Directed by Jared Skolnick
Written by Kt Baldassaro
Starring Kt Baldassaro, Colin Allen, Johnny Donaldson, Robert Savage, Scott Tunderman, & Lorrie Doriza
Short Film Review by Evie Brudenall
You’d be hard pressed to find a film with a title more literal or telling than Girl in the Basement. This unimaginatively titled flick draws likeness to Room, The Shallows and 127 Hours, three utter crowd pleasers and some of them even awards darlings, but does GitB match their quality or pale in comparison?
A young woman called Susan (Kt Basldassaro) is abducted outside her home and kept captive in a basement. However, little does she know that her captor has died of a head injury – directly above her means of escape. Now without a person in the world aware of her whereabouts, Susan faces a race against time to free herself.
Within the first two minutes, Girl in the Basement subverts the conventions of its genre by incapacitating the character responsible for the kidnapping. The assumed threat becomes even more dangerous for our protagonist dead than he does alive, reducing her window of opportunity to escape and ultimately survive. However, as an audience, the subversive addition removes a good deal of the tension that robs us of the suspense-filled delights that thrillers have to offer. Instead of clenching our fists and gritting our teeth with fruitful anticipation, we’re left to mellow in a pretty subdued state.
Susan’s clinical and methodical voiceover prevents the piece from becoming too internal and provides glimpses of her life before her taking and is even at times humourously honest. Although, it can often do a disservice to the story as it curates the feeling of lowered stakes and becomes a slightly repetitive device to distract the audience from watching Susan do something we’ve seen her do varying iterations of multiple times before. Luckily, Baldassaro’s performance as Susan is wholly captivating as she conveys every despairing emotion that her character is experiencing to perfection. Girl in the Basement acts as a vehicle for her one-woman performance and Baldassaro steers it in the right direction when it begins to show signs of stalling.
Like Baldassaro’s performance, the use of location is extremely effective in generating danger as the aura of claustrophobia and inescapabilty is palpable. The most mundane of locations are made to feel laced with peril, reinforced by the match-on-action shots; as the kidnapper plunges a drug in his victim to sedate them, the motion is mirrored as he steams a pot of tea. The recognisability of the latter action is undercut by the abhorrent truth that lurks beneath the floorboards and fortifies the notion that we never really know what happens behind closed doors. The world building may be one of the film’s greatest strengths, but conveying the passage of time proves to be its biggest weakness. Has Susan been in the basement for hours? A day? It’s hard to gauge, and that’s why it’s even more shocking and confusing to witness the extremities that Susan takes.
Anchored by a compelling lead performance and excellent production values, Girl in the Basement unfortunately has little else to excite an audience and is devoid of all wishful thrilling.