Comic Sans

Cellar Dweller takes place in a “college” where a group of eccentric artists come together for… something. There’s never so much as a class, just exhibitions, and the cast is old enough to have tenure rather than be students.

So no, Cellar Dweller’s setting isn’t a well considered one, but the idea of a monster leaping from a comic’s pages has merit. Indirectly, Cellar Dweller takes aim at the ‘80s penchant for ever more graphic content, eschewing the golden era’s gentle tone. In following her favorite artist, who inked a Tales from the Crypt-esque series, Whitney (Debrah Farentino) continues the violent trend, resurrecting the title creature with her pen.

With a paltry 76-minutes to spare, Cellar Dweller drifts along on auto-pilot

Not surprisingly, the hook is entirely the graphic gore and monster, a demon that chews through flesh like a wood chipper. For cheap, direct-to-VHS rental store fodder, credit where it’s due: Cellar Dweller’s starring attraction looks sensational. The animatronics, expressiveness, and cinematography sell this low-budget beast, making the wait for his appearance tolerable. Somewhat, anyway.

The cast, including The Munsters Yvonne De Carlo, find themselves stuck in disinterested personal squabbles, and the art world’s harshly judged work. To them, Whitney is beneath them for her want to draw a discontinued comic. Instead, there’s a stage show involving dolls, balloons, and something evoking death – high art in Cellar Dweller’s confined existence.

Beyond the drooling creature, Cellar Dweller’s greatest asset is the morbidly dark ending, hilarious considering the goofy context. A better film uses this to take a conservative stand against the comic industry’s growing penchant for brutality, that continuing the cycle perpetuates violence. But no, Cellar Dweller simply didn’t have a better way to end things, certainly not as cheaply. Rather than poignant (ridiculously so, considering the nonsensical violence-in-media debate), the finish goes up in flames, literally, before fading to black.

With a paltry 76-minutes to spare, Cellar Dweller drifts along on auto-pilot, showing bizarrely inconsistent art, a few severed limbs, pointless nudity, and hardly any rules regarding the monster. It does what it wants by the end, which is a relief because at least that leads to some action and visual effects. That’s all Cellar Dweller has on offer, and the only thing memorable close to 40 years after its appearance.


The thick-grained film stock looks almost like 16mm in weight, but apparently Cellar Dweller used lower-end 35mm. Immediately aggressive, the contrast nears clipping levels, but typically holds the line to avoid any information loss. Black levels dig in, not the richest or purest, but enough so to generate the dimensionality needed in the image.

Strikingly rich color lets flesh tones pop. Saturation is somewhat reserved and on the cooler side (digitally tinted, possibly) but no less impressive.

Any stumbles come from the encode and Cellar Dweller isn’t exactly an easy one to transfer digitally. Still, it’s coarse, harsh, and noisy at its worst, decently controlled at best. The scan itself looks sublime, with resolution galore pushed to the max of 1080p. Detail thrives in the best circumstances, bringing out facial texture in close and details in the monster suit. On the print itself, damage retreats to a minimum.


A bit on the quieter side, PCM stereo toys with the channel split in spots, but nothing stands out other than the score. Fidelity doesn’t suffer at any extremes, both the treble and slight low-end clean. Sound effects wane, but only due to their stock quality, especially the thunder.


Make-up artist and suit performer Michael Deak takes questions from fans and critics during his commentary. Critics Matty Budrewicz and Dave Wain pen an appreciation for director John Carl Buechler, running 16-minutes. Deak returns for another 16-minute bonus, interviewed by the Arrow team. Trailers and image galleries close this one out.

Full disclosure: This Blu-ray was provided to us for review. This has not affected the editorial process. For information on how we handle review material, please visit our about us page to learn more.

Cellar Dweller
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Sold on the effectiveness of its creature alone, Cellar Dweller is a chore to sit through, but almost worth it to see the monster scenes.

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The following six screen shots serve as samples for our subscription-exclusive set of 31 full resolution, uncompressed HD screen shots grabbed directly from the Blu-ray:

2 thoughts on "Cellar Dweller Blu-ray Review"

  1. The Phantom Stranger says:

    Scream Factory put the horror movie out on a double feature about eight years ago:

    1. Matt Paprocki says:

      I had zero memory of us reviewing this. Never even thought to search for it. I think I’ve been doing this too long…

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