A gen­re flick doesn’t have to have amaz­ing ideas or spec­ta­cle to charm the fans. Sometimes just love for the gen­re is enough to car­ry it through. Case in point: Cellar Dweller. This late ‘80s quick­ie from the final days of Empire Pictures is the def­i­n­i­tion of a pro­gram­mer, with the rough edges show­ing and a kind of hasty qual­i­ty to how it is was made… but it was made by peo­ple who clear­ly love hor­ror movies and that’s what gets it by as a fun time-killer.

CelDw-Cat-bluCellar Dweller is about a cursed comic book. Its cre­ator (Jeffrey Combs) used a mag­ic text for his inspi­ra­tion and he acci­den­tal­ly brought the comic book’s crea­ture to life with an incan­ta­tion, result­ing in a fiery death for all involved. A few decades lat­er, the house where this occurred is an artist’s colony where comics fan Whitney (Debrah Farentino) comes to bring the comic book back to life. Unfortunately, that very thing hap­pens lit­er­al­ly and she is soon try­ing to fig­ure out to return the title crea­ture back to hell as it bumps off the colony’s mem­bers.

Make no mis­take, Cellar Dweller is a fast, campy enter­prise devot­ed to cheap thrills. The script, penned by a young pre–Child’s Play Don Mancini under a pseu­do­nym, hits the expect­ed mon­ster movie beats but also throws in some fun satire of the art school world (there’s a great sendup of per­for­mance art) and a sur­pris­ing­ly grim coda. It’s also inter­est­ing to see a hor­ror movie from this era with so many promi­nent roles for wom­en.

FX man-turned-direc­tor John Buechler main­tains a break­neck pace, deliv­ers a neat self-designed crea­ture and has fun play­ing with how it bounces between the comic book and real life. He some­times lets the com­e­dy get too broad (Brian Robbins mugs shame­less­ly in each of his sce­nes) but over­all man­ages a fun vibe rem­i­nis­cent of a lighter Tales From The Crypt episode. There’s also good pho­tog­ra­phy from Sergio Salvati, a reg­u­lar of Empire’s Italian era, and a lead per­for­mance of sur­pris­ing emo­tion­al depth from Farentino. Elsewhere, Yvonne CelDw-01De Carlo shows a nice dry wit as the colony’s head­mistress and Vince Edwards has fun as an ex-cop turned hard­boiled writer.

In short, Cellar Dweller offers decent cheap thrills in a tidy run­ning time (just under 80 min­utes!). Even when its edges are rough, its trashy heart is always in the right place.

Blu-Ray Notes: This title was recent­ly released by Scream Factory as part of a dou­ble fea­ture blu-ray with anoth­er Empire title, Catacombs. A title card before the fea­ture warns that this was mas­tered from a film print from the MGM archives and that there might be some anom­alies. However, out­side of a bit of dam­age and one awk­ward splice, it looks pret­ty sharp and col­or­ful for some­thing not sourced from a neg­a­tive. The 2.0 DTS sound­track is sim­i­lar­ly decent. No extras are includ­ed but you do get a bonus film in Catacombs.