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Movie Reviews

[SXSW ’22] ‘The Cellar’ review: Irish horror movie mixes classic horror with evil numbers

The work of the Devil.

The Cellar is an atmospheric mix of classic horror and fresh ideas that results in an excellent horror movie. (The film has already been acquired by Shudder and RLJE Films.) The Woods family have moved to a large house in Ireland. Almost immediately something does not seem right. Ellie’s (Abby Fitz) dislike of the manor seems to go beyond teenage angst while strange symbols adorn the walls. When Ellie disappears, her mother Keira (Elisha Cuthbert) learns there is much more to the house than she was told. 

It sounds like a standard haunted house story, and in many ways, it is. There are the ominous noises, figures moving in the dark, and legends of twisted rituals. Director Brendan Muldowney does a great job of injecting a tone into The Cellar. As Eoin Macken (Keira’s husband Brian) puts it, there is a “strong driving narrative”. The film will lull its audiences into a false sense of security before one of its few jump scares or shocking revelations. There is not much in the way of in your face frights (until the frantic third act). This is a movie that is more concerned with creating a mood. 

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In this way, the film can be considered something of a throwback. It is like a scary story that builds feeling. When the terror does come, it is very impactful. One of the villains is a familiar one that is not often seen. There is a lot of imagery that will also be recognizable. The Cellar also uses math in a way never seen in horror. It all makes sense in the end, and is a nice touch. 

The Cellar is a consistently tense watch that will engage audiences. Along with the mystery involved with the house, there is also the fact that someone’s daughter is missing. Kiera and her husband Brian (Macken) are grounded parents who are easy to relate to. This is due to the chemistry between Cuthbert and Macken.

No gore and all atmosphere, says director Brendan Muldowney

Since the film was shot during the pandemic, the pair had a unique opportunity to get to know each other. “We had two weeks to discover the property and each other,” Cuthbert stated. This dynamic is seen throughout The Cellar. More than people that are terrified by the machinations of their new home, they are parents that are concerned for their daughter. Fear, love, and desperation all come though and those watching will take a deeper interest in the plight of the Woods. 

The Cellar is a sneakily effective horror movie. There is a constant undercurrent of fear that is simultaneously frightening and captivating. The story uses classic storytelling techniques to deliver a final product that even fans who do normally watch genre films can enjoy.

The Cellar makes its World Premiere in the Midnighters section of SXSW March 12

the cellar
[SXSW ’22] ‘The Cellar’ review: Irish horror movie mixes classic horror with evil numbers
The Cellar
If you ever needed proof math is the work of the Devil, this movie is it. Atmospheric and filled with strong performances, a tense watch that is a fun take on a classic horror premise.
Reader Rating0 Votes
0
Strong imagery
Entire cast does an excellent job
Math is scary
8.5
Great

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