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Scream Theater Volume 3: Don't Open The Door/Don't Look In The Basement

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    Ian Jane
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  • Scream Theater Volume 3: Don't Open The Door/Don't Look In The Basement



    Released by:
    VCI Entertainment
    Released on: September 11, 2012.

    Director: S.F. Brownrigg

    Cast: Susan Bracken, Larry O'Dwyer, Gene Ross/William Bill McGhee, Annie MacAdams, Rosie Holotik

    Year: 1979/1972

    Purchase From Amazon


    The Movies:


    Don't Open The Door:


    Amanda hasn't been back to her small home town in thirteen years, and with good reason as she has an odd past there. When she was a girl, she was awoken one night when she heard her mother screaming. When she went in to her mother's room to investigate, she found her stabbed to death.


    Cut to the present, or at least, what was the present back in 1979 when the film was made. Amanda finds out via a phone call from a mysterious stranger, that her grandmother is on her deathbed. Being the dutiful granddaughter that she is, Amanda heads off back to her hometown and finds herself involved in some pretty eerie circumstances.


    It turns out that the museum curator wants the belongings of the grandmother's house to go to the museum, for their historical significance to the town's history is invaluable. The local Judge also wants the house for himself. Everyone seems to want a piece of it, but Amanda insists that no one is going to get anything out of it who isn't family.


    When Amanda goes against the town doctors orders and has her grandmother admitted into the local hospital, things take a turn for the worse. She starts receiving sleazy 'breather' calls at odd times during the day from someone who claims to know a little more than they really should about her past and about the events surrounding her mother's death, while one by one, the supporting cast starts getting knocked off.


    Don't Open the Door is seventies drive-in fare at its best. Obviously made with little to no money, its low budget roots don't take away at all from the films sleaze factor, and it's decent cinematography and odd characters save it from mediocrity. Director S.F. Brownrigg makes great use of shadows in the old house, and even if most of the cast and characters aren't really the most convincing thespians you're likely to encounter on the screen, at least the movie is interesting and moves along at a relatively decent pace. The film also successfully pulls you in through its use off strange imagery, particularly the porcelain dolls that are used throughout the film in different scenes.


    Don't Look In The Basement:


    Up next, Brownrigg's 1972 masterpiece, Don't Look In The Basement. The movie follows a pretty young woman named Charlotte Beale (Rosie Holotik) who takes a job as a nurse at a rundown mental hospital in the middle of nowhere called the Stephens Sanitarium.


    When she arrives, she learns that Dr. Stephens was murdered by one of the patients and under some rather suspect circumstances. Unfortunately for Charlotte, his replacement is a very stern woman named Dr. Geraldine Masters (Annabelle Weenick), is not particularly friendly. She's also not at all interested in taking on a new nurse at this point in time. Begrudgingly she lets Charlotte take the position but poor Charlotte soon finds that things are not going to be easy. The patients are more or less given free reign and they do nothing but make life difficult for her. Eventually, however, the truth comes to light as to why Masters is so closed in regards to how she runs the place and how she treats the patients.


    While the bulk of the storyline follows Charlotte and her plight, so much of what makes this movie work so damn well as it does is the supporting cast, specifically, the patients. Haryette Warren is excellent and surprisingly sympathetic as the man-starved Jennifer, liable to do anything it takes to get attention from any man she can. Hugh Feagin as the disturbed veteran Sgt. Jaffe is also great, whereas Bill McGhee as Sam steals pretty much every scene that he's in. A massive hulking black man (the only character in the film who isn't white), Sam is treated as an imbecile by many around him but while he may be slow, he's important to the story in many ways and is actually very well written and acted.


    In typical Brownrigg fashion, the movie features some successfully skuzzy photography that somehow manages to make the movie far more effective than it would be were it a glossy production. The sanitarium itself, essentially a massive and aged rundown house, is the perfect eerie location for the story to play off of and it's shot and lit very well here, with lots of great shadows hinting at what's to come. The movie is paced very effectively, running just under ninety minutes and wasting very little time. Some moderate gore and sexual situations add some welcome sleaze to the affair earning the film an R-rating (the first feature was PG). The film was also released as The Forgotten, which in a lot of ways is a more appropriate title given the story of the film - but nowhere near as attention grabbing as Don't Look In The Basement!


    Video/Audio/Extras:


    VCI has presented Don't Open the Door in a 1.85.1 anamorphic transfer. Unfortunately, the low budget origins of the film are evident and the age and wear to the source material don't do anything to help the appearance of the film here. Print damage, grain, spotting and a mute color scheme are evident throughout the presentation. It's not unwatchable, but it's not very good either. That being said, this is probably the best that the film is ever going to look as previous home video incarnations of the film have looked much worse. Don't Look In The Basement is also 1.85.1 widescreen but is non-anamorphic and looks a fair bit softer than the other movie.


    The audio is marginally better than the video, but still leaves a fair bit to be desired. Hiss and pops in the score and the dialogue are consistently noticeable and at times the dialogue can be a bit tricky to make out, but I believe most of this to be a problem with the source materials, as it sounds like some of the audio was recorded from too far away during a few scenes. It's really only background chit chat and what not that is affected by it though, and again, it's listenable, but it's not very good. Despite its shortcomings, however, it still manages to maintain an ambient and surreal quality to it that adds to the overall 'weirdness' of the film.


    For the Don't Open The Door disc, VCI has provided a brief but informative bio on the film's director, S.F. Brownrigg, as well as the original theatrical trailer for Don't Open The Door. Also included are some bonus trailers for other VCI titles like Kiss of the Tarantula and Ruby. Extrs for Don't Look In The Basement include the same bio,a trailer for the feature and a different set of bonus trailers promoting VCI releases like Children Shouldn't Play With Dead Thing and The Stitcher.


    The Final Word:


    Don't Open the Door and Don't Look In The Basement are strange little movies with some effective camera work and some great sleazy moments. Fans of 70s drive-in movies should enjoy the film despite the shortcomings of the DVD's A/V quality - though this release is simply the two single disc versions that VCI put out years ago repackaged with a new cover.








































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