The Basement and the Kitchen” is a feeble thriller that works sophomorically hard to mine themes of paranoia and separation anxiety. Pic is tough going for about 35 minutes, at which point writer-director David Frickas — as Lloyd, a whiny 20-year-old convinced of a fuzzy government plot against him and thus petrified to come upstairs — steps aside for a sporadically inventive ensembler in the titular breakfast nook. This section of the film reveals that everyone is, in fact, out to get him — including, at this point, the most tolerant of auds. Commercial prospects dwell in the cellar.
From all evidence, Frickas is a far more accomplished writer than filmmaker, but the story’s delayed stab at invention is undone by his disastrous perf and by sets that appear ready to collapse at any moment. Comic Mo Gaffney lends much-needed gravity to the agent masquerading as Lloyd’s mom, but the troupe’s one standout is Frickas’ real-life improv partner Luiggi Debiasse, who brings exquisite comic timing to a bumbling but disingenuous techie. But by then, even surviving viewers will be begging, “Don’t look in the basement.”