Hey daddy-o / I don't wanna go / Down to the basement
—The Ramones, "I Don't Wanna Go Down To The Basement"
Let's face it. The darkness is scary. Even if you aren't terrified of it by itself, it can sometimes give you a horrible feeling that you're Being Watched, because you just can't see if there's something there. Children everywhere feel nervous about the closet or the space under the bed, but while those little bits of darkness are unnerving, there is a place yet creepier. A room where the darkness is the color of pitch, with no little lights anywhere, where even standing still and waiting for your eyes to adjust doesn't help. That room, home of the really, really really scary dark, is the basement.
Perhaps it's the fact that most basements are built into the ground, or how the dank, sparsely furnished ones seem horribly reminiscent of some kind of tomb or prison. And those spiders that like to hang out in the cracks and corners spinning their sticky transparent webs probably don't help much.
It should be noted that for a lot of people, this trope is Truth in Television.
Anime & Manga
- In Monsters, Inc., Randall keeps a terrible machine called the "Scream Extractor" in the company's basement, complete with steel and metal surroundings and pipes that release steam every so often. (He frequently spends a lot of his time down there as well).
- The Goonies featured a grotesque Gentle Giant named Sloth held in the basement of an abandoned restaurant where the bad guys were staying.
- In Home Alone there was a basement in Kevin's home that he was scared of going into because of a furnace that (he's imagining this) opens its grate and talks to him. Of course all the lifeless mannequins and the like are fairly disturbing in the dark. He later gets the courage to tell the thing to "Shut up!" and comes to the conclusion that its not so scary as he had originally thought. He ultimately incorporates the basement into the final battle and sets up several traps that Marv walks into.
- Wes Craven's The People Under the Stairs has a creepy basement that a child has to enter. The creepiness comes from the pack of starving mutilated people who are locked down there, sure, but it also comes from the fact that it belongs to a complete psychopath of a landlord whose presence upstairs traps you in, making it a horrible trap.
- The People Under The Stairs is a bit of a subversion in that the basement is actually the safest part of that house for the kid to be in.
- The original creepy basement in The Night of the Hunter.
Powell: Chiiiiilllllldren? Chiiiiiiiiildren?
- Toward the end of Psycho, Norman Bates keeps his mother's corpse in the fruit cellar.
- The cabin basement in The Evil Dead. That's where they find the Tome of Eldritch Lore in the first place, that's where they lock up Cheryl when she gets demonically possessed, and that's where Ash gets covered in more blood than you'd believe.
- In the sequel, we also learn that the possessed corpse of Annie's mother is buried down there, and, in a homage to the above Psycho, she refers to it as her "fruit cellar".
- Another obvious example: Silence of the Lambs:
Jame Gumb: It rubs the lotion on its skin or else it gets the hose again.
- Not really a basement, but in the second half of the movie Titanic the ship strikes an ice berg and the lower levels immediately start to fill with water, making it dangerous for anyone to be in those areas of the ship because they can either drown or freeze to death. It gets even creepier once the lights inside the ship start to flicker on and off and then finally turn off permanently.
- The wine cellar of the House on Haunted Hill. To say much more would ruin the surprise.
- Subverted, mostly, in Night of the Living Dead: the cellar turns out to be the one safe place to be, at least until Karen turns into a zombie.
- In The House by the Cemetery, main villain lives in titular house's basement.
- In the film Reanimator (loosely based on the Lovecraft story Herbert West- Reanimator), when Herbert West is looking to rent a room, one of his first questions is "Does this house have...a basement?"
- Harold and Kumar Escape From Guantanamo Bay: Harold and Kumar, on the run from the law, end up hiding in a Texan couple's dark, dingy basement. Earlier the couple had been joking about keeping their deformed incest baby locked up in there, which doesn't help. Turns out they weren't joking.
- There's one in the Goosebumps book "Vampire Breath". Arguably there's more of those in the other books as well, such as in the book, appropriately titled, "Stay Out Of The Basement", because the father had been growing evil mutant plants down there. Kids find unfinished basements scary, so it makes sense to include them in a kids' horror series.
- There's also the bizarre "I Live In Your Basement", which - just read the summary here.
- In the Discworld novel Hogfather, we meet Catseye, an outlaw-for-hire famed for his night vision and comfort in the darkness... with the exception of one cellar from his childhood.
"Our mam used to wallop us if we went down to the cellar," said Medium Dave. "She had her still down there."
- When the Tooth Fairy's Castle (long story) activates its defenses and sics his worst fears after him, he is swallowed by impossibly-deep shadows, leaving nothing behind but his boots and air that "tasted of rats, and damp, and mold."
- Montressor seals an enemy into the wall of his wine cellar in Edgar Alan Poe's The Cask Of Amontillado.
"For the love of God, Montressor!"
- In Stephen King's IT, little Georgie Denbrough hates going down to the cellar. He should have been more worried about the drains ...
- The Barrayaran Embassy in Cryo Burn has one of these. The inhabitants use it for classified communications and miscellaneous plotting. Jin Sato is rather afraid to go down into it the first time he's invited to.
- Coraline ends up going into one, where she encounters the true form of the Other Father.
- In the Harry Potter series, you have the Chamber of Secrets, which is basically Hogwarts's basement.
Live Action TV
- The Are You Afraid of the Dark? episode called "The Tale Of The Dark Music" was mainly focused on a boy named Andy who moved into a new house and it had a basement that he was scared to go into but he had to anyway to do laundry and like. While down there he discovered that playing music would wake up a demon that lived in the cellar for a long time. He fed the local neighborhood bully to the demon and it told Andy that it would give him anything his heart desired. All he had to do was, in the demon's own words, "Feed me..."
- Also, the episode "The Tale Of The Nightly Neighbors" had a family of vampires moving into a neighborhood, and the youngest vampire is kept in the basement with bottles of blood stored everywhere.
- "The Tale Of The Night Shift", had a basement in a hospital in which loads of nurses, doctors, and patients were attacked by a vampire. The vampire villain of the episode kept his coffin down there because he figured people were too scared to go down there and destroy it.
- In one Charmed episode, we find out that Phoebe used to be afraid of the basement. It turns out she had a good reason (this being Charmed, of course), because there really was a Woogy in the house.
- In another episode, Chris gets infected by demonic spider venom, as he transforms into a spider, he resides in the basement, transforming it into a webby layer.
- In the X Files episode "Millenium," there are zombies in a basement.
- And how about that one in Oubliette?
- In the Cheers episode "Diane's Nightmare", Diane dreams that characters in the show one by one go down into the bar's basement and disappear, presumably murdered by the homicidal character Andy Andy.
- In Home Improvement, Wilson's basement is a deep, dark, dank, very spacious cavern.
- A Running Gag has Jackson in Hannah Montana not want to clean the basement as a punishment as "there are spiders down there".
- One shows up as Jeff, Troy, and Abed make their way out when escaping from the zombies in Community episode "Epidemiology".
Jeff: Oh great. A dark basement. I was just thinking we should be doing this in a dark basement.
- In Laura Bow: The Colonel's Bequest, the killer hides the corpses of his victims in the creepy, dark basement which can only be reached through a secret passage.
- In The Legend of Zelda Majoras Mask there was a little girl's father who had a curse on him from working so close around Gibdos(zombies). He was cursed so that he looked like a Gibdo and to keep his daughter safe he locked himself up in a wardrobe in the basement of their house.
- The basement of the cabana/Player's Oasis in The Legend of Zelda the Wind Waker. A creepy maze filled with rats, it even has two Redeads in it for reasons not too well explained.
- In Silent Hill Homecoming, the first monster is found lurking in Alex's basement.
- In Silent Hill 2, an unknown person mentions how they suffered a traumatic experience when they ventured down into what they described as 'the basement's basement'. The player later finds this room, although it is devoid of anything threatening, and whatever happened there in the past is left to the imagination. Also notable is the underground Labyrinth accessed through a trapdoor, as well as Alchemilla Hospital's basement, where James quickly encounters Pyramid Head, who wastes no time impaling Maria.
- The Resident Evil series is full of these.
- Plays a big role in Scratches.
- The Anvil Lighthouse Cellar in The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion. Not terribly dark, but damn is it scary.
- Thief 3 - entering via Creepy Basement was the perfect set-up for the infamous Shalebridge Cradle mission.
- The aptly-named Monster Basement takes place entirely in one.
- The SNES and Gameboy adaptations of Home Alone feature this at the end of every stage.
- Fate/stay night. The Church's Basement. To make it worse, if you choose not to see the Body Horror, you get a Game Over. Goddamnit, game.
- The Confinement Room in Nine Hours Nine Persons Nine Doors may qualify as this. It is on the lower deck of the ship, and is definitely dark.
- A large portion of the final part of Luigi's Mansion takes place in the mansion's basement.
- Mom in The Binding of Isaac has a huge basement filled with all sorts of mutants, demons, dead bodies, undead bodies, and the occasional physical incarnation of one of the Seven Deadly Sins. And Isaac, a young boy, has to fight through this place, completely naked, with his tears as his only weapon.
- One of these is the setting of the "Borrowers" story arc of Skin Horse.
- From this strip of Daisy Owl:
Daisy: Be careful now, Cooper. Night time is a dangerous time.
- Ed, Edd 'n' Eddy: The Kankers hang out in the basement instead of going to classes for the most part when they are at school. They even decorated it to their liking in graffiti and various other nicknacks. Naturally, the other kids try to steer clear from it, especially the Ed's who the Kankers all have massive crushes on.
- And of course Eddy had to ask, "What did they do with the janitor?" Squick.
- Ed's room. It's a filthy pigsty and it's where Ed commonly acts out certain scenes from his favorite horror movies and comic books.
- And of course Eddy had to ask, "What did they do with the janitor?" Squick.
- Rugrats: A few episodes had the babies traveling down to a basement, and usually they would exaggerate what was actually going on in reality to make it more creepy, in the babies eyes at least. Understandable really considering how often Stu would work on his crazy inventions down there...
- One episode in which Susie's sister Alisa babysat Tommy and Susie, everyone thought that there was some monster down the basement, and they put a table in front of the door to keep it down there. Unfortunately, the monster had gotten out and was running around the house. It was really just Susie's older brother and his friend playing a prank on everyone.
Randy Carmichael: (after coming home at the end of the episode) Hey, what's this coffee table doing in front of the cellar door?
- The song "Don't Go In the Basement" from the animated short Face Like a Frog. A Non Sequitur Scene in a cartoon that's nothing but.
- Muppet Babies had the babies braving the horrors of the basement—magnified by their super imagination—several times, usually when searching for Animal.