Monday, September 26, 2011

What's in the BIG BOX in THE BASEMENT?

THE BASEMENT - Retro -VHS collection

This overwhelming package of shot on video (except for THE BASEMENT which was shot on super 8!!!) horror and sleaze is a true horrific throw back to a simpler time when cult horror film was not such a pretentious enterprise. When people who picked up a video camera to make a horror film and released it to the market place really had their hearts in it. Not weened on their parents pocket books, film schools and You Tube to make them believe they are going to be the next big cult film sensation and have their cocks sucked by the mainstream. The films in this set are charming in their backyard exuberance and true love of the art-form itself.

The folks at CAMP MOTION PICTURES clearly remember the days of not only releasing this kind of product but watching it too, because why the hell else would you go to the trouble of releasing  a five film DVD package that is co-featured inside a big box VHS of the main feature film? This is a nostalgia release for those who grew up haunting the mom and pop video stores renting trash like this. Not LIKE this, but this ACTUAL trash. I remember looking at the actual big box releases of VIDEO VIOLENCE and CANNIBAL CAMP OUT at my local much loved Video store VIDEO CASTLE back in the day. So if for nothing else this release brings back fond memories.

The main film in this set is the super 8mm epic anthology THE BASEMENT, a film that was apparently never finished back in the 80's due to processing errors that only now, with technology catching up, have allowed the movie to be put out in a watchable form.  Directed by Timothy O'Rawe, the sick mind behind cult favorite GHOUL SCHOOL, this extremely low budget offering is like a group of friends sitting around a campfire spinning EC Comic style tales. None of them are terribly scary, but the sheer effort involved makes them all kinds of lovable anyway.

The stories are being told by a some creepy demon/death like figure in a basement to a group of friends as they leave a party. Apparently it is a foretelling them of their doom. The first story SWIMMING POOL is about a bitch middle age  woman who discovers her swimming pool has a monster in it and how she can manipulate folks over to it for her own gains. 

The next one is the closest to the classic EC style called TRICK OR TREAT about how Classic Monsters deal  some revenge on a dude who is not giving them the respect they deserve on Halloween night. ZOMBIE MOVIE deals with a low budget movie being shot and the asshole director who is not noticing that the zombies are a little too real for comfort. 

And finally the most invovled story in the movie and the one that apparently was the most damaged when shot. HOME SWEET HOME is about a guy who buys a house with haunted past and forgets to check into the murderous past involved. 

 For a super 8 film especially, the movie is all around pretty ambitious and each story gets progressively more involved and even more intense. The second story with the classic monsters is probably the most fun, but the last story is the most successful as for as being a true horror film goes. Over all it is pretty much right in line with the late 80's direct to tape horror boom and would have been right at home with that product had it made it out as intended the stores. Kudos to Baltimore film maker Chris LaMartina for his fine brand new score for the movie. A lot of time and effort, as well as money, has been spent putting THE BASEMENT back together and it shows. 

Next up is CAPTIVES the "lost" film for Gary P. Cohen the director of VIDEO VIOLENCE and his most serious picture. This never got a proper release because it was not really a horror film, and certainly not funny or a parody. Not polished enough to be considered a "real" film, but not scrappy enough to be campy. What you have a finely made, well mounted, underground film that takes itself very seriously. A tightly wound thriller, that is unfortunately shot on video and because of that destined to never be taken seriously in the climate at which it was made.

The film is basically DESPERATE HOURS meets THE CANDYSNATCHERS in whcih a trio of criminals descend on the house of the female of the groups former husband in an attempt to not only rob him, but get revenge on him and his new family. Seems he has started over since she has been in prison all these years. Turns out HE burned their house down killing their son, but SHE took the wrap for him for the years in the pen and now she is out and wants some answers and respect. So she is here with her new psychotic boyfriend and mentally handicapped brother to make it all come together.

Surprisingly violent, even more surprisingly well written, with some really good performances, CAPTIVES is a movie that would have been much better served if Cohen had been able to get more money together and actually shot it on film. Or even went another  route and made it as a stage play. As it stands the technical limitations hinder what is at its core a REALLY good movie.

Rounding out the package are the three Camp Motion Pictures that have been released on their own before VIDEO VIOLENCE 1 & 2 and CANNIBAL CAMPIOUT which I have reviewed previously when they were originally released. So here is the text of those previous reviews:

D. Jon McBride

This flagship release for the Camp Motion Pictures DVD label seeks to cash in on the nostalgia of the shot on video shoe-string backyard epics of the late 80’s…

(Sounds of crickets chirping as the readers look around in confusion and awe)

Yeah, it surprised me too.  But actually a few of those S.O. V. flicks aren’t half bad.  You could accuse them of not being half good as well, but what they lack in technical finesse they make up for in heart.  And CANNIBAL CAMPOUT is definitely on such movie.   Compared to other S.O.V. turds like HELLROLLER or EYEWITNESS MURDER, CANNIBAL CAMPOUT is a downright masterpiece!

CANNIBAL CAMPOUT tells the simple tale of a group of not terribly bright college friends who decide to go camping even though there are rumors of people disappearing in the woods.  Naturally they are besieged by a trio of ax wielding maniacs distinguished by one being a talkative sex fiend, one wears a flight mask and motorcycle helmet and is called a retard by his brothers, and the other one, apparently the leader, wears the bib overalls of the family.  Surprisingly the kids (led by director Mcbride) are not all that annoying, and badly delivered dialogue aside, are a likable enough bunch that you feel kinda bad when they get offed.

While the movie offers nothing new either in story or style, it does what it sets out to do with an earnest nature and plenty of the red stuff.  While the gore is not exactly Savini level, it is plentiful and pretty savage at times including one spot where it is downright offensive (A compliment if there ever was one for this type of film!)  The villains are a rough bunch with some vicious dialogue that I swear I’ve heard ripped off in some recent big budget movies including the line  “Shut up or I’ll staple yur titties to the roof of the car!”

For being shot with a consumer camcorder in 1988 the flick is surprisingly well shot, with nice coverage of scenes and really nice composition.  The editing is also really well done (remember this was before every kid had a computer with editing software).  Though the dialogue scenes could be tightened up a bit in places.

Overall, CANNIBAL CAMPOUT wins you over with its youthful charm and grossout factor.  The script is lacking, but everyone’s heart is clearly into what they are doing and that goes a really long way.  In fact it is refreshing to see a shot on video movie where everyone cared about it enough to spend a YEAR’S worth of weekends shooting it instead of the 48 hours most youthful “filmmakers” of today throw at their productions.

Not exactly groundbreaking but if it is a rainy Saturday afternoon and you need a cheesy gore fix, this should do the trick just fine. DVD includes deleted scenes (trims really) a 40 minute making of / where are they now style documentary, photos and trailers for upcoming CAMP releases including the much loved (by me anyway) VIDEO VIOLENCE series!

D.Gary P. Cohen

This duo of shot on video epics from the 80’s definitely stand well above the norm in their  field. In fact it is safe to say that the first one is a minor classic in the arena of S.O.V. productions. Savily written, well-directed and even decently acted, VIDEO VIOLENCE was truly a surprise when it was released.
I must be going soft in the head! This is a shot on video regional quickie that I found myself enjoying quit a lot.

The plot concerns a video store owner who gets dropped a snuff film instead of one of his rental tapes. As he investigates he finds a general reluctance from the town to help and people start dropping like flies, and always in front of a video camera. A definite conspiracy begins to unfold.

The real surprise here is that the twists don’t seem telegraphed, and the lead characters aren’t as stupid as the average horror flick. The snuff angle was very fresh at the time, with only Roberta Findley’s cheesy grindhouse epic SNUFF and Roger Watkins classic LAST HOUSE ON DEAD ST being the only other films to exploit that angle.

The whole production is reasonably well put together, with good editing and sound, which is always a problem with S.O.V. productions. The gore score is reasonably high too. The attack in the deli should delight gorehounds all over with the well-done splatter.

Part 2 is unfortunately a step down in quality in more ways than one. This time the movie centers on the villains from the first movie who now have their own Snuff oriented underground TV show. On the show they torture and kill women in various splatterful ways.  As unpleasant as that sounds, the movie plays out in a very tongue and cheek manner, much more so than the serious first movie. Very little here is taken seriously at all, which makes the almost misogynistic tone easier to take.

This episode was also shot on lower end S-VHS equipment so the picture and sound quality are a big step down as well, making this one less appealing to watch on that lever too (which makes it a perfect addition as an extra feature on this DVD!).

Overall this package of THE BASEMENT and the co-features is probably one of the best
bangs for your buck going right now. Five movies, all pretty good as long as you understand what you
are getting,and lets be real if you are buying this package you TOTALLY understand what you are getting. Plus that extra VHS collector's tape of THE BASEMENT and the beautiful big box packaging too. Plus there are a fistful of short films as extras on the first disc that are all really pretty good too including one called DON'T DO DRUGS that throws around the red stuff in a very liberal way. Your really can't go wrong. The whole thing is a VHS festishists wet dream come to life and a must have item for the nostaligic gorehound.

© Review Andrew Copp

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