Monterey Media // 2007 // 86 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // April 18th, 2008
The girl next door isn't there anymore
I'm going to keep this brief because, frankly, this movie annoyed me and the thought of burning through X amount of minutes writing about it annoys me more.
The Cellar Door is torture porn. That is, the entire movie derives its scares and shock values through the psychological and physical abuse heaped on a helpless, incarcerated victim by the hands of a psycho loser. This is your movie: a bald loser kidnaps a feisty young woman, keeps her locked up in a wooden box in his basement, the two talk to each other a lot, he inflicts mild injuries on her, her best friend eventually gets drawn into the terror and the two make a break for it and blood spills liberally.
Let me stop here and say this: if this particular brand of horror -- which seems to be sweeping the nation these days -- appeals to you, and you're a fan of films like Hostel and Saw and so forth then you will probably enjoy The Cellar Door. I can objectively say it's a well-made film, acted with gusto by its two leads (James Dumont as Herman the captor and Michelle Tomlinson as Rudy the captive), containing a solid dose of bloodshed and mind-f -- -ing and a contrived-but-cruelly-entertaining finale.
But I'm just not a fan of the genre (has "torture porn" been officially installed as a genre?). I've seen my share of these captivity/nightmare films and in this judge's humble opinion, you've seen one, you've seen 'em all. In my experience, the only variation is the quality and amount of violence because the game-plans rarely change (scared, blubbering prisoners that get screwed over for about 80 minutes until they turn the tables on their captor).
So how does the violence and torturing stack up in The Cellar Door? It's far from the most extreme you'll ever see, but there are some tense, bloody moments to be found. Surprisingly, some of the most gruesome stuff happens right at the beginning, when one of the female victims attempts to escape from the clutches of the diabolical torturer, and the tension doesn't really pick up until the end when our heroine attempts her dramatic escape.
Both of these fairly effective sequences bookend a lot of talking. The vast majority of the film is taken up by Dumont and Tomlinson squaring off in a verbal sparring match through the bars of the makeshift prison. There are a few respites from the cellar dialogue; Herman gets out a few times to buy cake mix and tampons and stab the occasional bystander and Rudy's gal pal has a handful of sequences where she calls the police. Your enjoyment of this stretch will be directly proportionate to how much you dig this kind of psychological fisticuffs.
I grew restless quickly and it wasn't until the fireworks at the end that I got back into the film. That's when The Cellar Door essentially became a slasher flick, with our protagonist running away like crazy from an unstoppable killer. How she gets the upper hand is nuts, but the death scene that wraps up everything is a winner.
That's all I've got to say. You should enjoy The Cellar Door is you're into the feature-length misogyny thing. A stylistically harsh 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer and 5.1 surround for your technical specs and a selection of cast and filmmaker interviews and a text-based Hollywood monsters trivia feature for your extras.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Monterey Media
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
Running Time: 86 Minutes
Release Year: 2007
MPAA Rating: Rated R