DVD Review: Cellar Dweller (1988)

Cellar Dweller DVD CoverDistributor: 101 Films

BBFC Classification: 18

Director: John Carl Buechler

Starring: Yvonne De Carlo, Debrah Mullowney, Brian Robbins, Jeffrey Combs, Vince Edwards, Pamela Bellwood

Directed by special effects master John Carl Buechler (Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood) and written by Don Mancini (Child’s Play), Cellar Dweller is one of those low-budget, straight-to-video creature features that emerged on VHS rental shelves at the end of the 1980s. The film begins with comic book artist Colin Childress (Jeffrey Combs – Re-Animator) in his basement drawing the latest edition of the Cellar Dweller horror comic, but the creature that Childress draws comes to life and kills him.

Fast forward 30 years and Childress’ house is now a school for artistic types, run by the authoritarian Mrs. Briggs (Yvonne De Carlo – The Munsters). Talented comic book artist Whitney Taylor (Debrah Mullowney – Malice) has been accepted into the school by the board of directors but Mrs. Briggs doesn’t think that drawing comic books has any artistic merit and immediately takes a dislke to the new arrival. Whitney is a fan of Colin Childress and wants to create a cartoon in the same vein as Cellar Dwellar and, after persuading Mrs. Briggs to let her study in the basement, begins to give life to the demon that dwells there, and one by one the other students begin to disappear.

Short and sweet, Cellar Dweller clocks in at only 77 minutes long but even at that short length it feels a little stretched out. Similar in look and tone to The Crate, the Hal Holbrook/Adrienne Barbeau section from Creepshow, there’s not really enough here to warrant a full movie despite the attempts by Don Mancini to shoehorn in something more than your average gorefest with regards to the story. The spats between Whitney and Mrs. Briggs are quite amusing as the two strong-willed women try to outwit each other but Whitney’s ongoing resentment to fellow student Amanda (Pamela Bellwood – Dynasty), who bullied Whitney in high school and cheated her way to an award that Whitney was a cert to win, seems to drag the film down a bit and feels a bit like padding.

However, having John Carl Buechler as director and in charge of special effects is no bad thing as the creature designs are pretty good and there are some excellent gore scenes that lift the film up a bit, including a very well done decapitation that still works over a quarter-of-a-century later. The creature itself has a werewolf look about it and the close-ups of it’s face chewing on body parts fit the tone of the film without looking too silly. Jeffrey Combs isn’t in the film long enough to add anything worthwhile although Yvonne De Carlo seems to know exactly what film she’s in and makes the most of it. It’s just a shame that the film as a whole doesn’t quite live up to the sum of (most of) its parts, despite not taking up too much time to get through.

Cellar Dweller

Special Features: None

UK Release Date: 12th May 2014

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