The Basement

Somewhere in Budapest, there's a mysterious basement, though 'basement' seems too tame a word for something that spreads out for blocks and is filled with twisting hallways, dead ends, and doors that unlock only when they feel like it. The basement is private property and difficult to find, but rumors of its existence are everywhere, attracting ghost hunters and thrill seekers from all over the world.

Meanwhile, in an apartment building conveniently located directly above said basement, a university student (Gergo Szekér) named Tamás, aka Tommy, is planning an end of year party for his friends. He asked the neighbors' permission first, so clearly Hungarian students are a lot more considerate than your average American student, but while most are all right with it, the building's caretaker, Mr. Kranicz (Richard Rifkin, The Martian) is dead-set against the idea.

Suzie (Caroline Boulton), Tommy's girlfriend, says they'll just be quiet, but the guests have other ideas. When the party ends abruptly, Suzie and Tommy are left at loose ends along with a few of their guests. Suzie, having dabbled in the paranormal, suggests a seance, which Tommy's best friend Kolos (Takács Zalán) scoffs at. But there's little else to do, and Ayame (Sherin Bors) longs to talk to her beloved grandfather. So they sit down with Ayame's boyfriend Woo-Jin (Tom Nguyen) and Horse-Masked Guy (Shawn Michael Clankie) to give it a try. That's how he's credited, as Horse-Masked Guy, since that's all anyone seems to know about him.

These kids can't catch a break, though -- they don't get to finish the seance either, and the next thing they know two of their number are missing: Horse-Masked Guy and Bellie, Suzie's cat. When they go out into the courtyard to search, they discover the heavy metal gate that had been blocking the stairs to the basement is now invitingly open, and Bellie, at least, seems to be down there.

From here things can only go downhill, both literally and figuratively, and the movie does follow a fairly predictable pattern. But it also has some nice touches, like a cosmopolitan cast of very capable actors -- the movie is primarily in English because that's the one language all the characters share -- though I'm not sure how any of them put up with Kolos regardless of what languages are involved. The film also doesn't fall into the trap of revealing too much, leaving the true nature of the threat they face enticingly vague and that much more unnerving. It's good, frightening, claustrophobic fun.

The seance, just before it goes horribly wrong.


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