means that the gore of the horror is kept to a minimum. It these elements that manage to make the film marginally interesting, whilst all around it suffers.

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2 out of 5