REVIEW: The Cellar (2022)

dir. Brendan Muldowney

When advertising execs Kiera (Elisha Cuthbert) and Brian (Eoin Macken) move their family into a gothic mansion in the Irish countryside, they’re hoping to build a better life for their two kids – particularly teen Ellie (Abby Fitz) who seems moody and disconnected. Their new home is anything but a safe space however, when one night – during an unexplained power cut – Ellie descends into the cellar looking for the fuse box, and disappears.

Building on director Muldowney’s 2004 short The Ten Steps, there’s a kind of stripped-back simplicity to the setup, evoking influences such as Bayona’s The Orphanage (2007), Rugna’s Terrified (2017) and – in one particular sequence – Medak’s The Changeling (1980). For whilst Brian remains the voice of reason (Ellie has run away before; she’ll return home soon) Kiera spirals, convinced that symbols found around the house are clues to Ellie’s whereabouts.

It’s here where the film is often at its best, leaning into procedural beats as Kiera pieces together the mystery surrounding the home’s former occupants. Muldowney successfully straddles the line between mathematics and religion, science and the supernatural, seeding intrigue and teasing dread.

If there are issues it’s that some midsection moments sag, with perhaps one too many scenes of character’s Googling clues or making foolish decisions just to create set-pieces. But all is forgiven with a full throttle third act that boasts big Fulci vibes – circa his Gates of Hell Trilogy – and a final shot which will send goose bumps rippling over your flesh for days.


Tim Coleman

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