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  Cellar, The I Start Counting
Year: 2022
Director: Brendan Muldowney
Stars: Elisha Cuthbert, Eoin Macken, Dylan Fitzmaurice Brady, Abby Fitz, Aaron Monaghan, Andrew Bennett, Tara Lee, Michael-David Kernan, Sean Doyle, Mary Mullen, Amy Conroy
Genre: HorrorBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: Keira Woods (Elisha Cuthbert) has been drifting apart from her teenage daughter Ellie (Abby Fitz) for a while now, but she thought that moving into an Irish mansion would have solved their problems. However, although her husband Brian (Eoin Macken) and son Stephen (Dylan Fitzmaurice Brady) seem to take to the rather gloomy surroundings like ducks to water, Ellie makes no secret of her hatred of the creepy old place. It does not help that she gets trapped behind the cellar door when doing a spot of exploring, and panic rises in her when she convinces herself that something is advancing up the steps towards her. Luckily a key is nearby, and the door is unlocked, but what if Ellie has a point?

The Cellar was based on a short film of writer and director Brendan Muldowney's, but unwilling to leave a good idea well alone, he decided to open it out for this feature. Not many saw the original short, so presumably he was hoping this would find a larger audience, but there were sequences in the middle stretch that seemed longer than they were for you could feel the material being stretched out. Not necessarily to snapping point, Muldowney was too adept for that, but you could sense there was some straining to sustain the storyline between the initial setting up of the premise and the eventual delivery of the punchline, which was worth sticking around for if you found your attention wandering in those slight doldrums halfway through.

Basically, what you had was a variation on the old arcane knowledge horror, a genre where information can kill since that forbidden knowledge is so potent and powerful that it has the ability to send those who are privy to it around the bend. It was an well-worn tale, but Cuthbert gave it a boost in the lead, as initially you think this will be about Ellie, but that turns out not really to be the case, so Mom takes over and brings matters into her own hands - or so she thinks. Cuthbert in her early starlet phase tried out the Scream Queen crown for a couple of not hugely well-received horrors, but she appeared to suit this better as she approached middle-age, the Supermom role that many of her contemporaries adopted when their fans grew up. Whether those fans would still be watching horror movies was a moot point, but if they were they would find something to enjoy.

Macken as the husband, on the other hand, was a bit of a plank for him to play, all very focused on plot convenience, leaving the actual male lead to be Brady as the creepy kid where you are unsure whether they have been possessed or not. At this point maybe many audiences would be thinking less H.P. Lovecraft and more Dan Brown as Keira starts taking notes about the weird signs and carvings in the walls and floor of the house, and an old record played on a gramophone of someone reading algebraic equations appears to trigger something ancient and evil in that cellar of the title (a title that deserved to be on a less imaginative movie, to be honest). While this did resolve itself into a slightly predictable course of events, especially if you have read Stephen King's Revival or similar "no way out" cosmic horror narratives, that did not mean it wasn't satisfying, and the grand finale was innovative on a lower budget where any limitations of that did not harm the result. A good show, then, if not anything groundbreaking - but it didn't have to be. Loud music by Steven McKeon.

[The Cellar - A Shudder Original
New Film Premieres 15th April 2022.]
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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