THE CELLAR DOOR immediately awakens the viewer and grabs their attention with a piercing female scream. As we fade in from a black screen, the first scene is striking: a panic-stricken woman struggles to free herself from a series of hooks and chains. As she breaks loose from her constraints, the woman searches for an exit to her large cellar prison.
As the woman finds the cellar door and tries to escape through it, this alerts the attention of her captor - bald-headed loser Herman (James DuMont, OCEAN'S THIRTEEN; S.W.A.T.). Herman rushes to the door and grapples with his victim, who manages to get past him after battering him with a stick.
The woman flees into the broad daylight, looking for help on a heartbreakingly quiet street. Making her way to a bridge, her plight is rudely curtailed when Herman catches up with her in his car … and mows her down. The opening salvo climaxes with Herman bundling the woman's convulsing body into the boot of his car and throttling her with a chain.
Herman learns from his mistake and builds a sturdy cage in the cellar, in preparation of his next 'guest'.
To find his next victim, Herman takes to the local supermarket where he focuses his attentions on the sexy Rudy (Michelle Tomlinson, BOSTON STRANGLER: THE UNTOLD STORY), who he spies upon as she shops with her live-in girlfriend Christa (Heather Sconyers, THE DECEIVER). For a while, Herman keeps his distance and admires Rudy from afar, stealing letters from her bin and following her as she and Christa busy themselves shopping, drinking and strolling around town.
Eventually he strikes in Rudy's home one night, abducting our alluring heroine. She awakes the following morning in his cellar cage.
It's eighteen minutes in before we get any discernible dialogue in THE CELLAR DOOR. Once we do, the film takes an incontrovertible nosedive as it goes through the tired motions of every captor/captive film you've ever seen. Herman sits placidly observing his latest catch; he talks to her in a mild manner that betrays his wide, wild stare; she flits between begging for release and screaming verbal abuse at her tormentor.
At one point Herman offers Rudy food and drink, which she kicks away, yelling obscenities at him. He snaps, revealing a less sedate side to his disposition, which in turn leads her into an attempt to appeal to his better nature by reasoning calmly with him for her release. It's all been done a thousand times before.
Events get temporarily more interesting when Herman approaches Rudy with a needle, explaining that he needs to take a sample of her blood. She's not too happy about this but he gets his sample - under duress - by slicing open her arm. He then pours water into the gaping wound just to test Rudy's pain threshold. For a few brief moments, it seems that THE CELLAR DOOR may be capable of rising above the average.
But no, the action soon shifts to Christa reporting her lover missing. She's frustrated because the police are not willing to help until Rudy has been gone for at least 72 hours. Ooh, without the police's co-operation, could Christa be tempted to investigate Rudy's disappearance by herself?
The unfortunate inclusion of Christa's lame efforts only serve to nullify any growing sense of dread that director Matt Zettell (THE DECEIVER) may have achieved, had his focus remained on Rudy's predicament (and had Christopher Nelson's script not been so hackneyed). Instead by the time we return to the cellar, things have calmed down and Herman is back to wittering on to her about his own background, his relationships with women, his obsession with learning how his victims are feeling etc. He even offers her a clean pair of undies when she has her period.
And so THE CELLAR DOOR unfurls, existing as an episodic and barely engaging balance of Christa's search for her friend and Herman's tediously familiar conversations with his prisoner.
At times the plot dips into ill-advised silly asides (sillier than the central relationship between Rudy and Herman, even) that are there purely to provide moments of unremarkable if gooey violence: the arrival of a pair of Jehovah's Witnesses at Herman's front door is entirely unnecessary and stupid, but at least bumps the film's body count up by the figure of two. Okay, Buttgereit used the same ploy in SCHRAMM, but at least he wove his conceit into that film's outcome.
THE CELLAR DOOR simply isn't effective. It starts with a jolt then rides along every tired gorno convention on its downhill journey towards a forgettable climax. In terms of gore, it's not going to wow modern audiences - sure, it has it's fair share, but there's nothing here that's likely to register with the wince-demanding torture porn crowd that the film presumably aspires to impress.
The acting is below average as is the script, and together these elements conspire to make THE CELLAR DOOR a film whose outcome is entirely of no interest. The best thing about the film is that it's very polished, visually.
In summary, THE CELLAR DOOR recalled Eric Stanze's SCRAPBOOK at times. It looks a lot slicker that Stanze's effort, but lacks it's sincerity or impact.
The screener disc viewed offered the uncut film in a 16x9 enhanced 1.78:1 transfer. Picture quality was excellent: nice sharp images and deep colours.
The English 2.0 audio on offer was also very satisfactory, boasting a rousing well-balanced and loud mix.
With this being a screener disc there were no menus or extras available. The film had remote access via 9 chapters.
Uninspired and not involving, THE CELLAR DOOR has no dramatic worth for most film fans. A film this weak in premise and execution would only appeal to the most indiscriminate gorehounds. The main problem there though is that THE CELLAR DOOR isn't nasty enough to deliver even to their standards.
Review by Stuart Willis
|Released by Revolver|
|Region 2 - PAL|
|see main review|