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Nurse Charlotte Beale arrives at the isolated Stephens Sanitarium to work, only to learn that Dr. Stephens was murdered by one of the patients and his successor, Dr. Geraldine Masters, is not very eager to take on new staff. Charlotte finds her job maddeningly hard as the patients torment and harass her at every turn, and she soon learns why Dr. Masters is so eager to keep outsiders out. Written by
Take an ensemble cast of good B grade actors, give them a good script, a somewhat original premise, and unobtrusive directing, and you may end up with a film that over-achieves as much as "Don't Look in the Basement" did.
The film takes place in a large house which is home to several psychotic individuals. Before the plot even begins, the head of the hospital is chopped up by one of the patients with an axe. Then Rosie Holotik enters the hospital looking for the axe victim and finds that the hospital has a new head who is not at first willing to honor her agreement with the deceased Dr. Stephens. Soon, however, Dr. Masters reconsiders and Nurse Beale (Holotik) is hired. The rest of the film builds tension and successfully develops the individual psychoses of the in-mates. After a while it becomes very unclear who is a patient and who is a doctor.
In the end, Don't Look in the Basement is a cleverly plotted film which benefits from generally good acting and directing and not-overly-ambitious camera work. A must-see for B horror fans, and an interesting diversion for those interested in psycho-dramas and psychological thrillers. Be warned, however, this film is slightly more gory and sexy than the average horror film of its time.
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