Review: ‘The Basement’

It's bewildering to ponder the motivation behind something like "The Basement" -- a one-room, cliche-riddled dysfunctional family yellfest that remains precisely the weakish Off Off Broadway play it originally was. Though competently made by direct-to-vid thriller vet Larry Brand, pic has nowhere to go in commercial terms.

Even the smallest feature requires considerable energy and sacrifice to make, so it’s bewildering to ponder the motivation behind something like “The Basement” — a one-room, cliche-riddled dysfunctional family yellfest that remains precisely the weakish Off Off Broadway play it originally was, regardless of medium. Though competently made on a tiny budget by direct-to-vid thriller vet Larry Brand, and decently performed under the circumstances, pic has nowhere to go in commercial terms.

The three O’Hanlon “boys” of Queens have all migrated to the basement, driven there by ma’s (Emily Ward) nagging and neediness. Still, they shoulda moved farther by now — into marriages, new homes and families of their own. Instead, youngest Matty (Derek Michalak) is a full-time couch potato; eldest Lou (Michael Patrick McCaffrey) works construction all day, drinks all night. When Luke (Jack Cleary) returns from vacation, he announces he’s permanently leaving for California — where peyote and “Native American spirituality” have prompted self-actualization. This bombshell provokes anger and resentment, not least because Luke also now recalls that as a kid he saw their father commit suicide, rather than “accidentally” shoot himself. No cliche is left unturned in the stagey histrionics.

The Basement

Production

A LionTiger/Shapeshifter production in association with Mad Dog Films. Produced by Jane Coloccia. Co-producers, Clyde Baldo, Larry Brand. Directed by Larry Brand. Screenplay, Stephanie Dell'Anno Cleary, based on her stage play.

Crew

Camera (color, DV), Dave Sperling; editor, Sean Casey; music, Martin Trum; production designer, Jennifer Clemente. Reviewed at Roxie Cinema, San Francisco, Sept. 22, 2003. (In Mill Valley Film Festival.) Running time: 73 MIN.

With

Jack Cleary, Michael Patrick McCaffrey, Derek Michalak, Emily Ward.
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