Monday, December 14, 2009

Basement Jack (2009)

Last year we reviewed Evilution, the first film in a planned trilogy from writer Brian Patrick O’Toole. The three films are set to revolve around the strange Manager (played by Nathan Bexton) of a creepy apartment complex called the Necropolitan. Basement Jack only has a few nods towards Evilution (it featured the same apartment complex and sinister Manager) and it is a very different film from Evilution. Instead of zombies, we get a seriously bad ass slasher movie.

Eleven years ago, Karen Cook (Michelle Morrow) survived a massacre perpetrated by then seventeen-year-old Jack Riley (Eric Peter-Kaiser), nicknamed by the media “Basement Jack” for his penchant to hide in family’s basements before slaughtering them. The killing spree began when Jack killed his domineering, insane suburban mother (Lynn Lowry) after she tortured him one too many times with electrical shocks and then he moved on to killing whole families headed by blonde matriarchs that were mommy look-alikes.

Yes, boy definitely has mommy issues.

After Karen stopped him, Jack was tried for his crimes, but his lawyers got him off on temporary insanity. A year ago he was released and has started killing again, though no one seems to realize it except for Karen. Karen tracks Basement Jack to the small town of Downer’s Grove, where she hooks up with bumbling rookie Chris Watts (Sam Skoryna) to try and stop the vicious killer.

Basement Jack is a fun throwback to ‘80s slashers but is unique enough to stand on its own. It didn’t need to fall back on familiar and stereotypical slasher tropes (well, except for a few – the killer always comes back to life!) and was unique enough to keep my attention throughout its entire running time.

First off, the film looks great! It was easy to forget I was watching an indie film because it certainly doesn’t look low budget! Everything looked professional, from the lighting to the direction (by Michael Shelton) to the cinematography (by Mathew Rudenberg). Even the score (by Alan Howarth) was excellent and accompanied the action perfectly.

Secondly, Basement Jack has a great story, written by Brian Patrick O’Toole. Some people might complain that too much time was spent focusing on Jack’s childhood and back story, but I thoroughly enjoyed being exposed to his horrifying upbringing. The character of his mother is definitely one for the horror history books! The story also kept things interesting with the inclusion of the cops’ perspective (among them was Tiffany Shepis in fine form!). I will say that things became a bit repetitive with Karen going to the cops, them not believing her and thinking of her as a suspect for the murders – over and over again. Other than that, though, I enjoyed the story and the characters very much.

Plus, with a few exceptions, the acting was pretty solid. There were a few stiff performances here and there, but all the main characters did an amazing job. My favorite performance was from Lynn Lowry who played Jack’s electrifying mother. “Momma loves you with a cuddle and a kiss!” has never sounded so…wrong and disturbing. Eric Peter-Kaiser played a very menacing killer, though he likes to twirl his machete a bit too much and is dressed like a Ramones reject. Regardless of those facts, I found his portrayal of Basement Jack utterly convincing and intimidating. Also, Michelle Morrow put in a lot of talent and energy into the character of Karen and made her very relatable to the audience. And Tiffany Shepis puts on a good show (and keeps her clothes on) in a small role as a cocky cop. It’s always a pleasure to see Shepis, who always brings a certain spark to her roles!

The film boasts some pretty respectable gore effects, too, though a few are on the distractible CGI side. However, Basement Jack slices and dices his way through many a victim, and most of the time it’s gory goodness. And not only does he just make mincemeat of people, he also arranges them in grisly tableaus satirizing the perfect, all-American family that he wishes he had had growing up. This vicious visions are the most disturbing next to Jack’s flashbacks of his cuckoo-for-cocoa-puffs mother, that is!

Overall, I found Basement Jack to be a highly entertaining throwback to the ‘80s slashers we all hold dear. It has a few flaws here and there, but nothing to really dampen my enjoyment of it. Basement Jack is one of the better modern indie slashers I’ve seen and it’s nice to know that the familiar slasher formula can be updated and tweaking in such a way where it can still be enjoyable.

Order it on Amazon!

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