Movie Review: ‘The Cellar’

Director: Brendan Muldowney

Cast: Elisha Cuthbert, Eoin Macken, Dylan Fitzmaurice Brady, Abby Fitz, Tara Lee, Michael-David McKernan, Andrew Bennett, Aaron Monaghan

Plot: Shortly after moving into an old country manor, the teenage daughter of Keira and Brian Woods vanishes into thin air. Although she struggles to get people to believe her theories, Keira follows a trail of unusual clues to find out the truth of her daughter’s disappearance.

Review: It took me a short while to recognise Elisha Cuthbert in this lead role. She does very well in the role, and I really liked the resigned determination she displays when authorities dismiss her concerns of some kind of supernatural occurrence. Keira (Cuthbert) knows that what she’s suggesting sounds like nonsense, and pushing this angle is not going to be a good look, but she also believes the evidence she has turned up enough to follow the thread. I think Cuthbert brings this across very well. The reason I didn’t pick her as the mother of a teenager is because I still think of her as playing teenagers despite being born in the same generation and she appears to be the only non-Irish performer in this rather Irish horror movie.

It’s a bit unconventional that it’s not the youngest, innocent child who vanishes, but the teen with the shitty attitude who has been getting on people’s nerves during the move. As we learn more about the character through the movie, we do get to see what motivated her meanness and the character feels more realistic than a snarky stereotype. There’s been a few hints to the viewer that something is amiss in this spooky house, such as runes and creepy paintings and a hidden padded room and the suggestion of witchcraft. Keira follows a series of clues that feel more like an escape room than a research investigation, and eventually gets her husband on side in the belief that something hinky is going on. It mostly comes down to a mathematical formula that may open up a portal to another dimension.

We get a real mishmash of horror ideas here, including Satanism, Paganism, mystic architecture, witchcraft, mystery. It’s all in service of the big reveal and confrontation at the end. The problem is that I’m hard pressed to find a unique selling point for The Cellar. There’s nothing here that we haven’t seen before, and it’s pretty easy to see where things are going here. We’re not saying that any of it is done badly, but it has been done before. For everything that works, such as the set design, characterisation and acting, this feels generic in the modern horror market.

There’s some good imagery here, and we love a spooky manor, but we wish it had done something to surprise us.

Rating: FIVE out of TEN