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. However, nothing impedes a house owner from averting the trope entirely by making the basement a clean, well-lit and light-hued living area, even with ground-level windows for natural illumination- and filled with cool stuff, from TVs to bars to pinball tables. Many bedrooms are done that way, in fact.
See also Torture Cellar. If there's a monster locked down there, see Madwoman in the Attic or Room Full of Zombies. But there is no inherent connection between this trope and the Basement-Dweller; although it's possible for a Basement-Dweller to be creepy (especially if he's a Psychopathic Manchild or someone's uncle), there are many Basement Dwellers who are as pleasant as you could wish, and in general, the non-creepy characters live in a non-creepy basement.
- In Kill la Kill, Ryuko is dropped into the basement of her family's burnt-out house, where she encounters a Clingy MacGuffin in the form of a Sailor Fuku.
- Rei from Neon Genesis Evangelion grew up in a dark, dingy, creepy basement in NERV headquarters, isolated from most human contact, and lives in the same fashion as a teenager.
- Sensation Comics: A horticulturist grows "octopus plants," in his pitch-black basement as the things are killed by sunlight. He feeds victims to them and they develop blooms that mimic their faces. Wonder Woman and Steve Trevor rescue the Holliday Girls from the things when they end up trapped in the basement while looking into the suspicious character who owns the place.
- Sullivan's Sluggers: When Casey and Smith go into the basement of a farmhouse while searching for stuff to use, they find the basement filled with corpses of the townsfolk's previous victims.
- There's one in Child of the Storm. The fact that it's in the basement of one of HYDRA's bases is creepy enough. The fact that Gravemoss uses it as a lair/laboratory makes it a lot more so. Very few of the minions who are unlucky enough to get sent in come back out - and those who do are very rarely in the same shape as when they went in.
- One of Riley's fears in Inside Out is the stairs to the basement.
- 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 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 Conjuring: The Perron family having just moved in discovers their sealed-off basement. While not explicitly the source of the haunting, it does play host to a lot of spirits and activity. The finale takes place in the basement where the Warrens attempt to exorcise Bathsheba from her host, Carolyn Perron.
- In Don't Breathe, the protagonists attempt to escape through the Blind Man's creepy basement, which is a twisting maze of cabinets, shelves and benches. It gets even more nightmarish when the Blind Man cuts the power, plunging the basement into total darkness.
- 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 Psycho, she refers to it as her "fruit cellar".
- Feral (2017): The basement of Talbot's home contains a collection of chemicals, as well as a bed that has attached to it. This was where he was keeping his infected son while he tried to develop a cure for the feral disease.
- It (2017): The Denbroughs' cellar is unfinished, poorly lit, and scattered with Spooky Photographs and sculptures. George takes a flashlight and walkie-talkie with him when he has to go down there and still flees as soon as he can; it's implied that Pennywise is already stalking him. After his death, Bill follows a vision of Georgie into the now-flooded basement, only to narrowly escape Pennywise himself.
- Funeral Home has a pretty creepy basement. Apt considering the bed-and-breakfast inn was previously a funeral home.
- Inverted in Ghostbusters (1984): The containment unit is in the firehouse's well-lit basement.
- Ghostbusters (2016): The Aldridge Manor's basement, where the Ax-Crazy Gertrude Aldridge lived and died as a prisoner. Turned Up to Eleven in the opening, when the floor breaks apart and glowing green slime bubbles out of the gaping holes.
- The Goonies features a grotesque Gentle Giant named Sloth held in the basement of an abandoned restaurant where the bad guys are staying.
- The Hand That Rocks the Cradle: Claire is left with this impression of her own basement when she faces off with Peyton. Of course, it's precisely because of that showdown that it comes to feel like a crypt.
- 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.
- Hell House LLC:
- The basement is where the horrible accident that sets the plot in motion happens and throughout the film is easily the creepiest part of the hotel where the worst and most obviously unexplainable things happen. It came complete with strange numbers and occult symbols already written on the walls, lots of Bibles, and is the only room in the hotel where the security cameras do not work.
- In the sequel, Hell House LLC II: The Abaddon Hotel, the basement is the last place anyone wants to go and has a portal to Hell.
- In the first Home Alone, Kevin was scared of going into the basement because of a furnace that he imagines opens its grate and talks to him. He later gets the courage to tell the thing to "Shut up!" and comes to the conclusion that it's not so scary as he had originally thought. He ultimately incorporates the basement into the final battle and sets up several traps in there which Marv triggers.
- Housebound: The basement is full of life-size sculptures of saints. Human-shaped looming figures with overtones of bloody death? Thanks, those will cheer this basement right up.
- In The House by the Cemetery, main villain lives in titular house's basement.
- The new owners discover that the basement in House Of Orphans was the torture chamber of the orphanage.
- The wine cellar of the House on Haunted Hill (1959). To say much more would ruin the surprise.
- The cellar in Left Bank is badly lit and dilapidated. Cellar 51 is the room where the horror happens.
- The original creepy basement in The Night of the Hunter.
Powell: Chiiiiilllllldren? Chiiiiiiiiildren?
- Subverted, mostly, in Night of the Living Dead (1968): the cellar turns out to be the one safe place to be, at least until Karen turns into a zombie.
- The basement in The Orphanage is a pretty creepy one.
- 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 keeps you inside, making it a horrible trap.
- Toward the end of Psycho, Norman Bates keeps his mother's corpse in the fruit cellar.
- In the film Re-Animator (loosely based on the Lovecraft novella Herbert WestReanimator), when Herbert West is looking to rent a room, one of his first questions is "Does this house have... a basement?"
- There's a damn creepy basement scene in The Road.
- Summer of '84: One of the most tense scenes of the movie is when three characters decide to check their neighbor's house when he's away to see once and for all if he's a Serial Killer. The dark basement full of broken furniture is creepy enough but then they get behind the locked door: a recreation of a '50s boy's bedroom, pictures of a victim, and a decomposing body in the bathtub.
- The Void: The characters descend into the basement of the hospital to rescue someone when an entire sub-level just appears before them, filled with monsters and leading to a portal to another dimension. This basement level itself is not even "real" exactly and disappears at the end.
- In The Woman In Black: Angel of Death, a number of pivotal scenes take place in the very, very creepy basement of Eel Marsh House.
- 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..."
- 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..."
- Coraline ends up going into one, where she encounters the true form of the Other Father.
- The Barrayaran Embassy in Cryoburn 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.
- 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, for starters.
- 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 Harry Potter series, you have the Chamber of Secrets, which is basically Hogwarts's basement.
- 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."
- In Stephen King's IT, little Georgie Denbrough hates going down to the cellar. He should have been more worried about the drains...
- Johannes Cabal the Necromancer: Johannes Cabal has his own basement of horrors, to say nothing of his antagonists' lairs and haunts.
- Bill Bryson has one article contained in Notes from a Big Country (also published as I'm a Stranger Here Myself) where he muses on the inherent creepiness of American basements. He elaborates that occasionally some enterprising parent will try to do their basement up nicely with lights and games, and the children will still be too terrified to go down there.
- 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 imprison people and cut off their limbs for food one by one. It puts the smokehouse in the back yard in perspective.
- In The Adventures of Superman episode "The Evil Three", the cellar of the hotel where Perry and Jimmy spend the night is shadowy and has the skeleton of the former owner chained to a wall.
- Are You Afraid of the Dark?:
- The episode called "The Tale Of The Dark Music" was mainly focused on a boy named Andy who moved into a new house, and it had a basement which scared him, but he had to go down there anyway to do laundry and like. While down there, he discovered that playing music would wake up a demon that lived in the cellar for a long time. He fed the local neighborhood bully to the demon and it told Andy that it would give him anything his heart desired. All he had to do was, in the demon's own words, "Feed me..."
- Also, the episode "The Tale Of The Nightly Neighbors" had a family of vampires moving into a neighborhood, and the youngest vampire is kept in the basement with bottles of blood stored everywhere.
- "The Tale Of The Night Shift" had a basement in a hospital in which loads of nurses, doctors, and patients were attacked by a vampire. The vampire villain of the episode kept his coffin down there because he figured people were too scared to go down there and destroy it.
- In Beetleborgs, the basement in Hillhurst Mansion is so creepy, even Flabber and the monsters who live there are too afraid to go down there! In the second season, when they have to go there to look for the mysterious intruder in the Mansion, they find who's lurking down there - Little Ghoul. Later, she makes her room down there.
- When Phoebe is revealed to have a fear of the basement, it turns out she had a good reason because there really was a Woogy in the house.
- Chris gets infected by demonic spider venom; as he transforms into a spider, he resides in the basement, transforming it into a webby lair.
- In the Cheers episode "Diane's Nightmare", Diane dreams that characters in the show one by one go down into the bar's basement and disappear, presumably murdered by the homicidal character Andy Andy.
- One shows up as Jeff, Troy, and Abed make their way out when escaping from the zombies in Community episode "Epidemiology".
Jeff: Oh great. A dark basement. I was just thinking we should be doing this in a dark basement.
- In an episode of Criminal Minds, Reid has a recurring dream in which he discovers the body of a murdered boy in a basement.
- In one episode of Diff'rent Strokes, Kimberly is kidnapped when she and Arnold hitch a ride. Her father and the police eventually rescue her when they figure out that her kidnapper has her down in the basement of the building where he rents an apartment, which he uses for a photography darkroom. The basement itself is a mild subversion, as it seems to be a nice enough room, but what the kidnapper is planning to do with her (and has possibly done to other girls) in the space renders it ominous.
- A Running Gag has Jackson in Hannah Montana not want to clean the basement as a punishment as "there are spiders down there".
- In Hannibal, the title character owns a prime example of a creepy basement where he stashes all the dead people. In the second season, Beverly is killed when Hannibal catches her searching through his basement.
- In Home Improvement, Wilson's basement is a deep, dark, dank, very spacious cavern as shown in the pic of this page.
- Tim invokes this in one episode by turning the basement into a Haunted House for Brad's Halloween party.
- A later episode has him turn the basement into a third bedroom so none of the boys have to share anymore; Randy gets to be the one to stay down there, but he's unsettled by a lot of the noises he hears in the night.
- Tim invokes this in one episode by turning the basement into a Haunted House for Brad's Halloween party.
- Played for Laughs with the setting of The IT Crowd, especially in the first episode, where the building's nice view of the city and carefree atmosphere is contrasted with the bottom floor. A grimy, flickering elevator button foreshadows a dark hallway where hot steam intermittently bursts out of vents. (It even has its own creepy basement-dweller, Richmond the Goth.) The actual main I.T. room isn't too bad, just a mess.
- Several times in The X-Files. The examples include the following episodes:
- In "Millennium", there are zombies in a basement.
- A creepy child molester kidnaps a young girl and keeps her in his basement in "Oubliette".
- A very creepy basement appeared in "Schizogeny" where Karin (the-monster-of-the-week) used to be locked up when she was small and she in turn locks there another girl who has to watch her aunt's murder and her body through a small window. Moreover, there is Karin's fathers body covered in tree roots in the cellar.
- In The Magnus Archives Martin, one of the archivist's assistants, goes to investigate a house to follow up a statement about an alleged supernatural encounter and ends up in a dark basement. It doesn't go well. He seemingly gets out safely, but his problems are only just beginning.
- A classic horror story set in Southeast Asia (implied to be Malaysia or Singapore) had a field day playing around with this trope. The story revolves around two siblings from a rural town, whose grandfather repeatedly forbids them from venturing into their house's poorly-lit basement. The siblings, refusing to believe their grandpa, venture into the basement anyway, only to find various empty boxes, dusty cupboards, and broken shelves... until one of them finds a spherical, rusty, metal object they cannot identify. They end up calling their dad over to investigate, at which point the dad immediately informs the police to bring along a bomb disposal team - turns out the metal object is an old, WW2-era unexploded ordnance, left behind during the Japanese occupation. The kicker though? When the siblings tried getting their grandpa to convince him there's nothing in the basement, the dad replies with this Wham Line:
"What are you kids talking about? Your grandpa died years ago before you were born!"
- 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 Ao Oni, there are a few points where the player has to go into the basement of the house. Not only is it initially pitch-black in there, but there's also no background music and the only sound is an unseen being's heavy breathing. This coupled with the fact that the monster can jump out at any point even when you can see what's going on makes it incredibly terrifying.
- In Baldur's Gate II: Shadows of Amn, the player must venture into the lower reaches of Rejiek Hidesman's home and workshop after outing him as the Skinner Murderer. They find several flayed and rotting corpses, a shirt made of Genuine Human Hide under one of the beds and, depending on player choice, the body of the good Lieutenant Aegisfield crammed into one of the containers.
- 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.
- 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.
- Dead by Daylight features one of these on each map, providing the killer with a set of four meat hooks. Perfect to nail all of those pesky humans without having to go on a long trek.
- In The Dead Case, there's one in the house of Greg Toberen. The protagonist finds human bones in the remains of his basement and his wife conveniently died in a house fire when she went snooping down there.
- Dragon Age II has an unusual one. When Hawke goes to take back their family's ancestral home, they do so by entering the basement using their mother's old key. The basement itself is relatively normal, but the creepy factor is ratcheted up by the presence of a gang of murderous slave traders - some of whom use deadly magic.
- The Anvil Lighthouse Cellar in The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion. Not terribly dark, but damn is it scary.
- Fate/stay night. The Church's Basement, where the other children who survived the Fuyuki Fire are kept as basically Gilgamesh's life/mana sources. To make it worse, if the player chooses not to see the Body Horror, it's a Game Over. Goddamnit, game.
- F.E.A.R. Perseus Mandate features a rare industrial variant in the Old Underground Metro Area. Aside from a few flooded areas and scattered crates, it looks new and well-maintained, which doesn't make it any less spooky when the place is packed with Alma's hostile apparitions and absolutely nothing else.
- Free Icecream: The game starts with the little girl tied up in the killer's basement.
- Haunting Starring Polterguy: The underworld is presumably set beneath the Sardini house and has many spooky things in them like skulls, coffins, bats, pits, and arms reaching for you.
- In Hello Neighbor, your neighbor has one, and the goal of the game is to find out what's in it. He probably isn't protecting it with a lock, keycard, and boards for no reason. It's a dark maze of access corridors surrounding a bunch of locked-up rooms with pictures put up to imitate the outside world, which is implied to be where the Neighbor imprisoned his son for pushing his daughter to her death.
- The SNES and Game Boy adaptations of Home Alone feature this at the end of every stage.
- 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.
- 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 their inherently tough structure and few access points making them natural strongholds, plus the ease to seal off the air entrancesnote .
- The Legend of Zelda:
- 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 (mummies). 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.
- The titular Dark Room in Life Is Strange episode 4.
- A large portion of the final part of Luigi's Mansion takes place in the mansion's basement. In the sequel Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon, E. Gadd notes how cellars have a bad reputation, and doesn't blame Luigi for being scared.
- The aptly-named Monster Basement takes place entirely in one.
- 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.
- The Resident Evil series is full of these.
- Plays a big role in Scratches.
- 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 Brookhaven 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.
- 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 catacombs, and if the living dead aren't creepy enough, the first encounter with the mechanical babies is in a cellar boiler room.
- The cabin's basement in Charby the Vampirate is quite nice and well lit, except that it is a complex of caves with a laboratory and deep pit from which at least one monster has come.
- 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.
- In Killing Stalking, the action is properly kickstarted when the Stalker with a Crush Yoon Bum slips in the house of his crush Sangwoo, then goes into his basement, and finds out that he's a Serial Killer.
- The Noordegraaf Files has the sub - basement under Theo and Lars' office building. Lars pokes fun at Theo for being scared - until a noise makes him jump. It turns out to be a girl snooping around, who kicks off the whole plotline.
- One of these is the setting of the "Borrowers" story arc of Skin Horse.
- Stand Still, Stay Silent has Sigrun discover one in chapter 5. After passing through an abandoned hospital full of nothing, she opens the door and goes down... There's something.
- Dead Ends has the St. Ingrid's basement that just happens to be full of murdered zombie girls.
- Ed, Edd n Eddy:
- The Kankers hang out in the basement instead of going to classes for the most part when they are at school. They even decorated it to their liking in graffiti and various other knickknacks. Naturally, the other kids try to steer clear of it, especially the Eds who the Kankers all have massive crushes on. And of course, Eddy has to ask, "What did they do with the janitor?" Squick.
- Ed's room. It's a filthy pigsty and it's where Ed commonly acts out certain scenes from his favorite horror movies and comic books.
- Muppet Babies has the babies braving the horrors of the basement — magnified by their super imagination — several times, usually when searching for Animal.
Randy Carmichael: [after coming home at the end of the episode] Hey, what's this coffee table doing in front of the cellar door?
- A few episodes have the babies traveling down to a basement, and usually they would exaggerate what was actually going on in reality to make it more creepy, in the babies' eyes at least. Understandable, really, considering how often Stu would work on his crazy inventions down there...
- One episode in which Susie's sister Alisa babysat Tommy and Susie, everyone thought that there was some monster down the basement, and they put a table in front of the door to keep it down there. Unfortunately, the monster had gotten out and was running around the house. It was really just Susie's older brother and his friend playing a prank on everyone.
- The song "Don't Go In the Basement" (performed by Oingo Boingo!) from the animated short Face Like a Frog. A Big-Lipped Alligator Moment in a cartoon that's nothing but.
- The Trap Door: The series is built almost entirely around this trope, with the Trap Door of the title being the only thing protecting the inhabitants of the castle from all sorts of creepy and ghastly things that lie below it in the depths of the castle's basement and dungeons. Naturally, Once an Episode, something escapes.
- Chernobyl has the basement of the abandoned Pripyat hospital. It's got creepy down pat, being in an Abandoned Hospital, and there really is something dangerous down there. The threat? It's Empty Piles of Clothing... that were worn by the first responders to the reactor explosion, and are still incredibly radioactive, to the point that the basement is the most radioactive spot in the city outside of the reactor plant itself. Just going down into the basement without proper protective gear can make your cancer risk skyrocket. When your guide says don't go into the basement, he means it.note