Director: Frank Henenlotter
Cast: Kevin Van Hentenryck, Terri Susan Smith, Beverly Bonner
Review by Brian M. Sammons
This new Blu-ray from Image Entertainment and Something Weird Video was quiet a surprise. I mean the ’80s no-budget, schlock-fest that is Basket Case, filmed in 16mm no less, in High-Def? To quote Rowdy Roddy Piper from They Live, “that’s like putting perfume on a pig.” Oh and if you think I’m being mean, even director Frank Henenlotter says as much. So while this film may seem like an odd choice to get the Blu-ray treatment, it does make a sort of sense, since this entire film could be called odd. But you know what? Not only do I love this flick, but the BD treatment works. I know, I’d find that hard to believe too, so let me try to prove it to you.
I will begin by saying that I hate the cover of this Blu-ray. Not that it looks bad, but just that it gives too much away. Now I know that chances are, if you are a horrorhead of any sort, then you know all about this flick, as it’s pretty famous … or would that be infamous? Still, just in case this is your first time seeing this movie, that cover is a crying shame because Mr. Henenlotter really does a good job keeping the monster in the dark, just like Jaws, and like that much more famous movie, the big reveal of the baddie really works here. And yes, I did just compare Basket Case favorably to Jaws, deal with it. So if you are one of the lucky few to watch this movie for the first time, try not to look at the cover when buying it or putting the disc into you Blu-ray player.
Oh and consider what I’m about to say below as SPOILERS.
As the movie starts, a young man is wandering the mean streets of New York City, with a wide-eyed look on his face, and a large wicker basket in his arms. That is the titular basket and inside it is the surprise, a small, deformed thing that was once this young man’s conjoined twin. This murderous, Muppet-looking mutant was cut off from his normal sibling by an abrasive but well-meaning father, who literally tosses the deformed twin out in the trash. However the bond of brotherhood between normal Duane and the monstrous Belial is not so easily severed, especially when they share a psychic link, and soon daddy dearest pays the price for separating the two boys.
Not content to just punishing their father, the brothers travel to the big city some years later to find the three doctors who performed the back alley separation surgery to get vengeance on them too. And thus we are brought up to date as Duane tracks the docs down one by one. He then takes Belial to the doctors in his little basket to let the surprisingly strong and mobile lump of twisted flesh do the dirty work. But when young Duane starts making goo-goo eyes at a pretty lady, Belial does not like the idea of being left out of the action, or of having someone coming between him and his brother, so the midget mutant murdering maniac really loses his marbles.
Highlights of this favorite of cult film fanatics include a wonderfully sleazy and dirty urban feel, fun, over the top gore scenes, lots of puppet on person violence, and the best bit of all: a hilarious bit of stop motion animation when Belial gets out of his basket to trash an apartment in an epic hissy fit. Some not so good moments are the acting abilities of many of the extras, some puppet on person rape (eww) and some unnecessary full frontal male nudity as Duane has a dream of running around New York City completely stark naked. Yeah, I really didn’t need to see that, but I guess that’s one for the ladies. Perhaps my biggest gripe was that the movie was presented in full-frame instead of widescreen. Frank Henenlotter does address that fact in his intro and says that if the film, which wasn’t originally shot in widescreen, was stretched to fit those dimensions, it would have looked like hell. So I guess, begrudgingly, I’m glade the kept the original aspect ratio in order to make the flick look as good as possible, but it still looked funny on my big, wide television.
As far as extras go, there is a new video introduction by director Frank Henenlotter and a director’s commentary track with Frank, the film’s producer, and actress Beverly Bonner. There is a collection of outtakes and behind the scenes footage from Henenlotter’s personal collection, some trailers, radio spots, and a gallery of art based on the movie and pictures taken while filming it. There’s even a short featurette about finding the Hotel Broslin where the majority of this movie takes place. So while the extras are nothing to scream about, they’re nothing to sneeze at, either.
Basket Case is a crazy, weird, “you’ve got to see it to believe it” flick. Sure this film isn’t art, but I do love it so. It was followed by a couple of sequels, none of which were as good as the original, so your mileage may vary with those, but as far as the first Basket Case goes, it is one of my guiltiest of guilty pleasures and I highly recommend it.