When horror fans hear the name Jack the thoughts of either Jack the Ripper or Jack Torrance come to mind first, but then there’s screenwriter Brian Patrick O’Toole’s (Evilution [2008]) creation, Basement Jack aka Jack Riley, a killer who preys upon his victims during lightning storms. Director Michael Shelton first and last time in the powerful chair of the filmmaking business, before returning and staying with the visual effects, brings this maniac with severe mother issues and quite quirky unique behaviors that present in a grisly fashion. I recalled seeing this film at the Terror Film Festival, long ago held in Philadelphia, PA in 2008, and it too had then filmmakers scratching their heads about revealing too much of a backstory to the audience, many agreeing a snippet is all anyone needs, not a dossier on the killer, more on this aspect later.

A serial killer with motherly issues, a common cliché, some psychiatrists eventually circles around to, however in this film this mommy, played wonderfully by Lynn Lowry (Shivers [1975]) brings a viciousness that few ever represent on screen, aside from Leslie Easterbrook (The Afflicted [2011]) she unleashes vindictive hellish punishments on her child Jack. Lynn establishes her character quite prominently in the film even though a secondary role and small in that regard, yet shows what an experienced actor can do with even the minor screen time, her performance has viewers recalling the similarities to Piper Laurie in Carrie (1976) while covering it with suburban happiness of a Stepford Wife. Basement Jack represents a serial killer, who stays in the darkness of a basement and awaits a storm, to unleash his supernatural powers and butchers families with incredible force, especially the ones with mothers, which appear like his own mother. Now, unlike his counterparts in slasher films, he forgoes the mask wearing, rather appearing with a touch of Eric Crow, thoroughly greasy strands of hair covering his lifeless eyes, though later uses part of a doll mask and covers his jaw and nose, adding a twist to his homicidal appearance. Now, this film, basically has Jack, killing, while a survivor of his, Karen (Michele Morrow) hunts him, warning everyone especially the police of this impending doom, yes, she is the Dr. Loomis and Laurie Strode of the film. Although, her character Karen makes huge leaps of illogical choices in the film, once must only note she is the crier of deadly warnings, think of Crazy Ralph, and thereby becoming and character role, tallying three, in the town of Downers Grove (similar to Haddonfield). Meanwhile Tiffany Shepis, the legendary horror actress, part of Model Hunger (2015) from director Debbie Rochon, plays the minor role of Officer Lucille Armando, and her 80 horror film credits adds her to talents in the film, by plunging herself into both the role and battle with Jack. Eric Peter-Kaiser, does a convincing job of the killer, without pausing or hesitation rather, a carefully understanding and reactions to past memory tortures to attack his targets, including battling Detective G. Anderson (Noel Gugliemi), with vicious pleasures.

A varying discussion with horror fans, for telling backstories, to explain a film, always finds itself on the horns of a dilemma with regard to how much to expose the audience to, and then if it is all needed, for example Hannibal Lector, not too later in the series viewers learn the reasons. Although, in the sub-genre of slasher films, the formula lays itself quite simply, a killer kills for x number of reasons, herein mother’s twisted nurturing, and these families represent the victims, here’s the weapons of choice, a knife and the power, lightning storms. The storms repetitiveness becomes overwhelming to the point of a comical nuisance, while the comparisons grow frequently for this picture and the film Halloween (1978).  The music direction came from Alan Howarth, who worked with other Halloween films in the franchise and John Carpenter, cutting his talents for understanding the tempo of layering a horror film, which has help him earn various awards later in his career.

The gore scenes, occur but not overly out-of-control, with the CGI makes the notable but not overpowering to ruin the entire movie, though the pacing needs a tad bit of work, interactions with police and civilians seems a force and distracting to the story. The common mistake of explain everything; allow for the general disbelief especially when one is more than halfway the film, no need to tell why the killer is continually killing. After all this is a horror film, and the audience, knows the rules and stop the constant cutaways, unless it directly effects the storyline, the violence can spread across the screen, nothing worse than the evening news broadcast have more passion for it than the filmmakers of the genre.

Hence, seeking a throwback to the sub-genre that brought Freddy, Jason, and Michael to the hero status of killers for the horror fans, with carnage and mayhem, an incredibly offensive mother and heaping doses of slick shiny bloody pools seek out the film Basement Jack and enjoy. Otherwise, there’s plenty of other slashers to savor with incredible delights.

This review originally published on the now defunct Rogue Cinema site in August 2015 with a view count 2024.



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IMDb Rating: 3.7/10

Baron’s Rating: 3.5/10