Image Entertainment // 1982 // 91 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Patrick Naugle // September 23rd, 2011
Terror comes in small packages.
Duane Bradley (Kevin Van Hentenwyck) is a pretty normal guy. He likes cheeseburgers. He enjoys touring the city. And he's got a wicker basket that houses his demented, blob-like mutant brother who gleefully attacks and kills anyone in sight. You see, when Duane was a kid, doctors separated him and his Siamese twin brother Belial, and poor Belial was left for dead in a trash bag outside the house. Duane, feeling the pangs of brotherly love, rescued his detached brother from certain doom and is now on a mission to hunt down the doctors and medical experts who tore Duane and Belial apart. As Duane exacts his revenge, he finds himself falling in love with a local girl (Terri Susan Smith)...but can true love rescue Duane from a life of gory vengeance?
Frank Henenlotter's Basket Case might just be the definition of a cult classic. The movie has found an underground popularity, thanks to its chintzy production values, amusing (read: bad) acting talent, and a plot thread straight out of a the mind of a mental patient. Needless to say, Basket Case is a complete gas from start to finish. This is a charming film for anyone who has ever loved their sibling so much they would be willing to keep them locked up in a piece of furniture purchased at Crate & Barrel.
I'm a twin, so a movie about twins -- one being a mutant that is carried around in a wicker basket by the other twin -- appeals to my brotherly sensibilities. This is the kind of movie where the titular monster is clearly rubber and foam, but as a viewer I just didn't care. Not one teeny, tiny bit. Henenlotter infuses the movie with so much chutzpah and silliness it's easy to forgive its trespasses; the sheer enjoyment outweighs any defects in the film's construction. Basket Case has a lot going for it: grizzle and gore for the horror hounds, laughs for those with a discerning taste for dark comedy, and a nihilistic ending that doesn't cheapen the film's narrative. Also, did I mention it has a rubber puppet with glowing red eyes for a main character?
It's hard to fault the acting, production design, or special effects in a movie like Basket Case. The film was made on such a low budget (about the price of a Three Musketeers candy bar and a Coke) that you can't help but feel the amateurish nature of the production actually adds something to the end product. Lead actor Kevin Van Hentenwyck displays an innocence that's much needed for the role of Duane -- his dopy facial expressions and mop top haircut are endearingly amusing. His brother Belial isn't really scary as much as amusingly goofy -- his guttural gurgles and primal screams are enough to make him one of my top favorite "deformed brother in a basket" cinematic characters (which also includes...um, let me get back to you on that one). One of Henenlotter's biggest accomplishment is making the city of New York just as much a character in the movie as the human actors; filled with sleazy hotel managers and slimy ingrates. While today's New York City is a tourist trap for the wealthy, this version of NYC is a nightmarish vision of junkies and hookers.
Basket Case is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.33:1. The good news is it's never looked better than it does in this first ever 1080p high definition release. The bad news is it will never look better than it does in this first ever 1080p high defintion release. The movie was shot on 16mm film and has a very rough look; although this image looks clearer than its DVD release, I wouldn't say it's an exceptionally amazing upgrade. Colors appear a bit brighter and the black levels more solid. The soundtrack is presented in Dolby 1.0 Mono, and there isn't a lot to report. It's a standard mono track that gets the job done, and little else. No alternate language tracks or subtitles are available.
Aside from a new introduction with director Frank Henenlotter, most of the extras have been ported over from the DVD. These include a commentary track by Henenlotter, producer Edgar Ievins, and actress Beverly Bonner; some outtakes and behind-the-scenes footage; a video short titled In Search of the Hotel Broslin; two trailers and two radio spots; and a gallery of exploitation art and behind-the-scenes photos from the film.
There isn't a lot of subtext to Basket Case; no moral or important lesson to be taken away (except maybe don't keep your mutant brother in a wicker receptacle). The movie is just pure shock value, an exploitation picture for the sake of being an exploitation picture. No one will mistake it for great art, but those with discerning and...err, specific tastes, will certainly find it to be a heck of a lot of fun.
Basket Case is found guilty of being in bad taste, and I mean that as a compliment.
Review content copyright © 2011 Patrick Naugle; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2013 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: Image Entertainment
* Full Frame (1080p)
* Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono (English)
Running Time: 91 Minutes
Release Year: 1982
MPAA Rating: Rated R
* Art Gallery
* Photo Gallery
* Radio Spots