Don't Look in the Basement (1973)

The day the insane took over the asylum!
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Don't Look in the Basement - The Day The Insane Took Over The Asylum!

Originally titled The Forgotten, but better know by its reissue title of Don't Look in the Basement, this movie is a low-budget Video Nasty from acclaimed horror director S.F. Brownrigg. The low-budgetness of the movie is one of its defining qualities and the bad sound quality increases the terror being portrayed, when it's quiet it's very quiet and when it's loud you soil your pants. Poor quality aside the movie has a compelling and frightening storyline and manages to draw the viewer into the mental asylum in which it takes place and although the gore is quite tame compared to many other movies on the Video Nasty list this is made up for by shocks and scares and a very chilling undertone.

The movie takes place in Stephens Sanitarium where Dr. Stephens is adopting new techniques to treat the mentally insane; he believes that if he allows his patients to embrace their fantasies that they will eventually "snap out of it". Unable to cope with the patients anymore, one of the few employed nurses decides it is time to call it a day and goes to find Dr. Stephens and express her wish to retire. Dr. Stephens is out in the hospital grounds with a completely nut's ex-magistrate known as "The Judge" participating in chopping therapy with an axe! Not surprisingly this ends in disaster as "The Judge" decides to chop Dr. Stephens in the back. The hysterical nurse returns to the hospital where she is accused of kidnapping the baby of another patient during her attempt to leave. The baby in question is a doll and the scorned mother gets her revenge by crushing the nurse's head in the suitcase she was hurriedly packing.

The only remaining doctor appears to be the surprisingly collected Dr. Geraldine Masters, but not for long as along comes Charlotte Beale (the gorgeous Rosie Holotik) for her first day of work. Due to the happenings of the day Dr. Masters is reluctant to allow Ms. Beale to start, but she does, and introduces her to the various patients in the asylum. The retarded Sam, who's only vice is popsicles, a nymphomanical schizophrenic named Allison, the emotionally dependant Jennifer, the childish Danny, the shell-shocked "Sergeant", a batty old woman and, of course, "The Judge".

As the story evolves the we soon discover that all is not right in the hospital, the patients are becoming agitated and are constantly antagonising each other and Dr. Masters seems to have no control over the goings on... and seems not to care, her priorities seem to be elsewhere. It soon becomes obvious that Dr. Masters is not who she claims to be, she is in fact a patient also and her fantasy world is one in which she is the head nurse at an institute. The other patients all know this but have been encouraged by Dr. Stephens to allow her to act out her mental reality but unfortunately they believe Charlotte Beal is a patient also and will not allow her to leave.

Even though this movie was shot in twelve days on a budget of less than $100,000 it is still a very influential horror movie and demonstrates that true quality comes from the skills of the writers and director. Having the main players in the plot being insane allows for some interesting characters and some remarkable conflicts of interests, the twist, although quite predictable early on in the movie, allows the motivations of Charlotte Beal to take a drastic turn increasing the terror factor as the realisation of the peril that she is in becomes apparent plus the whole grimy feel to the movie makes it quite an unsettling experience. The mentally insane running the show and the April 1972 playboy cover girl... What more could you want?
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