Work is stressful and poopy, and whenever I return home, I just don’t have the brain capacity to do anything but watch direct-to-laserdisc horror movies. Lucky for me and all my fellow degenerates, movies like that are REALLY easy to find online – I guess no one’s really that concerned with doing copyright takedowns on these bad boys, huh?
My most recent B-movie find was Cellar Dweller, directed by John Carl Buechler. It was a bittersweet discovery – Buechler sadly passed earlier this year from prostate cancer. It feels like a fitting tribute to settle in and watch one of his flicks during the Halloween season.
Let me tell you a little bit about Mr. Buechler. The dude rules. Not only has he directed cult classics like The Dungeonmaster and Troll, but he also did the special-effects make-up for the Re-Animator franchise, Ghoulies, and more. He’s even worked on three of the biggest slasher franchises: Friday the 13th, Nightmare On Elm Street, and Halloween. Like, my man is credited as a “Spraying Cthulu Creature Supervisor” on Necronomicon. It doesn’t get much cooler than that!!
Buechler’s Cellar Dweller tells the spo0o0o0oky story of Whitney Taylor, an aspiring comic book artist who is obsessed with in-universe 1930’s comic star, Colin Childress (played by Re-Animator’s Jeffrey Combs). Unfortunately for her, her Comic King Childress died in an apparent murder/suicide, so almost everyone thinks he’s a complete creep. However, Whitney just KNOWS that her hero is innocent, and takes it upon herself to investigate his death AND revive his comic book series.
Luckily, she can do both at once – for some reason, the house that Colin died in is now an art college…kind of? Maybe not a college, exactly, more like a commune or something? Whatever it is, Whitney manages to wiggle her way into it by submitting a portfolio of comics. Unfortunately, her actual teacher is the cranky Mrs. Briggs – who immediately lets her know that she doesn’t think comics are real art and that she doesn’t even want Whitney to be there.
Now, to be perfectly honest, Whitney’s portfolio IS shit – she straight-up submitted traced artwork from when she was a child to show her “passion.” Something tells me that’s…not how you get into an art school. Actually, the whole movie doesn’t seem to understand how art school works. There are only four other students in the whole place – a writer who shoots statues for “inspiration,” a performance artist who “studies” by screaming in the wood at midnight while drinking hard liquor, a pretentious ~abstract artist~, and a rival cinematographer from Whitney’s past. That’s four students all studying completely different mediums under JUST ONE teacher in a former murder house.
Anyways, after all that exposition mumbo jumbo, Whitney moves into the cellar Colin died in because she has a hard-on for mystery. She draws a bunch of angry comics because she hates that her old rival is here and – oh no! They come to life as THE CELLAR DWELLAR! AND!!! It turns out the monster is the one who killed Colin all those years ago – the beast feeds on creative energy (which might explain why everyone at this art collective’s work fucking sucks).
This is when The Good Stuff happens. Whitney draws angry comics that involve herself and her rival, and then the beast kills people. The illustrations are actually done by Marvel comics artist, Frank Brunner. His drawings are cool as shit, but they don’t actually…make sense in the context of the movie. Like, Brunner’s style apparently involves drawing pronounced female nipples. Which means that that we watch Whitney…draw comics of…herself…with pointy nipples.
Buechler is responsible for the visual effects and modeling of the titular dweller of the cellar. The monster is delightfully cheesy, if not very scary. Unfortunately, the movie noticeably reuses a few shots of the creature, but hey! I’m not mad! There are enough fun gore shots that I can forgive it. There’s an over-the-top decapitation and a sick eyeball slurp in here that just tickled my spooky core. Plus, the creature has these unsettling yellow eyes that remind me of one of the most horrific monsters of all…the Chuck E. Cheese animatronics!
Overall, this is a fun cornball horror movie. It’s worth checking out if you’re a sucker for practical effects, or if you’ve ever wondered what it would be like if the “Take On Me” video was actually about a rubber-masked beast killing shitty artists. There’s a decent amount of fun Easter eggs here, too – for example, not only is there the Buechler and Jeffrey Coombs connections to Re-Animator, but there’s even a Re-Animator poster hiding in Whitney’s room. Most importantly, it’s better than Mama Dracula, the last movie I wrote about, so I NEED you to check this one out so that I can prove that I have good taste!