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Basement: Retro 80s Horror Collection, The

Camp Motion Pictures // Unrated // September 13, 2011
List Price: $34.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by John Sinnott | posted August 24, 2012 | E-mail the Author
The Movies:
Do you remember the early days of home video?  In the late 70's consumer grade videotape players were first marketed in the US.  To a movie buff they these early days were both a blessing and a curse.  While it was amazing to possess movies you could watch whenever you wanted, the players were very expensive and bulky, the picture was mediocre, and the prerecorded tapes were extremely pricey ($50/movie back in the 70's!)  What was worse however, was a dearth of films.  The pickings were pretty slim and I remember going into my local mom and pop rental store ($50 membership fee, rental was $5/night) and realizing that I had seen all of the movies that they had that I was interested in watching.  Some niche studios, most notably Troma who made so much money in the early videotape market that they were able to buy a building in New York City that now serves as their headquarters, embraced the new technology and started cranking out product to meet the demand.  Most of these films were low-budget horror flicks, made on a shoe string budget and very quickly.  While they weren't art, a lot of these movies had some creative effects and what they lacked in production quality they made up for with a love of the genre.
Now Camp Motion Pictures has recaptured the feel of those long gone days with a fun and creative set:  The Basement: The Retro 80's Horror Collection.  For those of you who ever rented a video tape of a movie you've never heard of solely because the blood-splattered scream queen on the back cover looked cute, this collection will bring back memories.  Consisting of five no-budget films that were all made in the late 80's, this entertaining collection come with three DVDs (which contain all of the movies) as well as a VHS tape of The Basement so fanatics can watch it as it was originally meant to be seen.
The title film, The Basement, is arguable the best in the set.  Four people are looking through an old house when a mysterious figure, The Sentinel, emerges from the cellar.  He announces that he will show them vision from their future, evil deeds that they haven't committed yet, which are destined to damn them to hell.
It's an anthology movie, my favorite horror subgenre, with a quartet of short but sweet offerings.  The first tale involves a woman who has been cheating on her husband, and finds a way of ridding herself of not only her unwanted spouse, but of all of the people in her life that she doesn't like... it involves the monster that's living in their pool.
Next up is a tale of a disillusioned teacher who hates Halloween.  In this twisted version of A Christmas Carol, the teacher's dead wife warns him that he'll be visited by spirits on All Hallow's Eve, but these aren't the harmless spooks of Dickens classic.
The penultimate tale tells the story of an overbearing jerk who is directing a horror film finds out that things are a bit scarier than he intended when real zombies invade his shoot.  That's followed by a short about a writer who buys an old spooky house for inspiration.  He isn't deterred when the realtor informs him that multiple murders occurred in the home years ago, if anything he's excited by the houses history.  When his best friend from high school shows up and complains about the run down condition of the house, the friend ends up dead.  Or was it just a dream?
With some creative special effects (though the first story does fail in this regard) and a good amount of gore, this shot-on-video film has some nice moments.  The costumes and makeup for the Halloween story were especially noteworthy.  The entire soundtrack was redubbed in postproduction for some reason, but that just adds to the do-it-yourself feel of the movie.  Some people ended up dubbing multiple characters and changed their voices to hide the fact, which leads to some unintentional laughs.
The next movie in the set is Captives, and it's the weak link in this chain of horror.  When a psycho woman, her crazy stud, and a mentally challenged obese guy break into the home of a rich family, they're not out to steal anything.  Instead they want to show the woman of the house a video tape of what her husband has done in the past.  While a lot of home-invasion movies are great, I found this one on the dull side.  The poor acting didn't help either.
On the same disc is Cannibal Campout a film that starts out a bit on the slow side, but ends up being a lot of fun once the gore starts to flow.  The Deliverance-like plot is pretty simple.  Four buddies take off to the woods for a weekend of camping.  They get into a brief altercation with some hillbillies, but think that the worst is over after they move on.  How wrong they are.  They become hunted by the trio of psychos who want more than revenge... they want dinner. 
This movie with its over-the-top violence, below-par acting and pretty impressive special effects is one of those low-budget films that's so bad that it's good.  A lot of fun once you get past the walking parts, make sure you stay tuned for the revelation of why the hillbillies are cannibals. This is a movie that goes way past the boundaries of good taste, and there's nothing wrong with that.
The set is wrapped up with a pair of related movies:  Video Violence and Video Violence II.  In the first of the duo, a young couple opens up a video rental store in a small rural town.  The store really takes off and business is booming though the only tapes that get rented are horror flicks.  When someone accidently returns a snuff film instead of the tape they checked out, the couple ends up meeting Howard and Eli, the leaders of the local group that makes movies featuring real murders.  It's a violent, comic, and gore-filled classic.
In the sequel Howard and Eli have their own cable show where they exhibit their own unique style of entertainment for the masses.  Full of just as much gore and even more laughs than the first, it's a worthy successor.
The DVD:

The three DVDs come in single-width keepcase along with a VHS tape of The Basement.  (At least it's labeled as such... I don't have a VCR hooked up to check it out.)  The whole package comes in one of those large-sized VHS boxes from years ago.  It's quite a nice collection.
Audio/ Video:
The A/V quality is pretty abysmal, as one would expect given the shot-on-video origins of these films.  They were meant to be seen on a 23" SD TV and viewed by eyes used to VHS' 170i resolution.  The creators never imagined that they'd be shown on a 60" or larger monitor capable of 1080p.  The audio has some background noise and isn't terribly clear to begin with, but that's just par for the course.  Just don't go in with high expectations.
This set has a surprising amount of bonus material.  There are commentary track to all of the films, 6 ½ -minutes worth of deleted scenes to The Basement, a news segment on The Basement, a pair of short films, Vengeance and Say No to Drugs, and a nearly 15-minute interview with Video Violence Director Gary Cohen.  I honestly was expecting a bare-bones package, but this set has some decent extras.
Final Thoughts:
If you remember the SOV days of the 80's with fondness, you'll dig this set.  It has some great low-budget horror that gore hounds will doubtlessly enjoy.  The great packaging and ample extras make up for the videotape quality of the films.  If you're even slightly inclined to check out this set, I'd definitely urge you to.  A strong Recommendation.
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