Low on budget but high on humour, invention and horror, Basket Case is a pure cult movie. This is largely thanks to its insane plot line, grotesquely iconic monster and the talent that is writer and director Frank Henenlotter, who refused to let the miniscule amount of money he had stop him making the movie he wanted to make.
Opening on the bloody murder of a doctor by a mysterious and malformed monster, we cut to the story of Duane Bradley (Kevin Van Hentenryck), a shy and socially uneasy young man who carries with him at all times a large wicker basket.
Renting a room in a run down New York flea pit, full of low life’s and degenerates, we soon discover that Duane has a disturbing secret of his own far more horrible and freaky than the inhabitants of the building he has moved in too.
It turns out that inside the basket is Duane’s brother Belial. He’s a mass of flesh and fury who was born attached to Duane’s side as his Siamese twin. His father hated Belial and was disgusted by his appearance so had them surgically separated by force when they where young, destroying both their lives in the painful process.
But Duane didn’t abandon Belial, in fact he saved him, and now he helps him wreak bloody revenge on the doctors who ripped them apart.
But as the peculiar pair work their way through those who wronged them, Duane finds himself torn by his loyalty and responsibility to help his mutated brother against his desire to live a normal life.
Much like Peter Jackson’s horrific labor of zombie love Brain Dead years later, Henenlotter’s Basket Case took years to complete and was done as cheaply as possible. And although the film does look low budget, thanks to the director’s creativity it’s still a hugely enjoyable horror packed with brilliant performances and gory action.
Kevin Van Hentenryck is excellent carrying not only the basket but the whole film as the uncomfortable and slightly unhinged Duane. He treads the fine line between gentle innocent victim and crazed accomplice perfectly, always knowing when to waver into either side during the story.
The effects by Kevin Haney who went on to work on massive motion pictures afterwards, work well and the puppet of Belial is an excellent creation. The stop motion is somewhat silly but due to Henenlotter’s horror style which mixes in heavy doses of humor with the nastiness (as seen in the brilliant Frankenhooker) it really doesn’t matter.
Underneath the ridiculousness of the story and the excessive gore and violence there are some genuine issues explored. Not only with regards to the twins relationship or the idea of what is normal, but also society’s rejection of anything that is different or ugly – all ideas which are much further explored in the Basket Case sequels.
The Basket Case Trilogy is out now. You can check out our amazing Basket Case interviews, starting with director Frank Henenlotter right here.