Image Entertainment // 1981 // 91 Minutes // Unrated
Reviewed by Judge Patrick Naugle // August 17th, 2001
A new twist...in horror!
A few films are made as expressions of art. Many are produced to entertain. Still other movies are made to inspire or encourage.
Then there are movies like Frank Henenlotter's Basket Case.
Basket Case was made so that the audience could gawk in horror at a little rubber monster hiding in a wicker basket. Filmed on a shoestring budget and released in 1981, Basket Case is the type of movie that made my own mother ask, "Why do you review such crap?" Of course, my response was "Because I like it." I am not sure as I am invited back for Thanksgiving dinner this year. Irregardless, I continued watching Basket Case long after she left the room. Basket Case was released on DVD a few years ago, though in only a "bare bones" edition. Elite Entertainment makes amends with a brand spankin' new "Special Edition" of Basket Case to DVD.
Duane Bradley (Kevin Van Hentenryck) has just moved to the Big Apple with his little wicker basket. As he passes everyone he meets they all have one simple question: what is in that basket? Duane keeps mum, even as he rents a room in a shoddy hotel/apartment in the middle of New York City. There he is able to kick back safely and open up his basket...which contains his deformed Siamese twin brother Belial! Belial is every parent's worst nightmare. He is a cross between Jaws, the Blob and Danny DeVito. Belial also seems to be able to communicate with Duane telepathically, though Duane is not always in the mood to talk.
Duane and Belial are in New York for the sole reason to get back at some of the doctors who cut Belial off of Duane's left side. Sadly, Duane and Belial's mother died while giving birth to them. Duane's father and the doctors all cruelly made the decision to surgically remove Belial and throw him away with tomorrow's trash, leaving Duane to live a normal life without his twin brother. Duane, however, has different plans. He retrieves Belial and collectively they set a deadly trap for their father, killing him in a tidal wave of metal and blood. Raised by an elderly woman, Duane and Belial set off for New York where our story continues.
Once settled in, Duane and Belial start visiting the doctors that performed the surgery on them all those years ago. One by one they extract their revenge with horrifying results. Through a twist of fate, Duane falls for Sharon (Terri Susan Smith), a part-time secretary working for one of the doctors. Duane and Sharon fall madly in love, but Belial's jealously just won't let them get the "private time" they need.
Will Duane ever find true love? Will New York ever be the same? And is it just me, or does Belial look just slightly like a pizza topping?
I am the ultimate authority for reviewing Basket Case, for I too have a deep dark secret...I have a twin brother! Yes, there is not just one Judge Naugle running around, but TWO of us. I know what it is like to have a brother who is just like me...one in the same...connected in spirit, mind and body! Okay, well, maybe not body. We weren't Siamese twins. Unlike Belial, my twin brother doesn't look like he was sat on by a two ton elephant. We do share similar traits though, such as a distrust of people who wear socks with sandals and a hatred for brownies made with walnuts.
Walnuts aside, I am crazy for Basket Case! In retrospect, I have no clue why; the whole thing looks as if it were made for the price of a microwave TV dinner. The special effects are cheap, the acting is atrocious, and the production is ugly. Even with all its troubles, Basket Case still has a special place in my heart as goofy entertainment. I don't think I would have lived a full and complete life if I hadn't seen the wonderment that is Belial. That little rubber monster is so appealingly fake that it begs to be made into a children's toy. You can even see the seams where the rubber was fused together, and I'm not talking in just close ups! I've seen better looking puppets floating on the shelves at Spencer Gift stores. The rest of the effects in Basket Case are even cheaper, featuring such cheesy stop-motion animation that it makes "Gumby" look like The Nightmare Before Christmas.
The acting in Basket Case treads a fine line between amateur and even worse then amateur. Kevin Van Hentenryck is one of the strangest actors I've seen in a long, loooong time. His hair is so fluffy that he looks like the worlds first successful fusion of a human being and a miniature poodle. Van Hentenryck does have a certain charm, and his character is played so off-the-wall silly that it's almost awe-inspiring. In fact, I am tempted to say than the character of Duane is almost as interesting as Belial.
As hard as Van Hentenryck tries, it's still hard to upstage a rubber monster with glowing red eyes. Everyone else running around Basket Case hasn't a clue how to act out this material. Lines are recited in such wooden fashion that the Amish could produce furniture out of them. Then again, the script sounds like it was fashioned out of the same oak as the acting. The plot for Basket Case is simplistic at best -- a boy and his deformed brother want the doctors who separated them to pay, and pay dearly! Writer/director Frank Henenlotter seems to understand how odd this material is. For a fun double bill, check out Basket Case and his anti-drug statement Brain Damage, the touching film about a boy and a talking parasite that lives in his neck.
Basket Case: Special Edition is presented in a standard full frame version. I am not sure, but I suspect this may be the original aspect ratio for Basket Case. Either way, the picture retains a very grainy quality that shows its age. Since Basket Case was shot on such a low budget I am not surprised to see the transfer looking as poor as it does. Still, it's a shame that the image isn't clearer. Colors are often mute, and the image has an overall darkness to it.
Audio is presented in Dolby Mono 1.0 and is has all the fidelity of tin cup telephones. Actually, the English only track is not that bad, though much hiss and distortion were detected. Overall I heard most of the dialogue (though I strain to catch some lines), and the music/effects were mixed evenly. Well, almost evenly. No subtitles are included.
Open up this cornucopia of love and you'll find a very large quantity of special features in the Basket Case. To start off we get a commentary track by director Frank Henenlotter, producer Edgar Ievins, and actress Beverly Bonner ("Casey"). The group sounds very jubilant about watching Basket Case 20 years later, and director Henenlotter has a genuine pride for the film he's produced. The track is a very informative, very fun listen and should excite any fans of the Basket Case series (yes, there are two sequels, though I'm sure you avid Basket Cases already know that).
A batch of promotional materials is included, featuring two full frame theatrical trailers (and I just love the narrator's voice for these), as well as a television spot and some "rare" Basket Case radio spots. The radio spots are especially enjoyable, touting free "specially designed" surgical masks to those heading to see the movie (so they don't get blood on their faces, of course). Also included are a few radio interviews with actress Terri Susan Smith and some "excerpts" from "Beverly Bonner's Laugh Track," an access-cable show the actress hosts on a weekly basis. Strange, to say the least.
A reel of outtakes from Basket Case are next. These are in very rough from and are presented silently, save for some '70s porno-style music playing in the background. Just add a couple humping adults and you've got yourself a party. This outtakes reel is not all that exciting, though it's probably the best the filmmakers could scrape up after twenty years. Also included is a gallery of Basket Case exploitation art and behind-the-scenes photos. This feature consists of different images from the movie, as well as rare photos from the shoot.
The final and most unusual supplement is a short video titled "In Search Of The Hotel Broslin." The Hotel Broslin was where the bulk of Basket Case took place. This video is hosted by the director and his friend "Arrie the Rugged Man." The video follows the director and his "friend" as they give us a tour around the New York sets where Basket Case was shot. However, the locations take a backseat when compared to the director's obnoxious friend Arrie. In fact, Arrie is more fascinating than the frightening Belial. Arrie is a cross between a character from "The Sopranos" and an idiot savant. The funny thing is that this is all real! Arrie is not acting, he is actually an annoying New York boob who speaks in a jagged New York dialect. Almost as entertaining as the movie.
No, no, no...I am not going to bash Basket Case. Besides, that would be like hitting your head against a brick wall; you'll end up doing more harm to your head than you will to the wall. Like a mother bringing up a butt ugly child, we must do the right and noble thing: love it for what it is.
Basket Case won't win any awards. It won't even win a one of those cheap little prizes out of an arcade crane machine. But for those of you who are brave enough to look and see "what's in the basket," you may just stumble upon one fun movie! Basket Case: Special Edition features a nice array of extra features (more than you'd assume a film like Basket Case could compile), and though the audio and video portions aren't great, they seem to run the same gambit as the film they support.
Even though it disturbs me to say this, Basket Case: Special Edition is free to go.
Review content copyright © 2001 Patrick Naugle; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2015 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: Image Entertainment
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono (English)
Running Time: 91 Minutes
Release Year: 1981
MPAA Rating: Unrated
* Two Theatrical Trailers
* TV Spot
* Outtakes and Behind-The-Scenes Footage
* Video Short "In Search Of The Hotel Broslin"
* Rare Basket Case Radio Spots
* Radio Interviews with Actress Terri Susan Smith
* "Beverly Bonner's Laugh Track" Excerpts
* Gallery of Basket Case Exploitation Art and Behind-The-Scenes Photos
* Commentary Track by Director Frank Henenlotter, Producer Edgar Ievins and Actress Beverly Bonner