This movie makes me so happy! Cellar Dweller is about a cursed comic book that has the Satanic power to make it’s titular demon come to life and commit acts of murder. Jeffery Combs (Re-Animator, From Beyond, you should know who he is by now) stars as Colin Childress, the creator of the comic who regrets his decision and inadvertently kills himself while trying to burn the comic to stop the demon’s rampage. Thirty years later, aspiring comic artist Whitney Taylor (Deborah Farentino, NYPD Blue, Eureka, and hiding under the pseudonym Deborah Mullowney), takes up at the artist colony in the former home of Colin Childress in order to re-create his famed comic, Cellar Dweller.
The art school is full of eccentrics and headed up by the domineering Mrs. Briggs (Yvonne De Carlo, aka Lilly Munster from The Munsters). Mrs. Briggs isn’t too impressed with Whitney’s style of artwork and is no fan of Colin, whom the world thinks killed himself. Reluctantly, Mrs. Briggs allows Whitney on board, and eventually lets her work in the cellar where Colin worked on his infamous tome. It’s not long before Whitney is re-creating Cellar Dweller and including the occupants of the art school as the victims of the beast. There is some beef between Whitney and fellow resident Amanda (Pamela Bellwood, Dynasty) that goes back to high school. These interpersonal problems are complicated after Mrs. Briggs has Amanda spy on Whitney. This lleads to Whitney taking a certain relish is drawing Amanda’s naked body being gruesomely devoured by the demon. As the comic crimes become real, Whitney realizes the comic creation is coming to life! She must stop it with help from love interest Philip (Brian Robbins, Head of the Class, C.H.U.D. II: Bud the C.H.U.D.) BEFORE IT’S TOO LATE.
What i love about this film is that it absolutely doesn’t take itself seriously. Cellar Dweller gives us some really amazing artwork in the EC Comics style to show us the murders of it’s characters as they are taking place on screen. Also, the dialogue is like something that would have been written in a hammy 1950’s comic. In a movie about a demon being summoned through artwork, the most unbelievable element is that a woman would be the one doing the conjuring. The details of the comics are always leering at it’s female characters, and even during a final chase between Whitney and the monster, the comic is portraying her with erect nipples. This is pure silliness and I love it.
Directed by famed horror FX guru John Carl Buechler (Friday the 13th part VII: The New Blood, Troll), and written by Don Mancini (Child’s Play series) under the pen name Kit Du Bois, Cellar Dweller is a love letter to EC Comics. The movie poster is exactly the kind of film you get: filled with gore and rampant nudity as well as horrible dialogue and hammy acting, Cellar Dweller is a cult oddity that never really caught on. This is in part to weird distribution since it’s release on video in the late 80s. Thankfully, Scream Factory have rescued Cellar Dweller from the ashes and released it on DVD and blu-ray. I was fortunate enough to be given the DVD copy for Valentine’s Day this past year (score!) and I’ve watched it a couple times since then. The film is stupid and cheap in the best way possible, and made by a lot of tremendously talented individuals who are still working in the biz today. Sergio Salvati, of The Beyond shot the film, so it looks great, even though the film stock is cheap. The creature itself is a nifty looking animatronic costume created by it’s wearer Micheal Deak, who would go onto recycle it in the finale of Ghoulies 2. Deak also went on to work on such films as Transformers and Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl — unfortunately the creature costume wasn’t recycled in either of those films. Objectively, Cellar Dweller isn’t a good movie, but I enjoyed it for it’s 80’s camp. It does lag in the middle and I found myself waiting for the monster to show back up. It was worth the wait, because when he does return, he starts knocking off heads, eating people, and giggling about it like the Cookie Monster, which is the greatest part of the whole movie. It’s a small film created by talented individuals having a blast, and it shows. It’s important to note that Brian Robbins who played as Phillip would later go on to direct one of the most important films ever made, Good Burger.
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