Too bad, because The Cellar doesn’t have that manic energy to make up for the lack of creepy and/or memorable Lovecraftian horror. ‘The Cellar’ doesn’t even need to be smarter or even a more faithful homage. All he needs is a little more of something—energetic, raw, thoughtful…something! — to make it convincing enough to bear comparison with its many common precedents.
The problems with the «Basement» begin immediately and continue throughout. We follow troubled and increasingly obsessed parent Kira Woods (Elisha Cuthbert) as she tries to figure out exactly how her reluctant teenage daughter Ellen (Abby Fitz) disappeared into the basement of their new home. To be fair, Kira has just moved into her new spacious country house – filmed in Roscommon, Ireland! — and her skeptical husband Brian (Eoin Macken) doesn’t seem too bothered by the strange «glyphs» she finds all over the house. Like the mathematical equation Kira finds on the keystone, the Hebrew letters of which can be read as «Leviathan» if you treat the equation as a brute-force word.
So Kira has to push the plot on her own, while her video game-playing son Stephen (Dylan Fitzmaurice-Brady) takes the same spot as some mildly supernatural happenings. Basically: the beads on the nearest accounts crawl from one side of the object to the other, and no one clearly directs their movement.
I feel like poking fun at this sleepy and often-seemingly unfinished script, but I also have to admit that over time, I’ve come to love The Cellar. because its silly plot and often extremely slow pace. I can’t recommend this movie because it has too many basic storytelling and imaging issues that even lavish viewers will have to come to terms with beforehand. But… once you get used to its weird gradual pace and al dente character/personality development, you might be rooting for The Cellar too.
Cuthbert, in particular, makes a Herculean effort to sell dialogue to Muldowney. For example, when Kira learns from Ellen’s school principal that her daughter has been cyberbullied. We never really understand or appreciate what Ellen was clinging to or what these revelations mean to Kira, who tells Brian but never conveys that Ellen is «just a little girl to me.»
However, the most pressing issue with The Cellar is that everyone except Cuthbert seems to have made this film on autopilot. There is no great conceptual continuity unifying his ideas beyond a formless, enigmatic and perhaps incomprehensible menace. Unfortunately, this solid concept is presented here in squalid terms, such as in the conceptually sound but practically silly scenes with seemingly endless stairs in the basement. Or focus for a few seconds on a barely detailed mural with screaming human faces. These images are not strong enough, as has been said, to be studied in a very short space of time. But the camera lingers on the stairs and on the wall, without much curve or perspective, and for so long that a few moments feel like an eternity.