Blu-ray Review: Cellar Dweller/Catacombs

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The basement is always a place you don’t want to go in horror film or even a normal film. The Ramones sang about not wanting to go down into the basement. Edgar Allan Poe made sure his victims rarely rose up the basement steps. The dark dank underground space always holds some sort of fear appeal. Perhaps it is because it can easily be turned into a grave in case you get trapped inside. Tech companies of the future get created in garages. The only thing coming out of a basement is a bodybag the size of a doggybag. Cellar Dweller/Catacombs is a double feature from Empire Pictures ’80s straight to video line.

Cellar Dweller (1988) opens with a comic book artist’s drawing magically coming to life. Although instead of a hot and tempting heroine, he’s face to face with a vicious demonic beast. Things don’t go too well for the guy. But his name lives on as his pals set up an art school in the rooms above. Nobody seems to have a clue about what lurks in the basement. Whitney Taylor (Deborah Farentino) gets a scholarship to study at the place. She also wants to finish the artist’s demonic comic book. Will she awaken the evil on the page? Yvonne De Carlo (The Munsters) isn’t a fan of the revival. The movie is infectious with its absurd plot.

Catacombs is a tale of a monastery that must imprison one of their monks in the 17th century after he’s been possessed by a demon. Three centuries later, this evil still lurks in the catacombs beneath the brotherhood. A young lady (Laura Schaefer) arrives to document the vast catacombs only to come face to face with the undead evil. Her only real chance to survive is Father John Durham (Tim Van Patten).

This is one of the better looking productions from Charles Band’s career. The location and catacombs look really good on the screen. It’s a shame that this seems to be the first time the film has been seen beyond standard resolution since it was released straight to VHS.

The most horrific element of the film is the anticipation of seeing Timothy Van Patten (The Master and White Shadow) as a priest. Here’s a guy known for playing knuckleheads. Yet he delivers a rather reserved performance as a priest in a demonic situation. This is Van Patten’s second best performance after Class of 1984 (also out from Scream Factory). This performance seems to explain how Van Patten went on to be an HBO superstar as a writer, director and producer on The Sopranos, The Wire and Game of Thrones.

After a night of Cellar Dweller and Catacombs, you’ll be eager to seek out a house that’s build on a concrete slab.

The video is 1.78:1 anamorphic for both films. This is the best either film has ever looked to the public since both were released straight to VHS. Catacombs looks the best of the two. The audio is DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 on the both films. Their Ultra Stereo gets pushed up a notch. Both films are subtitled.

Audio commentary with director David Schumueller allows him to discuss how this film was lost to him for quite a bit of time since he didn’t have a print of it in his collection of work. He goes through the struggles of making horror on a shoestring although most of the production went smoothly.

Cellar Dweller/Catacombs is a double feature of demons living a few steps below us.

Scream Factory presents Cellar Dweller/Catacombs. Directed by: John Carl Buechler & David Schmoeller. Starring: Timothy Van Patten, Vernon Dobtcheff, Brian Robbins, Jeffrey Combs. Rated: R. Boxset Contents: 2 movies on 1 Blu-ray. Released: July 14, 2015.

Joe Corey is the writer and director of "Danger! Health Films" currently streaming on Night Flight and Amazon Prime. He's the author of "The Seven Secrets of Great Walmart People Greeters." This is the last how to get a job book you'll ever need. He was Associate Producer of the documentary "Moving Midway." He's worked as local crew on several reality shows including Candid Camera, American's Most Wanted, Extreme Makeover Home Edition and ESPN's Gaters. He's been featured on The Today Show and CBS's 48 Hours. Dom DeLuise once said, "Joe, you look like an axe murderer." He was in charge of research and programming at the Moving Image Archive.