12 June 2009

Cellar Dweller

United States - 1987
Director- John Carl Beuchler
New World Video, 1988, VHS
Run time – 1 hour, 18 minutes

In the wake of the fairly successful film Creepshow written by Stephen King and directed by George Romero, the 80’s hosted a short revival of interest in the horror comics of the 50’s and 60’s like Tales From the Crypt and Eerie. The idea of horror comics in film cropped up a few more times with varying success, but at the moment all I can think of are the Creepshow sequels, Cellar Dweller and Nightmare on Elm Street 4 (I think, whichever one had a comic artist character who dies right away). Anyway, the long sad death of horror film in the following decade put an end to that, and the reason I picked up this film is because I was flipping through an old issue of Fangoria which features the Cellar demon on the cover.

Jeffery Combs, star of Re-Animator shows up for a few minutes at the beginning of this one, enough time to doodle incomprehensibly over what looks like a Bernie Wrightson drawing and read some lines from a big dusty book. Behind him his own comic book monster materializes. Grabbing the axe which he drew on the wall, he battles the demon he has brought to life, and eventually sets it ablaze, leading to a very Re-animator knockoff title sequence with comic panels spinning across the screen in multi colored attempt to associate this low budget cheapie with respectable predecessors.

30 years later female cartoonist Whitney (Debrah Farentino) arrives at the same building now converted into the “Throckmorton Institute For the Arts”. As a child Whitney collected "Cellar Dweller” comics and idolizes their creator and artist Colin Childress (Combs character.) The covers of Cellar Dweller comic books are an obvious homage to those real horror comics. Unfortunately, the Institute is attended not by artists, but by really shitty fake artist stereotypes. An actor, abstract painter, performance artist and finally, “video” artist Amanda, (Whitney’s nemesis from a pre-film encounter) who all wander about without guidance ostensibly “doing” something off screen when they're not onscreen making fun of comic books. We assume anyway, lord knows there’s enough of Phillips crappy abstracts carefully positioned in each scene, he’s obviously got some free time when he’s not pawing Whitney’s smock. (see his amazing "Mullet Titty Chicken" to the right in the picture above)

Despite the house mothers warning Whitney moves into the basement, Childress’ old studio which after 30 years and the restoration and installation of a full fledged private art college upstairs (admittedly only 5 students), remains entirely untouched, undisturbed and, unlocked. Including Childress’ satanic tomes, which still lie right next to the drawing table. It’s amazing how all that evil toil was poured into making a big heavy book with a nice leather-bound cover and all those crinkly parchment pages when all anyone ever needs is the first two lines of page one to summon a host of demons. Reading that line, Whitney marvels at how interesting her idol was, what with all the Satanism and stuff, and isn’t it just so, I don’t know, interesting?

I suppose it's meant to let us know from the start that Whitney is not to be regarded as the “hot chick” of the movie, but decked out in her stiff grey linen, floor length dress she looks more like an escapee from a Spanish women in prison film. Though the performance artist (Miranda Wilson) does lather up before her pending demise, the first assumption was correct; don’t expect any soapy group fights.
For mocking her preferred media Whitney draws her fellow students (with the exception of Phillip) being eaten by a demon, or does she? Do the comic pages just draw themselves? As before, the fantasies come to life and are played out with minimal, if decent gore. Whitney discovers the mystery pages on her drawing table, and realizing she has caused the problem, splashes a little white-out on the drawings and then decides to draw all the other students back to life, which suddenly ends with a bunch of fire and screaming. So, I guess that didn’t work so well.

One gets the impression there was supposed to be a sequel, but unless you're counting the porn series I unwittingly discovered doing an image search of the title, that pretty much didn't work out well either.


regis said...

Man, you can't just bring up a horror-comic porn knock off porn series and leave us ihanging like that.

William Weird ("The Bearded Weirdo Reviews Guy") said...

Groovy blog. Very, very cool to see write-ups for Cellar Dweller and the Anna Nicole Smith vehicle To The Limit just inches apart from one another.
I'm glad to see you dug my review of The Rejuvenator, and I'm similarly glad it got you interested enough to give it a look-see sometime. It may be an acquired taste, but I suppose you could say that for just about every low budget 1980's horror flick released in the Video Boom. Definitely worth a watch anyway, I think, if only for its surprisingly super-serious tone (in comparison to much of the stuff that was being released on rental store shelves around the same time, such as The Video Dead or Death Row Diner) and its nifty effects (most notably the monster meltdown sequence, obviously). I hope that, whenever you get around to seein' it, you enjoy it.
Kudos again on your groovy blog.
Stay sick!

Seth J G Goodkind said...

Cellar Dweller followed by To The Limit followed by Jimmy Carter. There's something fundamentally confused about that.

Trekkie313 said...

You lucky bastard, do you know how rare this movie is?