MANILA, Philippines – The local horror film industry has been in a slump over the past few years. If you take time to look at the quality of our industry’s recent releases (with a few exceptions) it’s not hard to see why.
Despite a rich tradition of horror in our culture, little credit has been given to the complexities of the horror genre. Nowadays, horror films are pushed out the door with the faintest degree of quality control. They are left to fend for themselves like the bloodied victims paraded onscreen, taking their stars, and the rest of the genre, down with it.
Basement is guilty of nearly all these sins of negligence. From cardboard characters to a barely-there plot, the film is a prime example of why the genre has evolved very little since the mid-2000s, save a handful of examples.
Basement follows a group of strangers trapped in an underground parking lot by a raging storm. When the strangers are forced to ride out the storm until rescue arrives, they soon discover that they aren’t alone. As each of them is killed by an unknown creature, they are forced to take matters into their own hands or die in the process.
Basement stars a number of recognizable talents like Pilita Corrales, Ellen Adarna, Mona Louise Rey, Kristofer Martin, Ron Padilla, Jan Manuel and Chynna Ortaleza. Outside of some oddly placed punchlines from Kevin Santos and Betong Sumaya, the film’s performances remain relatively flat, but it’s hard to place the blame on a cast, when the script is so obviously lacking.
The sin in simplicity
Basement keeps its story simple to a fault. The script never goes beyond its basic premise, and the story immediately plateaus after the first 10 minutes. Characters are ushered in and out of their forgettable introductions, giving audiences very little reason to root for or care for them.
The film often finds its footing with a light stab at humor, but since the film takes itself too seriously; any form of levity is quickly derailed by the need to frighten. And even in that regard, Basement isn’t able to provide any effective scares.
Basement does manage a couple of bizarre highlights, including a gun-toting Pilita Corrales and the neck-breaking legs of Ellen Adarna. But while the film does show flashes of B-Movie appeal, it never quite crosses the threshold to completely own it.
The film ends up as a one-trick pony that does very little to raise the stakes. It’s an absolute bloodbath where casualties are concerned, but since very little care is given to the characters, the consequences of their deaths are disappointingly negligible.
The frightening truth
What’s disappointing about Basement isn’t that it’s another faceless title in the crowd of horror films, but that it appears completely content with its own mediocrity. Like its characters, Basement lacks any motivation to break free from its self-imposed prison, happy instead to wallow in an underground parking lot, waiting to be executed.
Basement is slated to go head to head with Star Cinema juggernaut Starting Over Again this Valentine’s weekend. And though Basement is a risky piece of counter-programming, it just doesn’t have the polish or substance to take on this weekend’s Goliath.
For a culture with roots so steeped in the supernatural, it’s disappointing to see our native horror genre head in this direction. While Basement may be a bad representative of what the local industry has to offer, it’s still a good example of all the problems facing genre films today.
If Basement is any indication of the things to come, then the genre may be better off like its characters – dead and buried.
Watch the trailer of Basement here:
Zig Marasigan is a freelance screenwriter and director who believes that cinema is the cure for cancer. Follow him on Twitter at @zigmarasigan.
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