Retro Review: BASKET CASE (1982)

A uncommon balance of unsettling horror and intentional comedy. Contains spoilers. – Bleeding Dead

WARNING: Contains some spoilers.

When Duane Bradley comes to live at a sleazy motel the tenants have no idea that the basket he carries around will bring disarray into the building. What lies inside the basket is a lurid secret Duane has had with him since birth, his Siamese twin brother, Belial, who also happens to be deformed. A disfigurement so austere that not even his father considered him human. Wanting Duane to have a normal life the twins were unwilling separated by their father and Belial thrown in a garbage bag left for dead. Years later the brothers have been reunited and are seeking revenge on the doctors who tried to kill Belial. But when a receptionist takes interest to Duane the brothers are conflicted with a common sibling emotion, jealousy, and are threaten to be torn apart…again.

BASKET CASE is a strange admixture of bizarre, funny, and distressing moments. Of cult classic fame, more to the likes of the Killer Klowns From Outer Space variety than the Near Dark type, the low budget B-movie was re-released by Something Weird Video, who revive us many underground classics like The Wizard of Gore and Blood Freak. The premise itself is abnormally intriguing and unique, with almost an abhorrent under note if you will. If done on a serious facade with a bigger budget this could actually qualify as a legitimate horror flick, but if done I’d feel it take a bit of purpose away from the film, which at its core is meant to be an absurd yet unsettling story about the two brothers and their relationship. In a strange upset of events the Belial rape scene is very…presenting in horror. I’m not exactly disturbed, per say, but at a loss as to how I go about describing my emotional response to the scene. There’s only a little bit of blood used but it manages to take what I interpreted as imaginary and transpose it into a carnal image about what just occurred. Then of course it’s followed by a hysterical line from Duane about how his brother will always ‘jump’ on the girls he likes. Again, odd.

Kevin Van Hentenryck appears to be the offspring of Thomas C. Howell and Tommy from Carrie, the latter of which he inherited the billowy hair of the late seventies. Never underestimate the ability of bad acting; it at times can transcend itself to create layers to a character that were presumed dead or nonexistent. To Terri Susan Smith’s portrayal of receptionist Sharon I know now that she has a very passionate response to tourists who don’t take time out of their day to visit the Empire State Building. This could suggest several scenarios on a personal basis for the Sharon character. Maybe her estranged father took her there once and it was their only means of spending time together. Who knows, all I know is if it wasn’t for Ms. Smith’s inability to subtly change the tones of her voice she’d have a one dimensional character to present us. In essence BASKET CASE is Frank Henenlotter’s career as a writer/director. This being the most successful of his work he also directed FrankenHooker (strange how close that is to his name) and the documentary on exploitation filmmaker and godfather of gore Herschel Gordon Lewis.

The visual effects department uses both puppetry and stop motion animation to create Belial’s mobility. The stop motion animation must have been quite afflictive to the animator as it’s so apparent when the switch from puppet Belial to stop motion Belial happens. Not that the former is of big Hollywood budget either, as I wish they’d of been able to get a little bit more life out of the creatures facial expressions. His arms moved fine but often his face was stiff. But this is a thirty five thousand dollar made film, it’s not fair to judge the use. I’ve seen this film be said as a possible metaphor for abortions, how we treat those who are different in our society, etc. At most I’ll say it does surpass it’s revenge flick motif and take a liking more to the struggling relationship between the two brothers, as Belial is holding Duane down but Belial being only one eighth of a person is limited in happiness outside from killing, to what Duane only understands in part. All while being unintentionally (?) funny of course. The film catalyzed two sequels which may prove more outré than this. BASKET CASE is an exceptional watch for B-movie lovers and those who seek out the obscure; I will be making time for the sequels from which I hear include Belial and fatherhood, as well as a demented musical number sung by a cast of freaks. I believe it speaks for itself, doesn’t it?

Like what you see? Be sure to also visit Pissed Off Geek too for more news and reviews with a horrific edge. To stay up to date with the latest horror news and reviews from the site be sure to "like" Truly Disturbings's Facebook page and following us on Twitter!

  2 comments for “Retro Review: BASKET CASE (1982)

  1. January 17, 2012 at 5:55 AM

    Very nice review my friend. The only thing I would’ve done a little different would say “May contain spoilers” or not reveal too much of the plot. Just in case some readers may have seen the film yet. Other than that, again great review.

    • January 17, 2012 at 7:33 AM

      That’s a good point. Basket Case is a hard film to summarize because you can either give away a lot or barely anything.

      I’m going to edit it, thanks.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *