On their way back from an anti-war demonstration, five friends stop briefly in the countryside where they find a hatch in the middle of the forest and decide to explore. The hatch seals shut behind them, trapping them in a dark series of corridors and rooms. The underground maze is the worst of their troubles when they discover that their situation is far worse than first imagined.
I had no idea what to expect from this flick. “Starring Danny Dyer” didn’t fill me with confidence, especially as his output has been on the feeble side of late. Even worse is when I clocked the running time at a measly seventy-four minutes. That’s never a good sign when a story can’t even string itself out for at least eighty to ninety minutes. The basic idea to the film sounds simple enough. It’s hardly an original idea but I was prepared to give it a go and see what the director could do with the old ‘people trapped in a confined location’ chestnut. And it even received a limited theatrical release which must count for something. So why does everything go horribly wrong with Basement right from the start?
Basement is one of the single most uneventful films ever. There’s nothing I can recommended about it in the slightest. No scenes spring to mind. No plot twists. No lines of dialogue. No thrilling moments. Not even an atmosphere. Just absolute nothing. It’s almost as if nothing happens throughout the film. The story is all over the place or at least what story we get. We’re given scraps to put together an overall picture but it doesn’t make any sense. It’s badly drawn out, even at seventy-four minutes. The characters walk aimlessly around the same few rooms and corridors for what seems like most of the film’s running time. In fact it is most of the film. I think they just re-used the same shots over and over again and flipped them around so instead of walking to the left, the characters walked off to the right instead. They do a bit of talking, walk a bit, do a bit of arguing, do another bit of walking, etc. The sets aren’t well lit either and not particularly interesting to look at which lends the film a grungy monotony. Apart from one novelty room featuring a mirror and a sink, the rest of the rooms are just empty spaces with dripping walls.
Aside from a few moments of curious tension when the group first explore the underground complex, the rest of the time they’re walking around there is no atmosphere. You never get the sense that they’re actually trapped down there. You never get the sense that they’re in danger. We don’t even get a sense of claustrophobia that these people are trapped underground. Even the climatic scenes when the ‘shocking’ plot twist has been unveiled lack any sort of dramatic gravitas. Such is your interest in the film at this point, they could have had a dancing pink elephant quoting Shakespeare and I wouldn’t have given a toss. Films need events in them to generate something: be it a scare, a laugh, a tear….anything. Without anything happening on screen, how first time director Asham Kamboj can expect to create any sort of atmosphere or scares is beyond me.
The cast is dreadful. Danny Dyer can pull a performance out of his ass when he needs to (Severance anyone?) but his delivery here makes him sound hung-over. It’s like he filmed this between happy hours on a night out in London. His usual laddish approach has gone and instead Dyer goes the opposite direction, turning in his most subdued performance ever. Jimi Mistry is someone else who has starred in bigger films (The Guru….yeah I know but it was a modest hit) but on this basis, he’ll be hard pressed to get another bit role, let alone leading part. He tries to act with more conviction than the rest of the cast and tries to give the script a bit of punch with more assertive delivery but because the writing is dreadful, his lines come out as if he’s overacting terribly. His Mockney accent is atrocious too and does him no favours. To be fair to them and the rest of the cast, the characters they have to work with hardly exist. We know their names, that they’re all anti-war and that one of them is pregnant. But that’s really it, we’re literally told nothing else. Once they’re underground, they follow the usual pattern of slowly starting to crack up and turn on each other. We don’t care though.
Basement is unlike anything I’ve ever seen before. It’s just a complete nonentity of a film which serves no purpose at all except to prove that boredom does exist. It’s got no life in it and in fact it drains it from you every minute you watch. I can’t call it the worst film I’ve ever seen because nothing happens in it for me to make that claim but it comes close.