I Hate The Man In My Basement


Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

I Hate The Man In My Basement
"Superb performances from Marquette, Montana and Noone help to build a story that feels human and real."

First things first: despite its premise, I Hate The Man In My Basement is not a torture porn film, nor does it fit into the popular revenge genre. It may be another film in which a woman's death provides the impetus for a man's story, but its understated approach and willingness to tackle the most difficult parts of the narrative head on take it to very different places from most mainstream fare.

Chris Marquette plays Claude, a man who seems so quiet and inoffensive compared to others around him that he's easy to sympathise with; but for some time now Claude has been keeping Logan (Manny Montana) chained up in the basement of his suburban house. it's not clear at what stage after the death of his wife, eight months ago, he caught his quarry, but the two have had long enough to establish a routine. There are bruises on Logan's face, signs of recent beatings, but he accepts his evening meals without a fuss and they talk as they eat, about small things, like any two people who live together. Both of them believe that at some point Claude will kill Logan. In the meantime, there doesn't seem to be much point in active enmity. Claude has a lot to work through.

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At work, colleagues respect the effort that Claude has made to get on with his job despite everything. Riley (Jeffrey Doornbos) nevertheless thinks that it's time he tried to get back to living a normal life again. Riley is the kind of man who spends every waking moment thinking about sex and talks about women in a way that Claude finds revolting, yet underneath all that obnoxiousness is somebody trying to apply social skills he's never had much clue about in order to help a friend in trouble. Riley is happily married to a woman who seems completely comfortable with his behaviour, and the two of them try to take Claude out on double dates to a variety of arts activities, at one of which he incidentally meets dance teacher Kyra (Nora-Jane Noone).

As Kyra and Claude cautiously navigate their mutual attraction, with the latter still feeling angry at himself each time he's happy and with her - lacking Riley's shield of cluelessness - constantly afraid that she'll say the wrong thing, the problem of the man in the basement begins to present itself in a different way. How can Claude let her into his life when he has a secret like that? How could he possibly explain it to her?

Whilst the analogy between Claude's secret and the kind of baggage everybody carries around after bereavement is clear, there's more to this film than that, and superb performances from Marquette, Montana and Noone help to build a story that feels human and real. There's a part of Claude that seems to want to reach out and help Logan, especially as he learns more about his background. Is this simply about wanting him to understand the full meaning of what he's done? We get the impression that Logan might understand that already. There's no room for a white saviour narrative in a film that's fully aware of Logan as an individual with his own ideas to contribute; of Claude as a man who is equally lost.

Dustin Cook's intelligent script finds humour in the most difficult places even whilst denying viewers easy rewards. The characters are complex and intriguing, inhabiting a world in which nothing is fair.

Reviewed on: 12 Mar 2020
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A man trying to come to terms with the death of his wife keeps the man who killed her prisoner in his basement.

Director: Dustin Cook

Writer: Dustin Cook

Starring: Chris Marquette, Manny Montana, Nora-Jane Noone, Mary Birdsong, Trisha LaFache, Jeffrey Doornbos

Year: 2020

Runtime: 103 minutes

Country: US


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