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Everyone’s favourite would-be wideboy and dedicated mockney Danny Dyer returns to the screens for the latest in his never ending assault on the British direct to DVD market with the supposed psychological horror “Basement”. The film marks the debut of writer director Asham Kamboj and co-writer Ewen Glass, and boasts a cast of vaguely familiar Brit faces including Jimi Mistry (“RocknRolla”), Emily Beecham (“28 Weeks Later”), Kierston Wareing (“Fish Tank”), Lois Winstone (“Tamara Drewe”) and Christopher Ellison (“The Bill”). After a brief theatrical release, the film now arrives on region 2 DVD via Revolver Entertainment.
The film follows a disparate group of anti war protestors, Gary (Dyer), Sarah (Wareing), Saffron (Winstone), Derek (Mistry) and Pru (Beecham) who stop in the woods to answer nature’s call on the way back from a demonstration. After girlfriend Pru and the rest wander off, as people usually do in films like this, the randy Derek sneaks off with Saffron for a little bit of open air action. When the others return and find them missing, they search the area, and come across a metal hatch with a ladder leading into darkness. Quite naturally, they assume that their friends are larking around, and climb down into what appears to be an abandoned underground bunker. The hatch slams shut, forcing them to explore further in search of a way out and trapping them down there with a mysterious evil that an unknown member of their group appears to have a hand in.
Films about characters wandering around in grim underground locations have long been popular, offering directors the chance to connect with primal fears and to work in some potentially effective symbolism. Sadly, Asham Kamboj seems to have missed the point entirely, mistakenly believing that he can generate atmosphere and scares simply by making everything very dark indeed and having everyone behave exactly as idiots do in hackneyed genre productions. Most of the time it is far too dark to see what is going on – not that this really matters, since in fact there is very little is going on.
A large part of the short, though hideously overstretched running time is taken up with the cast meandering aimlessly through the dull sets, and whilst having all the corridors look the same may well provide an excuse for their continually getting lost, it doesn’t make for much in the way of eye candy or interest. The film is horribly monotonous and it takes an age for anything of note to happen, with only a few amusingly green tinted POV shots and splashes of blood to distract from the crushing tedium. Even once the film finally struggles into some semblance of life during the last fifteen minutes or so, it steadfastly refuses to offer the patient viewer any kind of payoff, with its revelations boring and its climatic scenes lacking in any kind of impact.
Probably the most telling fact is that Danny Dyer is easily the best thing about the film, or at least the most entertaining. Eschewing his usual four letter word tirades, he turns in a weirdly subdued, stoned performance that makes for a few scattered unintentional laughs. The script similarly does manage to raise a few moments of hilarity, thanks to some comically bad and stilted dialogue and wonderfully unsubtle injections of social commentary. The film as a whole is mystifyingly self important, with Kamboj and Glass clearly being under the impression that they are delivering not a horror film, but a clever piece of satire that takes aim at recent military conflicts and the hypocrisy of the general public. While this in itself may not necessarily be a bad idea, the film is ham-fisted throughout, with its amateurish stabs at relevance coming through glaringly gratuitous rants.
All of this edges “Basement” towards being enjoyable trash, though sadly its mind numbing, soul destroying lack of energy or originality drags it back down into the mire. Succeeding neither as a horror film, nor as some kind of oddball social conscience film, though completist followers of the inimitable Danny Dyer may find a few moments worth their time, it should be avoided by even the most forgiving of genre fans.
Asham Kamboj (director) / Ewen Glass, Asham Kamboj (screenplay)
CAST: Danny Dyer … Gary
Jimi Mistry … Derek
Emily Beecham … Pru
Kierston Wareing … Sarah
Lois Winstone … Saffron
Christopher Ellison … The Professor
Soraya Radford … Girl