A monster b-movie from the late 80’s that many people won’t have heard of and many other people will have completely forgotten about, Cellar Dweller is one of those unusual little movies that gets buried beneath a stack of similar titles and only really has a chance to be woken up again if a company decides to pick up the rights and release it. 101-Films, here in the UK, did just that, and so 2014 saw a DVD release of the film.
The director behind other corny cult films such as Troll and Friday the 13th VII, John Carl Buechler, Cellar Dweller manages to grab attention with two members of its otherwise unfamiliar cast. Jeffrey Combs (Re-Animator) and Lily Munster herself, Yvonne De Carlo (The Munsters) were, and are, the selling point for this film.
With a short running time of just-over 70 minutes, the story is as simple as a horror tale can be. A comic book artist named Colin Childress (Combs) draws a monster named “Cellar Dweller” to life and falls at its hands. Some 30 years later we see that the home of Childress has been turned into an artistic learning facility. Whitney Taylor (Debrah Farentino), a female comic book artist and lover of Childress’s work becomes a resident in the house and attempts to bring his creation of “Cellar Dweller” back to life. There is a mean and judgemental manager of the facility (De Carlo), a bitchy former-enemy of Whitney, a guy with whom Whitney strikes a bond, a friendly performance artist, and some actor guy who looks like a private detective or something. In a nutshell, Whitney brings the monster back and it runs rampant on the house of artists. Enjoy women holding their cheeks with their outstretched palms before screaming unconvincingly into the camera as a shadow grows around them? This film might be for you.
My first thought upon watching the film was how short and simple it all was. This could easily have been a part of a Creepshow-like anthology movie and in my view it would have worked much better in that way. There wasn’t enough substance in the story to truly pull off a good feature film. There were slow moments which dragged on, which is odd and not very respectable considering the diminutive time the film runs for. Still, it offers entertainment, gore and some enjoyable practical special effects as well as some cool comic book art that horror comic fans will get a kick out of. De Carlo steals the show with her cantankerous and deleterious Mrs. Briggs. None of the performances are particularly remarkable and the film plods along in a way that is unoffending but also a little substandard. Combs, a horror icon to many, was only in the opening scene of the film so don’t expect him to be a major part of your experience here.
101 Films have unearthed a movie that would have passed many people by had it not seen the light of day again. This is a great thing and I would love to see more of these forgotten horror films getting another chance to shine, or flop, in today’s generation. This film will appeal to as many people as it repels, and though the transfer isn’t great, the ratio isn’t widescreen, and there are no special features on the disc, it is still a worthwhile watch for people who like these sorts of things.