The Cellar Review – IGN

After a limited theatrical release, The Cellar premieres Friday, April 15 on Shudder.

Elisha Cuthbert returns to her aughts-era horror past (House of Wax, Captivity) with The Cellar, the story of a mother desperately trying to locate her daughter in the great beyond after the poor teen seemingly gets swallowed up by their old musty house’s basement . The Cellar has some nice moments of tense terror here and there but ultimately it plays out very conventionally, and the third act underwhelms with a hodgepodge of the usual supernatural suspects.

Cuthbert is in good form here playing the horror mom, the only one in her family who believes that her rebellious daughter, Ellie (Abby Fitz), was somehow crazily consumed by dark forces and didn’t just run away from home because she was miserable . Irish writer/director Brendan Muldowney sets this tale in his home country, adding to the mysticism and chilliness, as Cuthbert’s clan moves into an old house filled with foreboding symbols, paintings, and objects. The film gets a little too dramatic too soon with its musical cues, giving haunting clichés and fake outs too much early weight while the rest of the story plays out in a by-the-numbers fashion.

Cuthbert’s Keira, the American in the family, does her internet research on the markings, consults with an expert, and tracks down a past resident, collecting the clues until the specific demonic culprit is revealed in a rather ho-hum non-twist. Keira’s husband, Brian (Eoin Macken), is kind of a blank slate, coming off as almost cold and uncaring about his daughter’s vanishing while young Dylan Fitzmaurice Brady plays their son, who sometimes gets controlled by the house so he can be the creepy dead -stare horror kid. No one’s bad, but the characters are just kind of dead on arrival.

At its best, The Cellar evokes creepy elements from The Blair Witch Project and the novel House of Leaves, but once the answers start coming in, the story loses steam. The strongest parts are the mystery, and sadly the film doesn’t produce a satisfying ending. Without spoiling things, ancient alchemist math is involved. Evil dimensions, forbidden gateways, and mythological demons flood the finish, flattening the initial eeriness.

The film never gets much better than the set up, which involves Keria on the phone with her daughter while the poor girl heads down into their basement during a blackout, counting the steps as she goes… but then never stops counting steps as her voice becomes more trance-like. It’s a nifty opening, nasty in its vagueness, that may have made for a better short film or story.

The worthwhile parts of The Cellar feel lifted from other, better projects.

The Cellar also introduces an interesting aspect that never pays off, which is that Keira and her husband both work in the world of social media advertising and manipulation, literally praying off teenagers’ insecurities for profit. It’s established so much in the beginning that you think it might just tie into the supernatural stuff, or even that the parents themselves are the secret witches, but it never goes anywhere. When the dust settles here, the worthwhile parts of The Cellar feel lifted from other, better projects.

Leave a Comment