Now where did I put those oven bulbs?
I don't wanna go,
Down to the basement;
There's somethin' down there.
If you don't go down in the cellar, how can you call it a classic horror film?
Let's face it. The darkness is scary. Even if you aren't terrified of it by itself, it can sometimes give you a horrible feeling that you're Being Watched
, because you just can't see if there's something there. Children everywhere feel nervous about the closet
or the space under the bed
, but while those little bits of darkness are unnerving, there is a place yet creepier. A room where the darkness is the color of pitch, with no little lights anywhere
, where even standing still and waiting for your eyes to adjust doesn't help. That room, home of the really, really really scary dark, is the basement.
Perhaps it's the fact that most basements are built into the ground, or how the dank, sparsely furnished ones seem horribly reminiscent of some kind of tomb or prison. And those spiders that like to hang out in the cracks and corners spinning their sticky transparent webs
probably don't help much.
It should be noted that for a lot of people, this trope is Truth in Television
See also Torture Cellar
. If there's a monster locked down there, see Madwoman in the Attic
or Room Full of Zombies
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Anime & Manga
- In Monsters, Inc., Randall keeps a terrible machine called the "Scream Extractor" in the company's basement, complete with steel and metal surroundings and pipes that release steam every so often. (He frequently spends a lot of his time down there as well).
- The Goonies featured a grotesque Gentle Giant named Sloth held in the basement of an abandoned restaurant where the bad guys were staying.
- In Home Alone there was a basement in Kevin's home that he was scared of going into because of a furnace that (he's imagining this) opens its grate and talks to him. Of course all the lifeless mannequins and the like are fairly disturbing in the dark. He later gets the courage to tell the thing to "Shut up!" and comes to the conclusion that its not so scary as he had originally thought. He ultimately incorporates the basement into the final battle and sets up several traps that Marv walks into.
- Wes Craven's The People Under the Stairs has a creepy basement that a child has to enter. The creepiness comes from the pack of starving mutilated people who are locked down there, sure, but it also comes from the fact that it belongs to a complete psychopath of a landlord whose presence upstairs traps you in, making it a horrible trap.
- The People Under the Stairs is a bit of a subversion in that the basement is actually the safest part of that house for the kid to be in.
- The original creepy basement in The Night of the Hunter.
Powell: Chiiiiilllllldren? Chiiiiiiiiildren?
- Toward the end of Psycho, Norman Bates keeps his mother's corpse in the fruit cellar.
- Evil Dead:
- The cabin basement in the original. That's where they find the Tome of Eldritch Lore in the first place, that's where they lock up Cheryl when she gets demonically possessed, and that's where Ash gets covered in more blood than you'd believe.
- In the sequel, we also learn that the possessed corpse of Annie's mother is buried down there, and, in a homage to the above Psycho, she refers to it as her "fruit cellar".
- Another obvious example: Silence of the Lambs:
Jame Gumb: It rubs the lotion on its skin or else it gets the hose again.
- Not really a basement, but in the second half of the movie Titanic the ship strikes an ice berg and the lower levels immediately start to fill with water, making it dangerous for anyone to be in those areas of the ship because they can either drown or freeze to death. It gets even creepier once the lights inside the ship start to flicker on and off and then finally turn off permanently.
- The wine cellar of the House on Haunted Hill (1959). To say much more would ruin the surprise.
- Subverted, mostly, in Night of the Living Dead: the cellar turns out to be the one safe place to be, at least until Karen turns into a zombie.
- In The House by the Cemetery, main villain lives in titular house's basement.
- In the film Re-Animator (loosely based on the Lovecraft story Herbert West- Reanimator), when Herbert West is looking to rent a room, one of his first questions is "Does this house have...a basement?"
- Harold & Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay: Harold and Kumar, on the run from the law, end up hiding in a Texan couple's dark, dingy basement. Earlier the couple had been joking about keeping their deformed incest baby locked up in there, which doesn't help. Turns out they weren't joking.
- There's a damn creepy basement scene in The Road.
- The Cabin in the Woods has a creepy basement with several artifacts, any one of which would set off the chain of events. There's an even creepier "basement" below that, where the nightmares wait to be chosen, and a really creepy one way down deep where the Ancient Ones live. We don't get to see it. Fortunately.
- The basement in The Orphanage is a pretty creepy one.
- In Zodiac, Robert Graysmith visits a suspect for an interview. During his visit, he notices the man has a basement, just like how the Zodiac Killer was described to have. His realization that he might be Alone with the Zodiac Killer makes the scene an extremely creepy one, even if nothing comes out of it.
"There aren't many basements in California..."
- Funeral Home has a pretty creepy basement. Apt considering the bed-and-breakfast inn was previously a funeral home.
- There's one in the Goosebumps book (and corresponding TV episode) "Vampire Breath". Arguably there's more of those in the other books as well, such as in the book, appropriately titled, "Stay Out Of The Basement", because the father had been growing evil mutant plants down there. Kids find unfinished basements scary, so it makes sense to include them in a kids' horror series.
- There's also the bizarre "I Live In Your Basement", which - just read the summary here.
- In the Discworld novel Hogfather, we meet Catseye, an outlaw-for-hire famed for his night vision and comfort in the darkness... with the exception of one cellar from his childhood.
"Our mam used to wallop us if we went down to the cellar," said Medium Dave. "She had her still down there."
"Yeah?" said Catseye, from somewhere far off. "Well, our dad used to wallop us if we tried to get out."
- When the Tooth Fairy's Castle (long story) activates its defenses and sics his worst fears after him, he is swallowed by impossibly-deep shadows, leaving nothing behind but his boots and air that "tasted of rats, and damp, and mold."
- Montressor seals an enemy into the wall of his wine cellar in Edgar Alan Poe's The Cask Of Amontillado.
"For the love of God, Montressor!"
"Yes, Fortunato... for the love of God..."
- In Stephen King's IT, little Georgie Denbrough hates going down to the cellar. He should have been more worried about the drains ...
- The Barrayaran Embassy in Cryo Burn has one of these. The inhabitants use it for classified communications and miscellaneous plotting. Jin Sato is rather afraid to go down into it the first time he's invited to.
- Coraline ends up going into one, where she encounters the true form of the Other Father.
- In the Harry Potter series, you have the Chamber of Secrets, which is basically Hogwarts's basement.
- Johannes Cabal has his own basement of horrors, to say nothing of his antagonists' lairs and haunts.
- Peter Crowther's "Ghosts with Teeth" climaxes with the protagonist being escorted down to the basement of his own home, which has become much creepier since he was last in it. It now contains the horribly-mutilated corpses of his wife and several friends, to begin with.
- The Road features possibly the most terrifying example in literature. When the boy and the man enter a house and poke around for food they find a basement butcher shop where the inhabitants of the house imprision people and cut off their limbs for food one by one. It puts the smokehouse in the back yard in perspective.
Live Action TV
- Early in Afraid Of Monsters, David must venture into one and turn off the electricity in the Hospital. It gets significantly scarier when he tries to get out.
- In Laura Bow: The Colonel's Bequest, the killer hides the corpses of his victims in the creepy, dark basement which can only be reached through a secret passage.
- Zelda games:
- In The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask there was a little girl's father who had a curse on him from working so close around Gibdos(zombies). He was cursed so that he looked like a Gibdo and to keep his daughter safe he locked himself up in a wardrobe in the basement of their house.
- The basement of the cabana/Player's Oasis in The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker. A creepy maze filled with rats, it even has two Redeads in it for reasons not too well explained.
- Silent Hill:
- Silent Hill has the hospital basement, which plays one of the most disturbing pieces of music in the entire game.
- In Silent Hill: Homecoming, the first monster is found lurking in Alex's basement.
- In Silent Hill 2, an unknown person mentions how they suffered a traumatic experience when they ventured down into what they described as 'the basement's basement'. The player later finds this room, although it is devoid of anything threatening, and whatever happened there in the past is left to the imagination. Also notable is the underground Labyrinth accessed through a trapdoor, as well as Alchemilla Hospital's basement, where James quickly encounters Pyramid Head, who wastes no time impaling Maria.
- Downpour has one of these as an optional place. There is nothing in it except for a milk box with the poster of a missing child and creepy cries of sorrow. If you brave to go there and solve a simple puzzle, you will find a new enemy in the darkest room alongside a Colt.
- The Resident Evil series is full of these.
- Plays a big role in Scratches.
- The Anvil Lighthouse Cellar in The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion. Not terribly dark, but damn is it scary.
- Thief 3 - entering via Creepy Basement was the perfect set-up for the infamous Shalebridge Cradle mission.
- In the first game, Garret chooses to enter Cragscleft Prison through a breach in the sublevels, abandoned due to undead infestation.
- Undead shamble through basements adjacent to catombs, and if the living dead aren't creepy enough, the first encounter with the mechanical babies is in a cellar boiler room.
- The aptly-named Monster Basement takes place entirely in one.
- The SNES and Gameboy adaptations of Home Alone feature this at the end of every stage.
- Fate/stay night. The Church's Basement. To make it worse, if you choose not to see the Body Horror, you get a Game Over. Goddamnit, game.
- The Confinement Room in Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors may qualify as this. It is on the lower deck of the ship, and is definitely dark.
- A large portion of the final part of Luigi's Mansion takes place in the mansion's basement.
- In the sequel, E. Gadd notes how cellars have a bad reputation, and doesn't blame Luigi for being scared.
- Mom in The Binding of Isaac has a huge basement filled with all sorts of mutants, demons, dead bodies, undead bodies, and the occasional physical incarnation of one of the Seven Deadly Sins. And Isaac, a young boy, has to fight through this place, completely naked, with his tears as his only weapon.
- Beyond: Two Souls: Well, it's a garage, but it fits. It's unclear on the player's first venture in there to get oil whether the creepiness is due to the evil spirits, Aiden, or just Jodie's young imagination playing with her.
- Subverted in both Left 4 Dead games. Maintenance passages and underground sections aren't any less or more prone to housing Infected, and the absolute majority of the safe rooms are located below ground, most likely due to the inherent tough structures and few access points making them natural strongholds and ease to seal off the air entrances (the first, implied to be misguided, idea was that The Virus was airborne).
- From this strip of Daisy Owl:
Daisy: Be careful now, Cooper. Night time is a dangerous time.
Daisy: Yeah. You know the basement?
Daisy: Well, right now, the whole world is the basement. Except that if you freak, there's no staircase to scramble up.
- One of these is the setting of the "Borrowers" story arc of Skin Horse.
- Harry S. Plinkett utilizes his cellar to great effect. At one point, he even refers to it as his 'creepy basement'.
- Dead Ends has the St. Ingrid's basement that just happens to be full of murdered zombie girls.
- Marble Hornets Entry #72, the basement of Alex's old house. Jay and Tim should have known better than to go down there.