AustinChef Reviews BASKET CASE (1982)

The Theater of the Grotesque is alive and well in Basket Case! Basket Case is a throwback to the grindhouse and exploitation flicks of the 1970’s. As I get older and watch more and more horror movies this one stands out as a certifiable classic. I see this movie as bridging the monster flicks of the 70’s and the new, up and coming slasher genre of the 80’s by way of the grindhouse flicks of the time that were slowly beginning to fade away. Writer-director Frank Henenlotter crafts a wonderfully disturbing, sleazy, 42nd street-grindhouse experience on a micro budget.

Duane Bradley, played by the wonderfully innocent and naïve Kevin Van Hentenryck, arrives in a very sleazy New York City with only a wicker basket. He gets a room at the Broslin Hotel; a run down, disgusting hotel run by Robert Vogel (who gives a fantastic performance. Think of Danny Devito’s Louie De Palma character from Taxi, and then multiple that by a thousand). The hotel is full of oddball characters; a nosey Italian woman, an older alcoholic with criminal tendencies, a smattering of hookers, etc … . But Duane fits right in. People pretty much leave him alone and only bother him to ask Duane the recurring question, “What’s in the box?” We probably get that question asked 20 times.

And soon we learn that inside the basket is his grotesque Siamese brother Belial who was forcefully removed from Duane when they were 12 years old. Belial didn’t much care for that and now has revenge on the mind. Belial is as twisted mentally as he is physically and it turns out the point of the trip to NYC is so Belial can exact revenge on the doctors who separated him from Duane. They track down all three docs (one of them turns out to be a veterinarian) involved in the forced separation and Belial has his revenge. It’s interesting; Belial doesn’t have any legs, yet when Duane opens the basket’s lid Belial comes flying out. An amazing feat of physics-defying acrobatics!! This is a classic flick that needs to be seen to be believed. Yes there are a lot of holes in the plot and story, but you’ll be having so much fun you won’t give a shit. How could you not love such dialogue like:

Josephine: What’s in the basket?
Duane: My brother.
Josephine: Your brother? What is he, a midget?
Duane: No, he’s deformed.

HA! And talk about a low budget. When Duane originally gets the hotel room in the beginning of the film he pulls out a wad of money. According to Henenlotter in a later interview, that was the entire movies’ budget. But he makes the best of that budget, squeezes every penny from it, and gives us one helluva fun movie.

Henenlotter also paints a pretty sleazy portrait of New York City and its inhabitants. In the beginning when Duane is walking around the city at night you can’t help but wanna take a shower. Henenlotter has captured a long ago forgotten NYC where the streets were full of hookers, drug dealers, criminals, and sex/porn theaters. Aahhh, the old New York. Henenlotter also has a shot of NY where the World Trade Towers are shown for about three minutes. It’s an unexpected shot that will stop you in your tracks. This is really a “time capsule” of the old NYC that today’s teens and twenty-something’s won’t believe.

The relationship between Duane and Belial is an odd one as well. They have a psychic link whereby they communicate using only their minds. They can also feel what the other one is experiencing. Duane gets a girlfriend, Sharon (played by Terri Susan Smith) and at first Belial uses this special link of theirs to experience sex in a very creepy and disturbing scene. But eventually Belial gets jealous of Duane’s girlfriend and is afraid Duane will leave him behind. So Belial does what he does best and kills Sharon. Interesting bit of trivia here: During the filming of Sharon’s death scene, the crew got so offended that they all walked off the production set. It seems they all loved the character of Sharon who was a very sweet and innocent kind of girl.

But despite the low budget and amateur actors, Henenlotter pulls this movie off beautifully. The gore f/x are effective and juicy despite the low budget. Henenlotter was doing “guerrilla filmmaking” long before the amazing Lloyd Kaufman of Troma Pictures fame. Henenlotter had no permits to film around NYC and his cast and crew were so small that most of the credits at the end of the movie were made-up; they decided that instead of just having the same names repeat over and over again they would make up phony names. This is a great friggin’ flick that documents a slice of NYC long gone and a style of filmmaking that is quickly fading away. Definitely see this one.

Write-Director: Frank Henenlotter
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Gore: 7 out of 10 skulls
Zombies: 0 out of 5 brains

7 Responses to “AustinChef Reviews BASKET CASE (1982)”

  1. Love this film! One of my favourite horror-comedies of all time actually! It’s gory, funny and wonderfully weird…and just look at that Belial! Great stuff!

    I really liked Henenlotter’s Brain Damage also. Have you seen his new-ish film ‘Bad Biology’?

  2. austinchef08 Says:

    I love Brain Damage as well. The metaphor from drug addiction gets a little preachy at times, but he curbs everything with his trademark over-the-top gore and comedy. Have you seen the uncut/unrated version? Has some classic scenes cut out of the original release.

    I haven’t yet seen Bad Biology. Its still in the “saved” section of my queue at Netflix. As far as I know there hasn’t been a release date yet. Have you seen it yet? Do you know when its gonna be released?

  3. I caught a bit of Basketcase on TV not too long ago but I hate watching flicks on TV, damn commercials interrupt all the goog bloodletting. I’ll have to hunt it down and find it.

  4. austinchef08 Says:

    Its definitely worth getting and watching in the unrated format!! I always end up forgetting about this flick for a year or 2, stumble upon it in my collection and watch it, and remember just how great it is.

  5. Nope…haven’t seen Bad Biology yet either. A friend of mine seen it at the Fantasia Film Festival the year before last! Why the hell isn’t this on DVD yet!!?? Surely there is enough love for Henenlotter out there!

  6. austinchef08 Says:

    No shit!!! Looking at the films he’s made, he has a GREAT track record. The 2 Basket Case sequels are a ton of fun, Brain Damage is a wild ride, and lets not forget about Frankenhooker!!! Awesome fun.

  7. […] A fun and bizarre flick with impressive effects and gore. The titular Basket Case is Duane’s grotesque Siamese brother Belial who was separated from him when they were 12 years old. Now he resides in a basket and he is hungry for revenge! A great sleazy New York backdrop and one of the most unique and crazy films to come out of the 80′s. Awesome! To read guest contributor Scott Shoyer’s (AustinChef’s) review click here. […]

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