Friday, 20 April 2012

Movie B Bad #2: Basket Case (1982)

Basket Case is 1982 exploitation horror film. Directed by Frank Henenlotter (Brain Damage, Frankenhooker) and stars Kevin Van Hentenryck (Basket Case trilogy). The film is considered a cult classic and spawned two sequels in 1990 and 1991.

The film follows the eccentric Duane Bradley as he arrives in New York City from a small upstate town carrying only a large wicker basket. After checking into the sleaziest motel he can find Duane sets about visiting a local doctor in regards to an enormous scar down the right side of his body. It is revealed that the wicker basket carries Duane's former conjoined twin Belial and now he's helping the monstrous lump to take his revenge on the doctors who forcibly separated them. Along the way Duane falls for a local receptionist called Sharon but soon finds that Belial 's vendetta somewhat interferes with his social life resulting in the two brothers confronting each other in the closing moments of the film.

Basket Case is a very poorly made film, from the low budget camerawork to the hilarious acting and script. The film is most famous for it's creature design and Belial is certainly one of the more unique looking monsters in movie history. Described by Duane as a "squashed octopus" Belial is essentially a rough cast of Van Hentenryck's face popped on a latex lump of twisted flesh and bone. This is a brilliantly grotesque look and Henenlotter wisely holds back showing Belial until about half an hour into the movie to add more suspense and shock. We mostly see Belial either as a puppet or as a pair of monster gloves through a first person perspective however the film's most famous scene is created through some very shoddy stop motion animation as Belial trashes his hotel room in a jealous rage, complete with hideous screams.

For the portions of the film where Belial is safely stowed in his basket the entertainment is provided by the atrocious acting and also Van Hentenryck's rather comical hairstyle (very much an extra character in the film). At times bizarre and always wooden, the performances in this film are something to behold. The Hotel itself offers an array of cartoon characters including the goodtime girl, the shifty old man, the Super Mario-esque owner as well as the evil doctors that are confronted. One inexplicable scene in particular involves Duane having a drink with the local barmaid and the pair splitting their sides over the fact that he used to be a mailman and of course, nearly every character in the movie has the honour of uttering the film's catchphrase "What's in the basket?".

 Rightfully revered as a cult classic, Basket Case is a thoroughly entertaining bad movie and created a little known horror icon in Belial the lumpy Siamese twin. The sequels that would follow nearly ten years later would recognise the humour in the original and steer the franchise in more of a slapstick direction (much like the Evil Dead franchise) and are still enjoyable, in a very twisted and absurd way, but the original is still the best.

5 negative stars *****

Have you seen Basket Case, what did you think?


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