The Girl in the Basement (aka Reindeer Games) DVD Review
Written by Steve Pattee
DVD released by The Asylum
Directed by Shayne Worcester
Written by Kyle Rankin, Efram Potelle and Shayne Worcester
1996, Region 1 (NTSC), 100 minutes, Rated R
Kyle Rankin as Alec Clark
Mary Skinner as Kate Regan
Muriel Kenderdine as Gram
Paul Drinan as Rodney
Mike Kimball as Grungy Santa
Poor Alec just doesn't get any respect.
He takes pride at his job as a dishwasher, only to be harassed and ridiculed by his co-worker, Rodney (Paul Drinan).
At home, he diligently takes care of his ailing grandmother (Muriel Kenderdine), only to be browbeaten and belittled by his alcoholic mother.
And, under duress, he hallucinates a maniac dressed in a Santa suit.
After being teased relentlessly by Rodney, Alec (Kyle Rankin) finally balls up and asks Kate (Mary Skinner) out on a date. Kate being the only person who was ever nice to him.
She reluctantly agrees, and they go out to eat. It’s obvious from the moment Alec picks Kate up that she’d rather be anywhere else. But I’ll bet “anywhere else” is NOT Alec’s basement—which is exactly where she ends up after he knocks her ass out at the end of the date.
Kate is no longer the girl who works at the restaurant. She's now The Girl in the Basement.
“A Cult Classic!” The Portland Herald raves on the front cover.
“...makes Silence of the Lambs seem like Breakfast at Tiffany's.” ABC News expounds on the back.
“Don't waste your time!” I scream.
Basement would make a great short, but at 100 minutes, it drags on about 70 minutes too long.
One of its biggest problems is the actors are not good enough to carry this ambitious movie. Basement relies heavily on Rankin and Skinner, because the locations are limited and their characters are key to the story. Unfortunately, neither actor has the necessary experience.
Rankin is very good when he is portraying Alec as confused and beaten down, but unbelievable once he is required to be emotional. I did not buy the character when he was either angry or sad — unfortunately, Rankin has very little range.
Skinner suffers from the same problem. She is quite good when she has to be comedic, but once she goes “scared,” she isn’t fooling anyone.
Because both roles require actors who can convey the right emotions, and Rankin and Skinner fail, they take the movie down with them. The only saving grace is when the two are together, bantering back and forth. The dark comedy is believable, and they have great synergy in those situations, but anything further is a bust.
But to put the movie's failings entirely on the two is not fair, because Basement has more problems.
Another thing that hurts the film is the crazy Santa character that pops in and out, telling Alec what to do. Every time Santa shows up feels forced and contrived. It is obvious he has something to do with why Alec is acting the way he is, but it got to a point that Santa's appearance became comical, rather than foreboding.
At the end, of course, Santa's presence is explained — and why he such an integral part of Alec's life, but by the time you get there, instead of being shocked — which was surely the intention — you are just relieved.
The movie is finally over.
Video and Audio:
While it was shot with film, Basement's full frame picture is bad. Muted colors and grain are noticeable throughout — even the day shots suffer. This is not The Asylum’s fault, as the filmmakers mentioned in the commentary that they cut corners with the actual film to save money — buying film no one else would use, at a discount.
Sometimes a good story will make up for a bad picture—or a bad picture will work for the movie (good examples of both of these are Hunting Humans, The Manson Family and, to some degree, August Underground). But that is not the case here.
In Basement, the bad picture only amplifies the bad time you are having watching it.
Basement is offered in 5.1 Dolby Digital, but it's neither necessary nor well-utilized. Mainly dialogue-driven, the film makes almost no use of the sides and rears. Audio is clear and audible, however.
The commentary by Rankin and co-writer Efram Potelle mainly concentrates on the rigors of making a low-budget film with no money, and the lessons they learned from it.
A short piece called “Shayne Memorial Video” remembers the director, Shayne Worcester, is offered. Worcester was killed in a mugging a few years after the movie was completed.
There is a behind-the-scenes featurette that looks like it was made by the local news station. It can be skipped.
There are just over thirteen minutes of deleted and extended scenes, with optional commentary, and two minutes of bloopers.
The Girl in the Basement can stay there as far as I'm concerned. She is worth neither a rental, nor a purchase, nor a free viewing on TV.
(Equipment includes a Mitsubishi WS-48613 48” HDTV, Sony DVP-CX875P DVD player and Onkyo HTS-770 Home Theater System and, in some cases, a Sony 27” WEGA TV and a Sony DVP-NS50P DVD player.)
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