October 22nd, 2008

CELLAR DWELLER (1988) ** ½

In the 50’s, a comic book artist (Re-Animator’s Jeffrey Combs) draws a furry monster and it comes to life so he burns the comic in order to kill it.  Flash forward to the 80’s where Combs’ home has been turned into a house for starving artists ran by none other than Lily Munster herself, Yvonne DeCarlo.  When a newly arrived tenant starts living in the cellar and drawing pictures of the monster, she gives the beast a new lease on life and pretty soon, the boarders start dropping like flies.


I have a soft spot in my heart for all of these 80’s horror flicks from producer Charles Band’s Empire Pictures.  The company did produce some classics like From Beyond, but even some of the turds they churned out have their moments.  Cellar Dweller is similar to a lot of Empire’s output like Ghoulies as it features a single shooting location (an old dark house with an extremely photogenic cellar) and some pretty good monster effects.  It’s not one of their best, but I still kinda dug it.


There are a couple inspired touches in the film such as whenever the artist chick draws something, it really happens.  (I especially liked the scene where she accidentally spilled White-Out on the comic and the monster disappeared.)  The irritating thing about this movie though is that it has a lot of annoying gratuitous supporting characters who play out of work actors who like to run around performing overly theatrical death scenes.  Predictably, when it comes time for them to really die, nobody even notices. 


Director John Carl Buechler also did the effects for the monster, which just looks like a giant version of one of his creatures from Troll.  That’s not necessarily a bad thing in my opinion.  As long as Buechler kept those shots of the monster chowing down on people coming, I had no problems with it. 


Whenever the monster isn’t turning tenants into corned beef hash, things can get a little rough going.  The problem with artists’ colonies is inevitably there’s going to be that one idiot chick who does a lot of pretentious performance art.  This flick’s got an annoying twat who wears enough make-up to make her look like a reject from Jem and the Holograms who aerobicizes while stabbing balloons.  Even though the movie runs a scant 77 minutes long, Cellar Dweller is still padded with lots of these stupid kinds of scenes.  If you can stomach that, you’ll be rewarded with some very cool death scenes; my favorite of which was the slow-mo decapitation.  There are a right good number of titties running around the joint too and that should at least keep you halfway interested.


Co-star Brian Robbins later went on to direct Norbit and screenwriter Don Mancini also wrote all of the Child’s Play movies.