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New to Shudder - THE CELLAR

the cellar review
A woman investigates the unexplained disappearance of her daughter in their new home.

Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Brendan Muldowney

Starring: Elisha Cuthbert, Eoin Macken, Abby Fitz, Dylan Fitzmaurice Brady

the cellar poster

Writer/director Brendan Muldowney's 2004 short The Ten Steps is one of the most effective and economical pieces of horror storytelling imaginable. It runs for just 10 minutes but boasts a twist worthy of MR James, Rod Serling or the best of EC Comics. Now, two decades later, Muldowney has expanded his short into a feature length film. In the process he's lost the concise impact of his earlier work, but he introduces some intriguing new ideas.

the cellar review

If you acquire a massive house for "practically nothing" in an auction, you should probably ask some questions. If said house is in Ireland, with its astronomical property prices, there's definitely something afoot. Yet Keira (Elisha Cuthbert) and Brian (Eoin Macken) do just that, acquiring a small mansion for a steal. Their teenage daughter Ellie (Abby Fitz) is none too happy about the move, but their young son Steven (Dillon Fitzmaurice) takes to his new home immediately.


One evening Ellie disappears after going down to the property's spooky cellar to trip the fuse box. The police are stumped. Everything suggests Ellie just vanished into thin air within the house. Beginning her own investigation while Brian frowns in classic horror movie husband fashion, Keira delves into the history of their new home. She uncovers a past of similar disappearances and even learns that physicist Erwin Schrodinger once lived in the home.

the cellar review

Muldowney comes up with the rather fascinating concept that the house itself is something of a Schrodinger's box, in which its inhabitants are neither dead nor alive until they leave the house, much like the cat from his famous theory. Elements of Jewish mysticism are brought into the story, while the influence of Lucio Fulci's Gates of Hell films is palpable, particularly in a late sequence that resembles the Italian's vision of Hell in The Beyond.


These various elements never quite coalesce into a satisfying narrative, and the movie relies a little too much on watching its protagonists googling the meaning of Latin quotations. And wouldn't you know it, there's an old record that when played through a gramophone conjures up all manner of nastiness. Given how novel his original short was, it's disappointing to see Muldowney rely on so many clich├ęs for his feature length expansion.

the cellar review

But Muldowney does a good job of establishing an eerie atmosphere throughout. Along with cinematographer Tom Comerford, he shoots the NorthWest of Ireland with the same rain-soaked and overcast sheen that Hollywood films have employed for thrillers set in the Pacific NorthWest ever since Gore Verbinski's remake of The Ring. For a relatively low-budget Irish production it's surprisingly slick. Don’t be surprised if the likes of Blumhouse come calling for Muldowney.

The Cellar is on Shudder UK now.

2022 movie reviews