Don’t Look In The Basement/The Forgotten, 1973. 7/10

Really fun horror film. Sort of a low-budget compliment to One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest. This is the essence of camp; so much so that I was taken in by Nurse Ratchet-like Dr. Masters/Geraldine (Annabelle Weenick). I really did think she was in charge, after Dr. Stephens’ (Michael Harvey’s) demise. So I began wondering why Charlotte (Rosie Holotik) didn’t panic and just leave–knowing that the patients are out of control, and that she’s isolated (no working phone, and surrounded by irrational people). The fact that Geraldine knows what happened to Dr. Stephens, and uses the opportunity to become ‘Dr. Masters’, nonetheless wouldn’t occur to Charlotte. It might’ve been better had the movie begun with Charlotte’s arrival; that way the viewer would have the same limited perspective as Charlotte. Dr. Stephens’ ax stuff could still work as a flashback, maybe when Charlotte goes into the basement…

The patients are a great bunch: all over-the-top types; none of them receiving treatment, at least not under Dr. Master’s care. In a way, the asylum setting serves as a microcosm of society–the patients, though exaggerated, represent rival personality types. Sort of an absurdist view of office politics. Some (the Judge, the Sergeant, Geraldine) have overblown egos, others are passive (Sam, Danny, Jennifer); Allyson sort of weaves in and out depending on her sexual barometer. Strangely, though they get on each other’s nerves quite a lot, they’re capable of group action as well. We see that in the mad-cap ending, when they all go after Geraldine. For good measure, Sam turns the tables on them.

I’m still confused why Charlotte blames herself for killing Dr. Stephens, when he already should be very dead. It’s safe to say that he won’t be collecting Social Security. With a rather limited plot, the movie depends on the characters to keep our interest. They don’t disappoint. Excepting Danny, who is merely annoying, as he’s not given much of a personality, I can’t think of any weak performances here. The tone is well-supported as a result. And I don’t think the low-budget production hurts much. A movie like this really only needs one setting anyway–and what a setting. The house is a labyrinth of corridors, rooms, and stairways; closeups and creepy lighting are used to good effect. I was expecting the basement to play more of a role, but it was worth saving for the denouement (one of several resolutions actually).

The only thing that drags this movie down, is, well, that it drags. There’s too much with the doll, the phone guy really was a wasted bit…probably things would be better with ten minutes or so cut. Still, this is stylish and well-written, fun and creepy at the same time, and certainly worth a look. 7/10.

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