Don’t Look In The Basement (1973)


Overall Rating:

Nastiness Rating:

Directed by: SF Brownrigg
Written by: Tim Pope

The head of an experimental psych ward is killed by a patient just before a new doctor is supposed to join the team. When Charlotte shows up, the new head doctor, Dr. Masters, acts really freaking’ weird about her staying or leaving. It’s not because of the fragility of the patients, but because she wasn’t told about Charlotte at all. Instead of taking her word for it (even after papers are produced), she makes her feel like an idiot for leaving her old job.

Nice, lady.

Meanwhile, the patients are crazy. One patient is looking for love in all the wrong places (“I DO taste like strawberries! TASTE ME!!!”). Another is a crazy old lady who tells Charlotte to leave like she’s hanging out at Camp Crystal Lake and treats the flowers like her children. The one who killed the doctor thinks he’s a judge and protects his purity with a vengeance.

Then there’s Sam, a man who’s had so many lobotomies that he acts like a child now. He’s the most trusted of the inmates, but there’s a danger in him…of course.

Meanwhile again, Dr. Masters is about as crazy as her patients. Maybe even more so than her former boss, who didn’t believe that any doors should have locks on them. You see, the inmates and the doctors are all family. Uh….what? My family has locks on their bedroom doors and we’re not homicidal maniacs. (Most of us, anyway.)

This movie starts out pretty bad. I was starting to think that director SF Brownrigg had all the ineptness of Michael Findlay (The Ghastly Ones). Then, at some point just before the inevitable reveal, something weird happens: the movie gets really compelling! Sure, I kind of knew what was eventually going to happen and what the “big secret” was, but it didn’t matter too much. The acting got better and everything just kind of clicked.

Oh, don’t worry. It never became a masterpiece. This is still a fairly bad movie. But it was a really interesting bad movie. It actually made me want to check out Brownrigg’s other four films (including 1975’s similarly titled Don’t Open The Door). I’m also interested to see the remake being made this year by transvestite actor/director Alan Rowe Kelly. Could be interesting.

The movie has a couple of gore scenes, but nothing too special. The initial killing of the doctor is pretty tame and the other killings are only slightly gorier. The end gets a bit over the top, but I was never surprised by how much blood there was.

LOW POINT: Not too much to report here, although the phone repairman was particularly stupid: “Say, why didn’t you people call? About the telephone? It can’t be working!” HUH?!?! He even admits later that he couldn’t call them because the phones were broken! So…wait…you wanted THEM to call you…but you couldn’t call them…because the phones were broken…but…ACK! My brain just broke.

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