The Cellar is littered with elements from previous horror films. Flickering lights, doors opening and closing unexpectedly, and a crackly old gramophone playing a vintage record are all indicators of a demonic presence in the house. Muldowney does an excellent job with the scares, much like he did in The Ten Steps.
Stretching the story to feature-length, on the other hand, necessitates the addition of more plot elements and character development, which is where The Cellar falls short. When a couple that made their fortune using 21st-century algorithms moves into an abandoned home, the gods of terror are ready to retaliate.
The Cellar Plot
Brendan Muldowney, an Irish filmmaker, wrote a disturbing little comedy called The Ten Stairs in 2004 about a teenage girl descending into the cellar of her creaking old house and counting much more steps than there should have been to get to the bottom. It's a quick and effective ten minutes, with no need to explain what horrors the main character discovers at the bottom of the stairs — if there is one.
Muldowney returns to that short 18 years later, after directing three other feature films, for The Cellar, a full-length expansion that doesn't offer any more meaningful scares in its 94 minutes than The Ten Steps did in 10.
Ellie (Abby Fitz), the Woods family's teenage daughter, hasn't even been in their new home for a day before succumbing to whatever evil lurks within. The Woodses got a good deal on the property by buying it and its unnerving contents at auction, as Ellie's father Brian (Eoin Macken) reveals later, which was definitely an indication that moving in was a poor decision.
Brian and his wife Keira (Elisha Cuthbert) leave Ellie and her younger brother Steven (Dylan Fitzmaurice Brady) alone in the musty, lonely house on their first night, despite it having a giant “Haunted” sign on it.
Brian and Keira own a vaguely defined marketing firm, and they're in the middle of crafting their latest presentation when Ellie calls to inform them that the house's electricity has gone out. Keira insists on Ellie walking down into the cellar to reset the breakers, promising her that all she has to do is count each of the ten steps to the bottom to calm herself.
The most disturbing scene in The Cellar is when Keira is on the phone with Ellie, who is urging her down the stairs. Ellie takes each of the customary ten steps gingerly, and suddenly her tone of speech changes. She continues counting higher and higher as if she's descending a staircase into infinity, and it sounds like she's in a trance.
In The Ten Steps, that's where the credits rolled, but in The Cellar, it's only the beginning of the story. Keira and Brian return home to find Ellie has vanished, and while the cops presume she's run away, Keira is convinced she's still within the house, suffocated by an evil force in the cellar.
Because this is a horror film, Keira is correct. Muldowney puts her through the wringer, from internet research into cryptic symbols to a meeting with an eccentric professor and a visit with a disturbed elderly woman in a secluded place. Meanwhile, many in her immediate vicinity disregard her fears until the otherworldly menace becomes too real for them to ignore.
The Cellar Release Date
There are no intriguing story twists or terrifying realizations in The Cellar; instead, it's a succession of web searches that lead to a dismal result. The Cellar grows less horrifying as it exposes more information.
The Cellar will be released in select theatres on April 15 and will be available to stream on Shudder.
The Cellar: Back in Horror, Elisha Cuthbert
Elisha Cuthbert has already appeared in a number of horror films, so it was great to see her return to the genre. Maybe that's why I went into watching The Cellar with no prior knowledge of the film. To be fair, I believe this is frequently the greatest way to see something. These days, both trailers and plots offer far too much information. As a result, you must frequently enter “cold” to avoid spoilers.
Of course, she plays the mother in The Cellar, a new horror film set in 2022, rather than as the young scream queen (or final girl, if you will). That works particularly well for Elisha Cuthbert, who appears to be both attractive and of child-bearing age. In a natural way, to be sure. This may come across as weird, but I promise you that I intend it as a compliment. She also performs an excellent job.
But, oh my goodness, the lines she has to speak are horrible. Not by the content of the dialogue, but by the words themselves, which ultimately build up a pretty weak plot. Yes, it has promise, but it isn't a particularly strong outcome.
THE CELLAR follows Keira Woods (Cuthbert), whose daughter unexpectedly disappears in the cellar of their new country home. Keira quickly realizes that their home is being controlled by an ancient and powerful demon, which she must confront or risk losing her family's souls forever.
Keira Woods (Elisha Cuthbert) and her Irish husband Brian (Eoin Macken) appear to work in social media marketing, figuring out how to best promote material to certain groups.
It's the kind of new-fangled, twenty-first-century entrepreneurial endeavor that people seem to love to despise, perhaps because the labor is so intangible and inchoate while being so lucrative. Given horror films' moral calculation, they're primed for becoming the targets of even more sinister forces.