Writing team Brian Conley and Nathan Ives craft an interesting mash up of psychological thriller with some decent gore effects thrown into the mix as we delve into the titular basement of kidnapper, murderer and all-round nut case – Bill aka ‘The Gemini Killer.
For one unfortunate victim, a local musician named Craig (Caleb Long), the Gemini killer isn’t dubbed as such just because it sounds cool, oh no. Not only does the chap carve the astrological sign into the heads of his victims, the fella also suffers from multiple personality disorders – 12 to be precise. On the eve of his capture Craig must play along, manipulate and endure a freakshow set of performances in the hope that he can outsmart his captor and outlive the night.
Now my synopsis is out the way, I think its time to address the elephant in the room. Sound familiar? An abductor with SPLIT personalities role playing each persona whilst his victims interact and try to get ahead of the power play. Indeed, this movie does bare a striking resemblance to M. Nights recent multiple personality masterpiece. Its not an out and out copy (indeed in an interview with Dread Central Ives states that this was written before ‘Split’), but ‘Basement’ is most definitely the poor man’s version of the two whichever way you look at it.
It would be difficult to discuss the plot any further for fear of spoilers, so I will do my best to give a summary. Ultimately, the film mainly comprises play by play interactions between one of Gemini’s personas and the captured Craig. Each one of the personas plays out a different part of the fictitious plot that Gemini has seemingly created to in some way justify his murderous urges. Some of the characters are more ruthless than others, and on a critical note, some give more credibility to the film than others to. The only time we are not in the basement – aside from the initial abduction scene – is where we occasionally flick perspectives back onto Craig’s wife (and her best friend) as they make attempts to engage the reluctant authorities in investigating Craig’s whereabouts.
What (I suspect) will receive unanimous praise is the performance of Jackson Davis as the Gemini killer. He carries the film from start to finish. His portrayal of the differing characters, especially as the intensity of the scenes escalate towards the end of movie, help to ensure your focus is on the nuances of the story and buy into the captor’s plight. The scenes outside of the basement don’t make the same impact, and whilst a brief twist at the end of the film does give some context as to why, when you’re watching these scenes are a jolting reminder that this is a lesser budgeted effort, in spite of the lead performances.
Jacksons powerhouse performance is (almost) matched by Long’s ‘Craig’, but there is something to controlled about his reaction to being abducted in the earlier scenes; indeed, it isn’t until his character is fed his own teeth (oh yes) that Long seems to shift his reactions into a gear necessary to keep up with Jackson’s dynamic roleplay. If I were to find one actual negative about the film, it would be the scripting and pacing of the films first act. The characters are introduced swiftly enough but there is little tension built up. When Gemini’s first persona shows himself – a clown – things don’t get off to a good start. The performance is good enough, but as a scene, with characters we barely know, involved in a plot that has barely got going, it all came across a little hammy. Not the best tone to start a film you want the audience to take seriously. That said, once the film gets going it gains much needed momentum throughout its runtime.
Overall, despite its similarities to ‘Split’ good psychological horror films are hard to come by, and ‘The Basement’ is a fair effort. Its got some great performances and some engaging set pieces throughout. The antagonist is varied and portrayed to a standard with far outshines the films other technical elements. To keep things interesting, there are the occasional gore scenes spattered here and there, and the effects look great. Admittedly, its not without its limitations, but if the concept in any way peaks your interest, I can whole-heartedly recommend a watch.