There are those of you, at least at certain times, who prefer a quieter horror, lingering in calm foreboding with a touch of discomfiture (perhaps reflecting your party post-partum hangover), where the violence is often hidden or implied. Add a good dose of camp and the Southern Gothic and you have captured much of S. F. Brownrigg’s small but exclusive oeuvre. The late Texan director’s low-budget ’70s films such as Scum of the Earth (Poor White Trash 2 – 1974) and Don’t Open The Door (1974) have held him firm in grindhouse fan’s hearts, but most would say that it is his first feature, Don’t Look In The Basement (1973), that won them over. The film was initially screened as a drive-in double-bill with Wes Craven’s debut The Last House On The Left (1972), for which it makes an apt companion piece. Although less overtly violent, it shares many elements, notably the disconcerting use of Robert Farrar’s musical score (to which it takes to extremes).
Brownrigg, who had earlier collaborated with fellow Texas ‘Schlockmeister’ Larry Buchanan on films such as Zontar, the Thing From Venus (1966), brought in actor and fellow Buchanan-veteran William ‘Bill’ McGhee to play the pivotal role of man-child Sam. McGhee was also a survivor of Dallas’ Baker Hotel explosion of 1946 and the Indian Wells, Nevada nuclear test. Others in the intriguing mixture of pro and amateur actors include: Rosie Hotolik, who had graced the cover of Italian Playboy in April 1972 and would soon appear in Horror High (1974); Jessie Lee Fulton, who was in the middle of a run of films that would include Peter Bogdonavich’s Last Picture Show (1971) and Paper Moon (1973), and Steven Spielberg’s Sugarland Express(1974); and, moonlighting from his gaffer’s position, Robert Dracup, who seems to be channeling ‘Dandy Don’ Meredith. The wickedly twisted Harriet’s Camilla Carr, as well as becoming a favorite of Brownrigg’s (appearing in his Scum and Leave My Grave Open (1976)), would go on to appear in Logan’s Run (1976), Making Love (1982) and the notorious 1987 “They’re Killing The Right People” episode of Designing Women.
Don’t Look In The Basement is also known as The Forgotten. It is unlikely that you will find that a descriptive title.