Unassuming is what would immediately come to mind when thinking of Cellar Dweller because it seems like one of those films that few talk about. Watching it is an entirely different experience though as it draws the audience in, taking them on a trip and not knowing exactly where it will lead, though one could make an educated guess after that introductory scene. It is the best kind of film to find out in the wild, one that surprises and sneaks up and delights where there was only doubt beforehand. Director John Carl Buechler paints a fun picture, almost a dark fantasy rather than a horror, but horror it is and from that opening scene involving none other than Jeffrey Combs, though it might seem slightly silly at first, it turns into something that does not necessarily scare, but it does excite and enthrall.
The creature effects are great, especially considering the film was made in 1988 and the amount of blood and violence that were used within were perfect considering the content. There are some interesting characters played by Pamela Bellwood, Brian Robbins and Vince Edwards though it is Debrah Farentino (then Mullowney), who draws the eye and is the lead of the film. Even classic actress Yvonne De Carlo stars in a fairly straightforward supporting role, calling for little, but obviously giving her best of course. Lastly there is Jeffrey Combs, a man who after Re-Animator could essentially do no wrong, who kills it as he usually does and sets the movie off on track right from the offset. One could argue that some of the human characters or at least one in particular, was the real monster. As it is, the monster that is called forth is definitely one of the more memorable creatures to appear on the big screen.
As for the story itself which concerns Farentino’s character Whitney, she has no doubt about the talent she wields even though she is made to feel inferior for it by her classmates. When she discovers that her hero Colin Childress worked in the basement of the very same house where she is now a resident, she is reluctantly allowed to make it her studio and it is then that the horror starts to picks up exponentially. The movie does two things simultaneously, the first is paying tribute to the EC artists of old and for those avid comic book readers, it is an added treat to an already good movie. It also features quite a bit of cheese because no matter how frightening it is supposed to be, it never quite reaches that level but it does end up being one of the more fascinating horror films to come out of the 80’s.
3.5 out of 5