Basements turn up more often in the film than you’d think. An often-forgotten room, the basement can set the scene for stories of both slackers and monsters and serve as a place of either hilarity or suspense. If you’re looking for a flick that spends some or all its time in a basement, cellar, vault, or crypt, here are the four most famous basements in movie history.
While in real life, your main concerns might be keeping the floor dry and the window well covers clear so that the sun can shine in, the people in most of these films have bigger concerns.
Basements in Movie History
Is it possible to spoil a 60-year-old film? With one of the best-known surprise endings of all time, Psycho continues to shock audiences with Hitchcock’s relentless pacing, swift editing, and razor-sharp sense of suspense.
Shy and eager-to-please Norman Bates runs a Motel with his mother Norma, better known as “Mother.” When Marion Crane—escaping Phoenix, AZ, with a bagful of money she stole from her employer—checks in, Mother sees that she never checks out.
After several more murders, in which dutiful son Norman cleans up after Mother, we discover in the film’s famous dénouement that Norman has been the killer all along. The real Mrs. Bates has been dead for years, her taxidermied corpse hanging out in the fruit cellar all this time.
The parasite is another story of the conflict between the snobs and the slobs, but unlike Caddyshack, there’s little humor here. Director Bong Joon-Ho tells a tale of the Kims, a family of con artists who trick their way into working for the wealthy Park family.
All goes well until the Parks leave for a camping trip, and the Kims decide to hang out in their home. Soon they discover the family’s housekeeper’s husband hiding from loan sharks in a secret basement bunker, and chaos and suspense become their new normal. As a great allegory for social and class conflict, Parasite deservedly won six Academy Awards.
Wayne’s World (1992)
Not every basement in filmdom is creepy and terrifying. The world in Wayne’s World is the basement where Wayne Campbell and his best bud Garth Algar shoot their titular cable access show (cable access being the equivalent of YouTube in the early 1990s).
Unlike the Saturday Night Live skits that the film is based on, Wayne and Garth get to leave the basement to go on various adventures. Yet, it remains their home base and a place for our heroes to chill out and rock on.
Evil Dead 2 (1987)
We’re back to horror with one of the most famous basements in movie history. It’s debatable how many deep-woods log cabins have basements, but the possibility of root cellars is a bit more believable. Hapless hero Ash is beleaguered by demons, both evil and dead, throughout the franchise’s three films and a TV series, but never more so than in the original cabin of the first two movies.
Here, we see a particularly nasty witch trapped downstairs and trying to turn him evil. Equal parts horror and gross-out slapstick comedy, the cabin scenes will make you want to check all your locks and latches to prevent anyone, or anything, from creeping into your basement.
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