It’s a horror trope as old as time: basements that hold a terrifying secret. For some reason, basements have been the backdrop to many horror stories. It can be difficult to understand exactly what makes basements feel so creepy. Here are a few terrifying basements from movies, along with an explanation of why they feel so terrifying.
A Quiet Place: Betrayal
The terror in A Quiet Place’s basement comes from the fact that it’s supposed to be a safe place. The family uses it as a makeshift soundproof nursery, but when a pipe bursts, it actually starts attracting the noise-sensitive monsters the family is hiding from. That betrayal makes the scene feel even more horrifying.
The Exorcist: Supernatural Powers Stashed Away
The horror in The Exorcist all starts when 12-year-old Regan finds a Ouija board in the basement and uses it to communicate with a demon. That scene itself isn’t exactly super-scary, but it sets the scene for the horrifying events of the film. This represents a fear that something you have stored away in your basement might come back to haunt you.
A Nightmare On Elm Street: Corruptions of Safe Places
In A Nightmare on Elm Street, the main conflict is between the “dream world,” which is where Freddy exists, and the “real world.” The thing is, if Freddy kills you in the dream world, you also die in the real world. Freddy’s Nightmare Factory, which is in his boiler room, isn’t scary in the real world, but it’s a true horror in the dream world.
The Amityville Horror: Hidden Horrors
One of the most interesting scenes in The Amityville Horror is when the characters discover The Red Room, which is a four foot by five foot room in the basement that’s painted red. It’s not in the building plans, which represents the fear that something intentionally hidden away could be intended for dastardly means.
The Silence of the Lambs: Being Trapped
The horror in The Silence of the Lambs comes largely from the fact that it has to do with not one but two serial killers, one of whom is ostensibly on the protagonist’s side. However, the basement plays a huge role in this horror; one serial killer uses it to trap and starve women so he can skin them. That fear of being technically unencumbered but still trapped is a huge fear.
Psycho: People With a Secret
Throughout Psycho, it’s easy to see that there’s something strange happening with Norman Bates. However, it’s tough to know exactly what that is. The terrifying reveal occurs when the main character goes into the fruit cellar, where she finds the mummified corpse of Norman Bates’ mother. The fact that Norman Bates hides this secret makes it even more terrifying.
The Grudge: Unseen Terror
In one of the clearest scenes of a terrifying basement on this list, The Grudge has an unforgettable scene starring a character in the basement armed with only a flashlight. What makes it so spooky? One major reason is the fact that the character in question can only see what’s illuminated with the flashlight. The hidden terrors build tension.
There are many reasons someone might find a basement creepy. No matter why a director chooses to have a scary scene play out in a basement, however, it’s clear that the moviemaking trick works. Keep an eye out for spooky basement scenes and see whether you can deduce the deciding factor behind what makes it so scary.