The Cellar – Film Review
by Frank L.
Director – Brendan Muldowney
Writer – Brendan Muldowney
Stars – Elisha Cuthbert, Eoin Macken, Abby Fitz, Dylan Fitzmaurice Brady
The film begins with a view of a large house that is forbidding and gaunt. It is the new home of Keira (Elisha Cuthbert) and Brian Woods (Eoin Macken), along with their teenage daughter Ellie (Abby Fitz) and younger son Steven (Dylan Fitzmaurice Brady). Keira is full of enthusiasm for the new house which she and Brian have bought for a knockdown price. What could possibly go wrong?
In the opening scene, Keira is naturally enthusiastic about their new home but Ellie takes one glance as they park in front of it and dismisses it as ugly. The house is a lot more than just ugly on the outside as it is haunted by its past. Central to that haunting is, needless to say, the cellar but there are all sorts of other clues in the house and its contents that have to be investigated, including a rather charming gramophone with a large brass horn. These investigations lead to other characters making an appearance (including a number of stalwarts of Irish theatre), in Dr Fournet (Aaron Monaghan), Detective Brophy (Andrew Bennett) and Rose Fetherston (Marie Mullen).
This is an Irish horror movie, by writer/ director Brendan Muldowney, who may be known to some of you for his earlier works, such as Pilgrimage (2017) and Love Eternal (2013). It was filmed on location in Roscommon. As the house is haunted there is a succession of unsettling happenings which are so frequent that the effect of each one is to diminish what comes after, like a ride on a so-called “ghost train” in a fairground. However, there is one exception to be made, with a scene where Ellie talks to Keira on a mobile phone, as she searches for the fuse box in the house. It is intense, beautifully executed and full of suspense.
Keira is a modern mother who also is a committed businesswoman. She and her teenage daughter Ellie have issues that Cuthbert and Fitz convey effectively. It is a tetchy relationship. Cuthbert has a part of substance and she delivers it with verve. The other characters are not developed to any great extent so the actors have little material with which to define them as a substantive presence.
The memorable highlight of the film is its location in the house which Ellie accurately described as ugly at the beginning of the film. However, notwithstanding the performance of Cuthbert as Keira and her relationship with Ellie, there is not sufficient suspense in the remainder to keep you on the edge of your seat for the ninety-minute duration. The story is told with style and the film certainly has its moments, but overall it lacks a spark of creativity to raise it above others in its genre.