The Basement has been compared to other thrillers such as Silence of the Lambs and Split. It’s easy to compare serial killer movies to each other, but The Basement is a unique beast. Some may look at it as “torture porn,” but the film’s bodily horror just one aspect of a very original story that is as utterly demented as it is darkly humorous, and delivers some truly toe-curling moments that would even make Buffalo Bill shudder.
The plot of “The Basement” revolves around L.A. serial killer known as The Gemini (Jackson Davis), who tortures and ultimately murders his victims in the dungeon-like basement of his San Fernando Valley home. (“Van Nuys is a SHITHOLE,” he says at one point.) By the time the movie opens, Gemini has already claimed seven victims, all of whom he has horrifyingly maimed and decapitated with a blowtorch, but Craig Owen (Cayleb Long), the famed musician who Gemini has chosen for his eighth victim, and Craig’s wife Kelly (Mischa Barton) prove every bit the killer’s equal in the art of psychological warfare, giving rise to one of the more diabolical plot twists in recent memory.
Davis especially delivers a brilliant performance, proves his acting chops by never actually taking on the personality of the Gemini killer, but rather each of the identities of the people he has murdered, which he embodies completely during Craig’s physical and psychological torture. He dresses up and acts as everything from a clown, to a sadistic detective, to an upstanding lawyer, and even his mother, allowing himself to enact what his own capture, torture, and murder would be like were he ever to be caught.
Much like the often two-sided personality that is often associated with Geminis, he manages to gain pleasure from the idea of his own punishment, implying that he is as sadistic as he is masochistic. Each time a hint of sentimentality is shown, it is immediately countered with his psychotic side, leaving Craig in utter despair every time any glimmer of hope shines through. However, The Basement shows that there are two sides to every person, including those that are presumed innocent.
It is never known for sure if the Gemini Killer actually has a personality disorder, or if he just likes to act and play out his victims’ lives. The audience is left in dread as to what character is going to come down the stairs each time he pays Craig a visit, and what horrific physical torture he will endure as well. I don’t want to give too much away, but let’s just say that I finally know what chewing and swallowing one’s own teeth sounds like.
Nearly the whole film takes place in the Gemini Killer’s basement, which could have potentially led to claustrophobia and redundancy. However, director/writer duo Brian Conley and Nathan Ives have successfully avoided this, partly due to the idea that because we never know who the killer is going to present himself as each time, it somehow makes the setting seem different each time as well. The bare and dismal setting that contains only a chair, a record player, a blowtorch, and the school desk/chair combo that Craig is tied to allows the killer to psychologically manipulate his victims into whatever setting he wants it to be (i.e., an interrogation room or a prison).
The end of The Basement surprises us with a twist that nobody saw coming. Though this particular scene itself seemed a bit rushed and the writing a bit on-the-nose, the idea itself added a whole new chilling layer to an already sinister plot, and is hardly a flaw in an otherwise solidly made film, which Conley and Ives have succeeded in making thrilling and unpredictable.