creature feature

Shaun vs. Cellar Dweller (1988)

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Directed by John Carl Buechler

Starring Debrah Farentino, Yvonne De Carlo and Jeffrey Combs

An aspiring comic book artist visits the home of the creator of her favourite comic, a horror comic called Cellar Dweller, for inspiration.  She repeats the process that killed him thirty years ago by summoning a demon with her drawings.

Review

Thirty years ago, horror comic artist Colin Childress (Jeffrey Combs) is inking his latest issue of Cellar Dweller.  He also happens to be into some voodoo shit with a Satanic book that he uses for inspiration in his comics.  Not understanding that the book actually warns him from drawing the evil contained within, he draws a demon eviscerating a woman and the scene he is creating appears before him.  He is chased by the very same creature he designed and attempts to kill it by burning the pages.  The creature bursts into flames but so does the rest of the house with Colin inside.  The incident is deemed a murder/suicide and the house later turns into a coven for various artists.

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I’m not bad, I’m just drawn that way.

A comic artist named Whitney (Farentino) who just loved Cellar Dweller joins the home though she doesn’t get along with the owner, Mrs. Briggs (De Carlo.)  The house is full of artistic nut bars.  We got the young guy who paints “angst,” a former private eye who writes pulp novels, one of those interpretive dance yahoos and a videographer named Amanda who has a bad history with Whitney.   

It doesn’t take Whitney long to come across Childress’ work and his dusty evil book.  She begins reading the book and draws the exact same demon from the comic along with some writing from the book that she thought was cool.  After a conflict with Amanda, Whitney draws several panels of a new Cellar Dweller with Amanda as the victim of the demon and it begins again like it did thirty years ago with the creature coming to life and tearing apart poor bitchy Amanda.  Now that the creature is out, it’ll attack anyone else and leave behind the comic panels showing Whitney exactly what happened.  Can Whitney piece it all together before everyone gets eaten alive?

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Didn’t your mother teach you not to mess around with Satantic texts?

You bet she does, and quickly!  With a short running time of under eighty minutes, the movie feels like it’s missing a few scenes particularly in the second half of the film.  The first half does a decent job of setting the tone but towards the end everything gets wrapped up quicker than a Scooby Doo episode though with a few gory bits I guess it’s more like a bad “Tales from the Crypt” episode.

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Sir Not Appearing in this Film.

The film does away with the usual teenage cast to skew older but the characters are a laughable group of nutgalls who you would never see together in a million years.  It’s fitting that movie deals so much with comic books because the characters are nothing more than caricatures.  It’s not the actors fault for the material, they do their best but they’re an odd lot that stick out pretty bad. 

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The Cellar Dweller itself is alright.  Certainly thirty years ago the creature looked great for this type of film.  Good animatronics let the creature show off its face better than any mask or makeup would do, unfortunately we don’t see it do much other than swipe at people and eat their limbs.  Apart from a few splashes of blood and a cool decapitation, a lot of the kills are visualized via comic book panels in an interesting but unfulfilling creative display. 

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Why won’t you finish the movie!?

Ultimately, the film just isn’t entertaining enough to pull off the interesting premise.  The storytelling is full of holes, the characters are an odd assortment of artistic weirdos, and the main creature is defeated by burning pictures of it.  Meh.

TL;DR

Story: 4 – The premise strikes me as something I would’ve seen in Tales from the Crypt.  It’s not terrible but there are some really stupid moments that don’t help the film one bit.

Blood: 4 – A cool decapitation scene is easily the highlight of the film, aside from some blood splashing and the creature munching on feet, a lot of the kills are shown in comic panel form.  Unfortunately, this ain’t no Creepshow.

Nudity: 5 – Miranda Wilson shows off in the shower, a-thankyou!

Overall: 3 – Even at 80 minutes the film is boring and seems to be missing some crucial scenes leading to the end.  It’s a mess and not worth the time put into it. 

Trivia

-The film was written by “Child’s Play” creator Don Mancini.

-Actress Yvonne De Carlo may be most remembered as the wife of Moses in “The Ten Commandments” and as Lily Munster in “The Munsters.”

*Shout Factory’s All Night Horror Marathon Vol. 2 was used to review the film.*

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