The Cellar review – property nightmare as social media mavens suffer | Movies


American Keira Woods (Elisha Cuthbert) and her Irish husband Brian (Eoin Macken) appear to work in some kind of social network-specific marketing, figuring out how to best push content at target audiences. It’s the sort of new-fangled, 21st-century area of entrepreneurial endeavour people seem to love to hate, perhaps because the work seems so invisible and inchoate yet vastly remunerative. Given the moral calculus of horror films, that means they’re ripe to become the targets of even more insidious forces.

And so it goes, when they buy an abandoned mansion in the Irish exurbs and move in with their two kids – sulky teenager Ellie (Abby Fitz), none too pleased with the move, and amiable younger brother Steven (Dylan Fitzmaurice Brady). Ironically, given their work presumably relies on manipulative algorithms and metrics, the evil resident in their new home seems to have something to do with the mathematical symbols carved into the stones over the doorways and walls. The murky explication dump halfway through – courtesy of a maths professor (Aaron Monaghan) who had a car accident and went from being practically innumerate to a maths savant – as you do – adds physicist Erwin Schrödinger to our old friend and Satanic avatar Baphomet, and multiplies the sum with some hushed mentions of alchemy to suggest the house’s cellar is a gateway to somewhere unpleasant. Surely this will have a terrible effect on the property’s resale value.

Writer-director Brendan Muldowney is better at contriving striking images of horror, filmed with umbral gloom by cinematographer Tom Comerford, than at the character and story stuff. There’s something very odd, for instance, about the way one of the kids goes missing and the parents appear to practically shrug and get back to work. And the sudden introduction of an addled old dear (Marie Mullen) prophesying doom is pure horror movie cliche, but there are a few genuine scares along the way that work well enough.

The Cellar is available on 15 April on Shudder.

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