The Cellar Door DVD review

A minor catastrophe of a film, reckons Ryan, but Cellar Door still sits there demanding to be enjoyed...

Dare you check out The Cellar Door?

Settling down to watch Cellar Door was like a trip back in time to the days of VHS, a time when I’d rent the cheapest, most obscure videotapes I could find from my local off-licence. These low-budget, no-star offerings, with their lurid box art and sleazy/cheesy titles such as Mutant Massacre 2 and Metal Beast were usually poorly produced and derivative in the extreme – but perversely, a lot of fun nonetheless.Cellar Door could have just as easily been plucked from the shelves of my local Happy Shopper circa 1990; its plot is an eclectic grab-bag of elements and ideas from numerous other horror movies – Misery, Hostel, Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Saw are all referenced or ripped off, depending on your point of view.

The film relates the tale of Herman (James DuMont), an unassuming Homer Simpson-like nutcase who, when he’s not hunting for women to keep locked up in his cellar, spends his time loafing around in blue and white stripy pyjamas or a comfy pair of beige chinos.

Herman eventually meets his nemesis in the shape of Rudy (Michelle Tomlinson), a feisty redhead who is less than happy to find herself trapped in a dingy basement. A Misery-style battle of wits ensues, building to a bloody climax where Herman’s chinos are completely ruined.

While Cellar Door strives for a modicum of cinematic legitimacy (I’ve a feeling there’s supposed to be something highly symbolic or post-feminist about the wedding dress/emasculation finale, but I can’t be bothered to work out what it could be), the film never quite transcends the realm of low-grade sleaze; its grainy digital camera leers over semi-clad ladies at every opportunity, and some of the gore effects rival the infamous Blood Feast for sheer over-exuberance. Scenes are chopped together with a cheerful disregard for continuity, with characters apparently stabbed about a hundred times shown with only three wounds a second or two later.

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There’s not much to say about the script either; the first third of the film is conducted largely in silence, while the last hour contains some pretty uninspired repartee between the nutcase and his unruly captive. I use the term ‘captive’ advisedly, as Rudy’s character is so aggressive and capable that she looks as though she could tear her cage apart with her teeth. By contrast, Herman makes for such a puppy-eyed, bewildered looking lummox of a man that you almost begin to feel sorry for him.

While I think it’s high time we had a serial killer movie where the murderer wasn’t some kind of all-knowing savant (a Hollywood cliché that’s totally at odds with reality), Cellar Door goes completely (and hilariously) the other way – poor old Herman isn’t even intimidating when he’s frenziedly stabbing a checkout girl to death. The entirely gratuitous scene where he offs a pair of fawning Jehovah’s Witnesses seems like a particularly incongruous moment of comic relief.

Like so many low-budget movies, Cellar Door is never as good as the films it attempts to emulate, and often feels more like a hardcore porno with the naughty bits taken out rather than the horrific bloodbath it wants to be.

Looked at in purely artistic terms, Cellar Door is a minor catastrophe – but given the right circumstances (i.e. one that includes a few friends, a take-away and a lot of beer) there are still some cruel laughs to be had at Cellar Door’s expense.

2 out of 5

Rating:

2 out of 5