Directed by Brendan Muldowney, the supernatural horror film “The Cellar” looks like a bad attempt at telling quite the usual story of a family moving into a new house that turns out to be haunted. Set in an unnamed countryside, although just a twenty-minute drive away from the city, the film showcases the Woods family as they gradually get embroiled in hauntings and try to find explanations for them. With concepts and cinematic elements that seem half-baked, “The Cellar” might interest those greatly drawn to the horror genre.
‘The Cellar’ Plot Summary
Keira Woods and her husband, Brian, move into their new house a little ways outside of town, along with their young son, Steven, and teenage daughter, Ellie. Steven seems happy enough with the new place, seeing all his toys and video games gathered in a specific room that his dad has organized as his playroom. Ellie, on the other hand, is not at all happy with her parent’s decision to move to this old, sinister-looking house away from their previous house and her friends. As Brian gives the family a tour of the house, strange paintings of the previous owner are seen, as are mysterious symbols carved on wood over the rooms. At one end of the house, there is also a door that leads down to the cellar, which is old and damp, visibly very old and messy, which adds to the character of the house, according to Keira. When Ellie stands on the landing in front of the stairs, the door mysteriously shuts and locks itself, trapping the girl inside. Her parents manage to get the door opened with a key that hangs next to the door, but not before Ellie has been scared, and she now hates the house even more. However, as fate has it, the children have to spend the night alone at the house as the parents have to attend an emergency meeting before meeting potential clients the next day about their social media promotion business.
Ellie tries putting Steven to bed early, but that does not work as the boy plays around childishly. He shows her a goat skull that he found inside a secret chamber in his playroom. The chamber is also filled with strange insignia and an abacus rack. They find a gramophone with a record and play it to hear a man’s voice read out a mathematical equation and then count numbers from one. Soon after, the electricity fizzes out gradually, and the entire house is steeped in darkness. Ellie calls her mother, expressing that she is scared, and Keira instructs her to go down to the cellar to check the fuses. To help her daughter feel less scared, she tells her to count the steps on the stairs while going down, ten in total, and she agrees to stay on the line and count with her. Ellie keeps counting with a shaky and trembling voice till she reaches the ninth step, and her fear takes over as she shuts her eyes to step on the tenth step. Keira congratulates her and tells her the next set of instructions when she hears Ellie keep counting steps beyond ten, as if in a trance. The parents fearfully drive back home quickly, but find Ellie missing from their house.
Major Spoilers Ahead
Who Did The House Belong To? What Is The Mystery With It?
The parents quickly involve the police, and search parties are conducted in every location near the house. The police also tracked security camera recordings at stations and bus stops, but no track of Ellie was found. Keira helplessly puts up missing posters around town, dismissing the authorities’ claim that it is possible Ellie has run away from home, especially since she has done it once before. The police also let the mother know that her daughter was subject to bullying on the internet, and Keira now feels heartbroken and guilty that she gave her growing daughter so little time and attention. She now starts investigating the house, and going down to the cellar, she notices that every step in the staircase has its number carved on its side. Every step from the first to the second last is numbered correctly, from one to nine, but the very last step has some long mathematical equation carved on it.
That night, she goes around the house once again, and seems to hear a female voice coming out of her bathroom drain, counting numbers. She goes to check the cellar once more, and in the darkness, kicks one of Steven’s balls down the staircase. Without the lights on, the landing down the stairs is not visible, but Keira is shocked to hear the ball drop much more than just ten steps, indicating that the staircase is indeed much longer. To find out more about her house, she photographs all the symbols above the doorways outside every room and asks a woman from the office to find out about them. The symbols turn out to be Hebrew glyphs that do not mean much on their own, but together spell the name Leviathan. Strange incidents continue to occur, now with Steven, as the abacus beads in his playroom move on their own, and he is immediately taken over by a daze that makes him count from one and walk towards the secret chamber. In another instance, Keira herself is locked inside the cellar door and is tremendously scared and feels some strange existence inside, till her husband opens the door and brings her out.
The Woods had bought the house for very cheap at an auction, and all they knew was that it belonged to an old woman who was selling it to afford her medical bills. Checking in with the auctioneer, Keira finds out that the house had belonged to a well-known mathematician named John Fetherston, a colleague of Erwin Schrödinger, who had mysteriously disappeared one fine day along with his entire family, except his young daughter, and was never found or heard from again. Keira approaches a professor of mathematics with the equation she had found on the step, and is informed that the equation is probably part of a branch of mathematics invented by alchemists, and it is almost like an incomplete incantation that leads to, or at least suggests, the existence of a different dimension. The professor also tells her that a similar engraving was found in a house in Belgium where a family had gone missing very strangely. She tells her husband about all her findings, but Brian chooses not to believe her and instead angrily tries to shatter the final step of the staircase leading down to the cellar. But this only creates a metallic reverberation that triggers the gramophone to play the recorded equation and try to lure Steven into the chamber, where he is somehow saved by his parents in time.
While Keira goes to meet with John Fetherston’s daughter, Brian now investigates the symbols on the internet. What they learn can be brought together as such—the house that they have bought serves as a portal to another dimension in which a demon named Baphomet resides and takes in people to devour. Fetherston had opened up this portal with his mathematical genius, and through that specific equation, in order to cure his son’s illness that science was unable to treat, and by doing so, had made a pact with the devil to turn his house into one of Baphomet’s lairs.
‘The Cellar’ Ending Explained: What Happens To The Woods At The End?
The demon manages to lure Steven again with one of his toy drones, and the parents rush to find him as the entire house goes dark. They find him inside the secret closet in his playroom, where he appears to be walking into a dark, endless abyss. Keira pulls him out of it and lays him down, but Steven appears to have been possessed. The same happens with Brian, who counts backward to zero and dazedly announces the demon’s arrival. Keira tries to hide from the goat-headed fiend, but the monster catches up with her, and she somehow manages to escape his grasp and run down the stairs to the cellar. She now realizes that the staircase is very long indeed and that it leads to a door. This door further leads her through a tunnel and onto an open void on which she sees thousands of dead-like men and women walking forwards in lines, as if possessed, and counting numbers. Some are even counting in billions, and Keira almost gives up hope of finding her daughter, who she realizes is one of the many people lured into the dimension of Baphomet. Then, suddenly, she glances upon a foot with the same tattoo as Ellie, and she finds her daughter in a trance and pulls her out of line. Keira then runs with all her might back towards her house, pulling Ellie along, and the two manage to come out of the cellar door.
The lights seem to be back on in the house, and Brian and Steven’s possession also seems to have ended. The family rejoices at the reunion, as Ellie’s consciousness also comes back, but Keira wants to waste no more time in the house and leads her family towards the front door to leave. But opening the door, they see a long staircase amidst a gray abyss that leads up towards a lit room that looks exactly like the doorway of their cellar. The entire family, including Keira, again start to count numbers, and the house, seen from the exterior, shows that it has been transferred to the realm of Baphomet.
The ending obviously suggests a loop that exists inside the house, not allowing residents to leave the space once they have discovered its secret. The entire film and its concepts are quite foolish and are even kept under-developed, as it seems that concept after concept has been introduced to make it almost Lovecraftian, but to no effect and with no resolution. The performances and direction overall are lackluster and lazy as well, and with nothing worth finding or watching, “The Cellar” is a difficult horror film to recommend.
“The Cellar” is a 2022 Drama Horror Film written and directed by Brendan Muldowney.