Recently, while wading through the murky black waters of my unfinished and now flooded murder basement, I found myself gazing at the support column – with red children’s handprints erratically splayed across the concrete – and thought “this is probably how I die”.
While I am 100% not kidding about how outstandingly creepy my basement is (red painted handprints and all), I am, of course, still alive. I don’t live in a horror movie – if I did, I’d definitely be seven different shades of dead. Because if there’s one thing we’ve learned from a creepy basement in a horror movie, it’s that they are their own unique harbingers of doom.
Let’s go through a few, shall we?
Don’t Breathe has a bit of a double-whammy of basement terror. First off, it’s immense, crowded with junk, and owned by an armed and trained madman who functions well in the dark. Now, you add in the frantic, scared and kidnapped young woman chained to the ceiling, and you’ve got an express ticket to nope-town.
The People Under the Stairs
This basement is apparently a front for a private makeshift butcher shop. The butcher’s subterranean lair is full of trapped souls, damned to live the rest of their lives ravenous and angry. Now, he has the coin to keep it going, but woefully, he needs a private supply of meat. Meat that stumbles onto the property, never to be seen again…
He’s going to eat you, is what I’m saying. Stay out of the basement, and probably just avoid the whole house in general.
The Conjuring has done a lot for horror basements. The first film has the creepy clapping and the bloody bedsheet ghost, and the second film has that freaky flooded danger zone. James Wan really doesn’t like basements, methinks. Or at least he knows the universal truth – they’re terrifying death traps.
The Silence of the Lambs
In a scene that continues to give me anxiety every time I watch it, The Silence of the Lambs is a prime example of a nightmare-inducing horror basement. The idea of frantically wandering through the dark in an unfamiliar area with a killer-with-an-advantage chasing after you is… uncomfortably scary. Especially considering how many others have been in that same basement and not lived to tell the tale.
Clarice survived because she’s a damn good agent and she trusted her senses, acting without hesitation. We survived because we finally remembered to breathe once the damn scene is over.
We Are Still Here
This classically creepy basement is inhabited by a vengeful family of char-broiled, flesh-burning, skull-crushing demon ghosts. These older homes do tend to have some character.
Return of the Living Dead
Does your basement have a Tarman? Then don’t go down there! He’s hungry and strangely good at problem solving!
Intruders is – as my colleague Trey puts it – part The People Under the Stairs and part Panic Room. A small group of lower-case criminals break into the house of a young agoraphobic woman with the goal of stealing a large bundle of cash. Lucky for her – and unlucky for them – she has an intimate knowledge of all the house’s secrets – including a mysterious and meticulously designed basement.
If these walls could talk, they’d scream.
If you find yourself in a basement under a cabin in the woods, oh, you are definitely gonna die. Sorry.
Jack Ketchum’s The Girl Next Door. After recently reading the book, I couldn’t bring myself to watch the movie just yet. That being said, he absolutely nails the oppressive and claustrophobic energy of a torture basement. Every scene that takes place in the basement invokes a sense of dread that – like our poor protagonist – you cannot escape and cannot control.
What other basements are you scared of? Tell us in the comments!
Featured image by Chris Fischer