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Basket Case

August 10th, 2009 by unkle lancifer · 14 Comments

I first became aware of FRANK HENENLOTTER’s BASKET CASE through gore photos spied in FANGORIA magazine in the early eighties. As gruesome as those images were, they still could not prepare me for the reality of finally watching BASKET on VHS. It wasn’t that the film was all that tense or scary, to my young mind it was just so dang…weird. Its shoe-string budget, sleazy locations, campy dialogue and generous doses of nudity and splatter left me more perplexed than anything else. What a strange world must lie outside of suburbia!

As I grew older my tastes did not so much mature as exponentially mutate. It wasn’t long before this once perceived eccentric oddity was so up my alley that it was parked in my garage. BASKET CASE is now my type of movie. It flirts around with enough body and identity issues to be read along the lines of early CRONENBERG, but there is a playful mocking attitude toward dialogue and a reverence toward life’s outsiders that reminds me of early JOHN WATERS. FRANK, if you are reading this, I just compared you two of my favorite people on earth.

To those unfamiliar, BASKET CASE introduces us to Duane Bradley (KEVIN VAN HENTENRYCK) a young man with a basket filled with some serious family baggage in the form of his sibling Belial. The two were born conjoined but where Duane is “normal” in appearance to the outside world, Belial is a globby mound of flesh so off putting that professional doctors questioned his humanity. As teenagers it was decided that the two should be separated so that Duane could lead a “normal” life and Belial could….well, die in a trash can for all anybody cared. Now the two brothers are on a mission to track down those who separated them and make them pay for being insensitive jerks by ripping off their faces.

It all may be kooky and cartoony on the surface, but there is a spine of genuine tragedy holding it all together. As Duane becomes more comfortable in the world at large, discovering allies and potential romance, Belial becomes increasingly threatened and adds a few new names to the kill list. As committed as the two are to each other, Duane rightfully is tempted by his potential normalcy and Belial is rightfully loathe to lose, not only his free hamburger ticket, but also his only means of transportation. It’s a co-dependent standoff of epic proportions regardless of the fact that one of its players is for the most part, a glorified hand puppet.

In a genre rife with repetitive recycling BASKET CASE is a true original. It delivers scares, it delivers chuckles and it delivers a sad little tale of a relationship jinxed by the fact that only one of the two concerned has the luxury of dreaming to break free.

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Tags: Trauma-Movies

14 responses so far ↓

  • 1 LaDraculNo Gravatar // Aug 10, 2009 at 10:34 am

    Hmm, this must’ve started the squishy mutant trend in the ’80s…he looks like Krang from “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles”….

  • 2 DavidFullamNo Gravatar // Aug 10, 2009 at 11:38 am

    Scared me shitless the first time I saw it. Still one of my all time faves!

  • 3 Amanda By NightNo Gravatar // Aug 10, 2009 at 11:55 am

    I love how oddly moving this film is. I saw it on USA Up All Night probably in the early 90s and was just blown away by how good it was. I think you can have sympathy for both Duane and Belial, both searching for something normal. My favorite scene is probably the one of their Aunt reading to them (which you have a still from above). The humor is also quite ripe, Henenlotter took it 800 steps further in the sequels, but this movie is quite darkly funny too.

    “What’s in the basket?”

    “My siamese twin.”

    “Funny, you don’t look… ORIENTAL!”

    For the record, I’ve seen Basket Case 3 a zillion times. Totally different film, but man I friggin’ adore it!

  • 4 Jeff AllardNo Gravatar // Aug 10, 2009 at 2:41 pm

    I love Basket Case! I first became aware of BC from Fango, too. I seem to remember there being a full-page Dr. Cyclops review of it with all-color pictures. I couldn’t believe how gory it looked – especially the shot of the woman with the multiple scalpels sticking out of her face. When I finally did see the movie on VHS, it didn’t disappoint – I even like the sequels, just for the wild array of freaks that would fit right in at Nightbreed’s Midian.

  • 5 blueroc85No Gravatar // Aug 10, 2009 at 3:32 pm

    I MUST see this movie!

  • 6 Pax RomanoNo Gravatar // Aug 10, 2009 at 5:36 pm

    My younger sister and I saw this classic at the theater back when it came out – we laughed for most of the film, and groaned the rest of the time.  Still, it remains a fave of both of ours.

  • 7 mamamiasweetpeachesNo Gravatar // Aug 11, 2009 at 8:08 am

    I remember when my husband was courting me we used to go to bars or out to dinner or dancing on our dates. Then one night I was home sick and couldnt come out and he showed up at my house with two movies he rented – BASKET CASE and BASKET CASE 2. I think after that i decided he was a “keeper” . I remember he liked to rent movies he thought “pushed the envelope” (he also made me watch LAIR OF THE WHITE WORM) to see how much I was willing to sit through. Little did he know I LOVE shit like this!

  • 8 FoxNo Gravatar // Aug 11, 2009 at 11:02 am

    Great review, UNK. This is one of my favorite films. Basket Case is able to be just a sweet and heartbreaking as it is weird and grotesque.

    Henenlotter was supposed to have a new film – Bad Biology – out last year, but, to my knowledge, it hasn’t even hit video shelves.

    And, as always, I would wear the hell out of that K-Mart creation of yours there. How fabulous would it be to go on a first date with someone and say “hey look, here’s my brother Belial.” Whether they flee or not is a good test of love.

  • 9 EshbaalNo Gravatar // Aug 11, 2009 at 4:43 pm

    Man, I had this lying around for SO long without ever getting around to watching it, and then you make this review – I thank you dearly for making me watch this today.
    I was blown away by how awesome this movie is. Not only is it grotesque and revolting (the surgery scene is actually pretty unnerving), but I am amazed at how this jumps so easily from humor to horror to tragedy and back again. The entire flashback is so astoundlingly moving.

    My only real problem was I couldn’t help but laugh at stop-motion Belial, but that’s entirely forgivable. What an awesome film, definetely a new favorite. I MUST see the sequels, even if they change the tone.

  • 10 mamamiasweetpeachesNo Gravatar // Aug 12, 2009 at 12:53 pm

    Maybe I stand alone here but I loved Parts 1 & 2 (watched em about a year ago and they still hold up) and absolutely HATED Part 3. Its a little too jokey/ goofy humor for me.

  • 11 BlackwingroseNo Gravatar // Aug 12, 2009 at 2:16 pm

    Wow….you guys are really making me want to see a movie that I’ve been avoiding for over 15 years. 🙂
    I saw Lair of the White Worm when I was 13 because my mom’s boyfriend had the poster.  The only thing I remember besides running, blood and screaming nuns was the giant jewel encrusted strap-on.

  • 12 LexicalNo Gravatar // Aug 13, 2009 at 11:52 am

    I sitll have to see Basket Case! But man, those pajamas look awesome! Does anyone have an XL pair I could buy (I assume those are children’s sizes)? Wow, I need those pajamas. Seriously.

  • 13 BlackwingroseNo Gravatar // Aug 25, 2009 at 4:56 am

    Those jammies would be awesome for me to wear on a night I don’t want to give my hubby any. On second thought, it wouldn’t stop him at all 🙂

  • 14 bluegrasslassNo Gravatar // May 27, 2010 at 10:08 am

    LOOK – a Basket case dress!!

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