An Irish spookfest with Elisha Cuthbert, who was in 24 as Kiefer Sutherland’s daughter, now playing a parent herself in slowburn dreadfest film, The Cellar. She and her family move into a large countryhouse in the Irish sticks, which teenage daughter Ellie (Abby Fitz) is not happy about as it’s 20 minutes from the city and, basically, dull. There is, however, a cellar whose door seems to automatically lock people in, and some runic symbols carved into the wooden panels throughout the house. Lights flicker, mysterious draughts blow hair, and doors open and close into darkness.
When Ellie goes missing after venturing into the cellar, and with the police believing she’s a disgruntled runaway, her mother takes matters into her own hands, discovering that the house has an alchemic history and could be the doorway to a hellish, other dimension. Meanwhile, underwritten husband Eoin Macken mostly disbelieves her and son Stephen (Dylan Fitzmaurice Brady) looks set to be the next member of the family to disappear.
Writer/director Muldowney keeps the suspense building, although the parenting skills of Cuthbert and Macken are questionable: leaving a child unattended in an obviously scary, weird house as they walk about with torches. The use of numbers in the script is haunting – there are only supposed to be 10 steps down to the cellar, but it turns out there are quite a few more – and bringing in physics and science amidst the demonology adds a Lovecraftian tinge.
As The Cellar goes on, the film gathers momentum towards a disturbing finale with restraint, before going all out in the final few minutes as the mother battles to save her family’s souls from a creepy hellscape. An effective horror, held together by Cuthbert, that has some logic leaps but takes you along in its clammy grip.
Dir: Brendan Muldowney (15, 94 mins)
Streaming on Shudder from Fri 15 Apr
words KEIRON SELF
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