In honour of the recent passing of genre icon John Carl Buechler, this week's VHS is his 1988 effort, Cellar Dweller.
Thirty years after a comic artist (Jeffrey Combs) is murdered by his own demonic creation, a new generation of artists convene in the same building only to repeat his misadventure.
I have to admit that I had no idea that Buechler made this picture before this week. I'd heard the title before (though I always get it mixed up with the 1971's Beast in the Cellar), but never gave it more than a cursory glance. My loss because it is actually an entertaining yarn. It's not as batshit and effects heavy as his movie Troll, made two years earlier, but Cellar Dweller has a lot going for it, as well. It actually shared a similar structure to Troll in that it's one location (an art school instead of an apartment complex) and a creature bumped off the residents one by one.
Cellar Dweller had a fairly unique through line in that the character's drawings came to life. I feel like that's an untapped resource that hasn't been explored since the eighties with things like Creepshow, Paperhouse and that bit in Nightmare 5. Bring that shit back! Buechler cleverly padded his running time with these comics, often using it in place of special effects. It could've felt like a cheat, if said comics hadn't been so dang awesome. The work was credited to both John Foster or Frank Brunner, but whoever penned them did a bang-up job!
Buechler was obviously having fun here, whether it be from the thinly veiled digs at some of the “arts” or his in-joke set dressings. I find it hilarious that the main character (played by newcomer Debrah Farentino) had a Re-Animator poster on her wall and didn't once think, “hey, the guy in that movie sure looks at lot like the guy who got me into comics and died in this house thirty years ago”. I guess we can all be blinded by our idols.
Mainly, I was impressed that Buechler kept his sense of humour considering how busy he must have been in 1988. Not only did his installment of the Friday the 13th franchise come out that year, but he also did effects for Nightmare 4 and Charles Band's Pulse Pounders. This guy loved his work. Anyway, Cellar Dweller is definitely worth a watch.
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