Stuck in the Czech Republic as a result of a travel ban announced after the global Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, I watch one random film a day until the travel band is lifted to keep some of my sanity intact.
I Hate the Man in the Basement is no pleasant surprise. As a drama with tinges of romantic comedy and tinges of thriller, it revolves around a man who keeps his wife’s killer chained up in his basement and tortures him regularly. While all that is going on, he half-heartedly tries to start life anew and eventually, slowly begins to discover love again.
The lead character, Claude (Chris Marquette) is an apparently shy, nice guy with a terrible secret. He is soft-spoken, submissive, with a boring job and a nice house. His love interest, a dance instructor named Kyra (Nora-Jane Noone) is understanding, caring, funny, lovable and seemingly willing to accept the guy’s every flaw. Perfect, hence, for Claude to love and live again!
The problem is the man in the basement, the typical young man who never stood a chance. But, as Claude’s relationship with Kyra progresses positively, he begins to feel more empathetic towards the guy – even encouraging him to read books. It becomes painfully clear that this guy also works as a metaphor for Claude’s darker side but director/writer Dustin Cook never does anything with that, instead relying on a self-assured sombre style that is painfully dull.
The narrative itself is filled with obviousness. The entire film has no life of its own – it’s like a Frankenstein’s monster urged forward by a resistless impulse. The message too is quite annoying and finds the white bourgeois getting their way over the underprivileged. Cook is just another guy whose thematic concerns are no more profound than your average episode of Friends. The fact that he may be a Randy Savage fan – as implied by his IMDB bio – is still pretty cool.
I HATE THE MAN IN MY BASEMENT | Director – Dustin Cook | Writer – Dustin Cook | Starring – Chris Marquette, Nora-Jane Noone, Manny Montana | USA | 2020