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Frank Hennenlotter's "Basket Case" highlights the problem with horror
films of today. Back in the eighties, films would be made with an idea
and no budget, and the result would nearly always see the release of an
inventive and interesting horror film. Basket Case is no exception to
this, as despite hokey effects, a rather silly story and some very
suspect acting; Basket Case is a trash classic all the way, and it's a
film that's guaranteed to delight fans of horror. The story capitalises
on the fact that many people (including yours truly) find the subject
of deformity uncomfortable, and the subject of living with it even more
so. The plot follows a strange young man that carries a basket around
with him. Inside the basket lies his hideously deformed Siamese twin,
and the deformity wants it's revenge!
This leads the two brothers to seek out the doctors that separated them and brutally butcher them, and delivering us with a great camp horror movie! The central creature - namely, the deformed brother, is a masterpiece of creature design. The thing itself looks ridiculous, but in spite of this it actually manages to be quite frightening, and once you've gotten over the initial giggles: it takes on a life of it's own, and even manages to become quite believable. The film is sufficiently gory, which will no doubt be good news for everyone that wants to see it. Frank Hennenlotter is one of those directors that obviously has talent and flair for making films, but also hasn't been given a real chance to realise it. It's a massive shame that the endless amounts of remakes continue to get released on huge budgets, while someone that could make a great movie is blessed only with chicken feed to make them with. Just wait until the part where the brothers' story is told that's inventiveness for you! One thing I do love about the director is the way he casts his lead; the one here is certainly odd enough, in a naive loser sort of a way. On the whole; fans of intricate, deep cinema should stay well clear - while everyone else is preparing themselves for a damn good time!
BASKET CASE is, for what it is, superb.
That's not to say it is technically proficient or boasts particularly good performances from its actors. But it's intelligent, creepy and viciously horrific.
A young man, Duane, enters a seedy Times Square motel carrying a large wicker basket. Inside the basket, as we soon discover, is his monstrously deformed Siamese twin brother, Belial. Belial looks like a twisted lump of fat and gristle, with two clawed arms and an eerily human-like face. He was, not so long ago, attached to his brother's side, until his father and some crooked surgeons decided to seperate the brothers against their will. Now the pair is in Manhattan, to do away with the doctors who performed the operation.
The very premise is as bizarre and sordid as one can imagine. And the movie doesn't disappoint. Everything is washed out with red and blue neon, every location is dirty and grungy, every character is twisted or crazed. The movie jerks the viewer's emotions around brutally, going from silly to grim to nightmarish to funny to horrifying to tragic. It may take the movie a little while to sink in. If you allow it to, it will leave you speechless.
BASKET CASE is a classic of exploitation cinema. It's as gruesome as any splatter movie and sleazy as any grindhouse porno, but it's far better written and crafted than most of its type. It's a nightmare not unlike David Lynch's ERASERHEAD, but with a more EC-comics feel. If a mixture of sleaze, extreme gore, expressionism and poetic justice are your cup of tea, don't pass up BASKET CASE!
Basket Case (1982) happens to be one of the greatest shoe string budget
horror films ever made. A true cult classic and a tragic tale of brotherly
love and jealousy. The sleazy surroundings and characters that the movie was
shot in and around adds to it's charm. Duane and Belial are a pair of
brothers you don't want to cross paths with. This film was such a success
that it spawned two sequels and a funny cameo in another. Highly
I first saw this horribly grainy movie back when I was around 12 years old. It was such a traumatizing experience, I thought I would wet my pants in the Dr. Needleman death scene! Then I discovered the Something Weird digitally remastered version this year and I absolutely love it now! I now realize it was meant to be funny in many places; it gets more campy with every viewing (that's not bad) and the over-the-top gore effects help it hold that position. Like the title of this review says, you seriously might think of steering clear of New York City after watching this movie. The only two movies I can think of that make New York look like a filthy, dirty abyss would be the ones mentioned in the other reviews, TAXI DRIVER and HARDCORE. To rebutt a fellow reviewer's point: Casey the prostitute is not hairy, but is on the chunky side! This movie is highly recommended as campy viewing at best. If anyone actually watches this movie while taking it seriously (it obviously doesn't want to be), of course they won't like it! But this is required for fans of cult movies, horror movies, and any of those who love the offbeat. Me included!
One interesting side effect of the DVD revolution is that I've been watching lots of movies I haven't seen for YEARS, and some aren't as great as I remember them to be, and others are better. 'Basket Case' was one of THE great late 70s/early 80s low (and I mean looooow!) budget horror movies, linked in my mind with such genre classics as 'Phantasm' and 'Evil Dead'. Watching it now I don't think it's QUITE as great as those two, but it's still enjoyable to watch, and along with 'Re-Animator', 'Motel Hell' and 'Dead And Buried' it's one of the essential horror movies of the 1980s. Look, it isn't perfect, the animation sequences in particular are pretty poor, but considering the lack of funds, it's creepy, bizarre and doesn't take itself very seriously, and Kevin VanHentenryck (Duane) actually gives a very good performance. Writer/director Frank Henelotter went on to make the even better 'Brain Damage' and 'Frankenhooker' (as well as two sequels which I haven't seen) but sadly hasn't made a movie in the last ten years. Henelotter mixes horror and comedy as good as, if not better than, vintage Sam Raimi and Stuart Gordon in my opinion. Why isn't he making movies?! Why doesn't SOMEONE give him a million dollars and freedom to make anything he wants?? I really, really hope he makes a comeback soon. Until then check out 'Basket Case', it's cheap, nasty and LOTS of fun!
I went into Basket Case thinking "Oh God, this is going to be
excruciating." The first five minutes totally shattered my
This movie wasn't boring and horrible- it was hilarious, gory and great. I laughed hysterically at the bad acting, Crayola paint blood, sleazy characters (and scenes), and horrendous dialogue. "Whatcha got in the basket? Easter Eggs?" This is one of the Best Bad films I've seen (up there with Troll I and II, Chupacabra Terror, and Chopping Mall). I particularly enjoyed the Disgusting Blob Brother's sexual frustration and the black wo-MAN (I couldn't tell until she practically took off all her clothes and even then). All the Roach Hotel's patrons were hilarious, especially the crazy woman who just shows up and tells random stories and then disappears quickly.
Basket Case is great for Bad Movie Connoisseurs and gore lovers. Fantastic... I want to watch again!
A young man carries his deformed, mutant, Siamese twin brother around in a wicker basket on the streets of New York. The loud, yellow, stumpy creature is named Belial and, according to his brother, looks like "a squashed octopus". In the past, they've remained completely sheltered from the world by their compassionate but overprotective aunt. Now, after her recent death, the two decide to hit the big city for the first time and exact their revenge on the doctors that separated them during childhood. What's not to love about this movie? The story and script are thoughtful, scary, and darkly humorous. The character development is flawless: you actually begin to feel sympathy for the grotesque, rubbery entity and his bemused companion. The special effects and gore sequences are extremely well-done, considering the film's microbudget. Also, while the acting is indeed notably bad, that just adds to the camp value of the film.
It's rare to see a horror film that is actually "good", featuring an
original premise and decent acting/plot. Some films should have been
"classics" because they feature both, but are mocked years later for their
horrible special effects (think about it - most "classic horror films"
feature human or human-like villains e.g. slasher flicks and "Rosemary's
Baby"). Well, Basket Case is no exception.
The premise is one of the most original, then and probably still now. Duane carries his brother Belial around in a basket, and the two are trying to find and murder the doctors who separated them. It reminds one of "Freaks", with the deformed Belial and his brother Duane as anti-heros of sorts, getting revenge on the "normal" people that treated them so cruelly. A flashback to Duane's and Belial's separation and events in the film actually made me feel sorry for both (Duane because Belial won't let him have any time or romance for himself, and Belial because everyone is deathly afraid of him but his brother).
For a low budget '80s flick, Belial actually looks really good for the most part; though the first few deaths in the movie where he remains invisible are still more effective. When Belial jumps at some people it looks sort of funny, but when he is stationary (must've been a better puppet), he looks either frightened or damned frightening. Belial also makes some thankfully short appearances as a decent stop-motion animation.
It should also be noted that the lower quality grainy film stock does add to the seediness of the film and its bad-side-of-New York setting to give it a more creepy and realistic quality. There's a fairly high amount of gore, and the events leading up to the ending are eerie and shocking (it should be noted that, though it has some weak comedic aspects, this film isn't the intended horror/comedy its sequels are). Some of the acting isn't the greatest, but that's to be expected. After all, this is a horror film, and after all, it's low budget. Knowing that just makes this film seem all the more classic.
After first glancing at the article of this movie in the book "Cult Movies 2" some 25 years ago, I finally watched Basket Case today having bought the VHS from a used video store about a month ago. It concerns conjoined twins Duane (Keven Van Hentenryck) and Belial (which is a mixture of a puppet and stop-motion animation) and their revenge against the doctors that tore them apart. There's also a romance between Duane and one of the doctors' receptionist, Sharon (Terri Susan Smith). Written and directed by Frank Henenlotter, Basket Case is obviously low-budget and amateurish with cheesy moments to spare especially whenever Belial attacks someone. But it can also provide some genuine scares and shocks especially when Belial encounters Sharon. So on that note, Basket Case comes highly recommended. P.S. One of the players, a Dorothy Strongin who played Josephine here, died in my current hometown of Baton Rouge, LA, on May 25, 2006.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This movie is a classic. That's all there is to it. You need to watch
it. You need to go watch it now. If you don't know what it's about,
protect your innocence, get a bunch of friends and a bottle of the
poison of your choice, and gather round the old boob tube. You won't be
SPOILERS... Okay, if you've already seen the movie, or already know what it's about, we can talk about it. If you don't know what it's about, I warned you, and you're only hurting yourself. But you'll live.
The movie concerns the case of Duane and Belial, Siamese twins who were separated at what looks like the age of 14 or something. Belial looks like a head with a small monstrous hand, and a larger arm. They put the picture of him on the DVD box, which annoyed me, because if you're seeing this for the first time it's great not to know what he looks like. When they were separating them, one of the doctors said of Belial that "I'm not sure it's even human," and you can tell from his reaction that he is just so, so hurt. You know, people shouldn't say hurtful things. As the doctors find out, when the infuriated head/hand thing hunts them down and brutally murders them one by one.
One of the best things of the movie is the Hotel Broslin and its residents. This is the cheap Times Square hotel that Duane takes up in while he tries to locate the doctors who operated on him (in his own home, don't you know). The hotel features a number of wild characters who don't seem that far off from who you'd find living in a seedy Times Square hotel circa 1982. First there's Josephine, who meets Duane in the hallway and starts yakking his ear off with this bizarre story, then SUDDENLY turns and walks away. Then this Patti LaBelle-looking clone invites herself into his room to look around and make passes. She later has a notable quote with "I've got some heavy boozing to do." There's also the owner of the hotel and some of its other residents, and let's not forget the drug dealer who lists off every possible drug known to man as Duane walks along ignoring him, until he finally gives up and says "what is wrong with you, man?" What I love about the first third of this movie is that nearly every character introduces themselves with an extended soliloquy. These folks had to learn some lines for this!
And then there's Duane! This movie is CLEARLY on the cusp of the 80s, as Duane's hair is this sort of Rick Springfield thing, just really huge and lumpy. He has a long scene where he is required to whip out the acting chops (whether he does or not, I won't reveal) in supposedly having a psychic conversation with his head/arm former twin. I also love the scene where Duane has bought a TV for Belial to watch while Duane goes out on his date. In his haste to get rid of his brother and leave, Duane turns it on to a channel showing nothing but static and just takes off.
Oh, did I mention the head thing is psychic?
And let us not forget the splendorof Sharon the receptionist. Sharon is a desperate New York woman in the Miss Piggy mold, with this obvious wig and slightly clunky body, and she is a HOOT and 9/10s of another hoot throughout! The way she just throws herself at Duane is amazing, as is the sudden affection she develops for him, talking about how she feels so much for him after they met once in passing in a doctor's office! And then there's the scene in which he tosses a blanket over her head and THROWS her out of his hotel room, and she's pounding on the door, wanting to talk it all out and work on their relationship, as she's hearing insane animalistic shrieks emanating from the room where she thought her boyfriend was alone! You know, you just shouldn't give up on love. Some things take time to work out. How do you keep the music playing? She also has a notable delivery of "Take me, Duane" as he's about to make love to her. And let me tell you, one look at Duane, ain't nobody asking him to take them, unless it's to take them a six pack back from the corner bodega.
There is SOME kind of sexual subtext going on here, but I'm not sure it holds together well enough to really examine. If I had to guess, I would say that Belial represents Duane's penis(isn't it always the penis?), and the whole thing is about masturbation. I guess this because he shares a bond with it, but others are telling him it's disgusting and eventually separate him from it. Then he starts to develop a relationship with a woman, wherein he might have actual sex, and Belial freaks out. This would also make a funny pun out of the title. There is a shot at the end that is unmistakably Belial-as-penis, but overall the story just doesn't hold together well enough to come out with a consistent argument. Ah well.
Regardless, this movie is in the top ten total hoots of all time.
Hey, there are lot of other reviews of bad and cheesy movies on my website, Cinema de Merde, which you can find through the URL in my email address.
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