Interview with Frank Henenlotter on Basket Case Trilogy

Basket CaseOur Basket Case special comes to a cataclysmic and chaotic end with the legend that is Frank Henenlotter the man responsible for writing and directing the entire Basket Case Trilogy

With the Special Editions of his movies coming to Blu-ray and DVD on the 22nd of October we discuss how he came up with the idea, how the mad movies ever got made in the first place and most excitingly about the possibility of a fourth film!

LoveHorror: Hi Frank, have you been doing a lot of these interviews today?

Frank Henenlotter No you are the first of the day

LoveHorror: Oh that’s nice to hear I hope that’s a good thing .I have to admit I hadn’t actually seen the Basket Case films until I watched them quite recently they are brilliant I absolutely loved them.

Frank Henenlotter: (laughter) Well I’m sorry to hear that (laughter)

LoveHorror: I loved Frankenhooker I saw that quite a while ago. How did you come up with the idea for all 3 Basket Case films in the first place?

Frank Henenlotter: Way back when it was just a thought like lets do a commercial film because I use to do all little amateur movies on my own I love doing that stuff and when I meet Edgar Ievins the producer he said why don’t we do one commercially so you know it seemed like a good idea we didn’t know at the time we couldn’t raise a dime (laughter) so you know it was just it was actually a lot of fun. Although it was dreadful hard work and I was horrified that this was now being made with no money.

LoveHorror: How did you make Basket Case on such a low budget?Frank Henenlotter
Frank Henenlotter: Oh it was stupid. It was beyond low budget it was shot for $3500.

LoveHorror: WOW

Frank Henenlotter: Which Yeah, and then converting the 16 millimetres into 35 millimetres and doing the sound work and editing I think brought the budget up, a little over $100,00

LoveHorror: Did you make the film in one go or over a long period of time?

Frank Henenlotter: Oh yeah it took over a year to make because we had literally no money. We started with $8,000 of my own money and then Edgar matched it with $8,000 of his money, that was all I had in the bank you know

And then as we were filming we would show pieces to people and we would get a little money here and a little money there usually when you make a movie they have what you call daily’s where the lab shows you what you shot the day before you know pick things, we had what you called monthly’s (laughter) because it just stayed in the lab it was crazy. I never thought the film would be seen that’s why it didn’t bother me

LoveHorror: Belial is a great movie monster how did you create him and did the final creature look like your original design?

Frank Henenlotter: Actually while I was writing it I kept changing the concept of Belial in my head I never settled on anything, you know what I mean. And then when we had it committed to clay and we brought in a make up artist call Kevin Haney and we had to actually do it that’s when oh look at this, oh wow why don’t we do, oh lets try that. And I was thrilled with it at the end

Frank Henenlotter

LoveHorror: What other ideas did you have then on the way he was going to look?

Frank Henenlotter: Yeah I wanted him to have a tentacle, I was so in love with him having a tentacle at one point. I just thought some weird octopus tentacle on him. And then we started putting him together that just seemed so … wrong. But before I saw him in the flesh so to speak you know I was making stuff up on the spot you know.

LoveHorror: The first film end quite definitively did you plan any sequels?

Frank Henenlotter: Oh no no they died. You know and also the story was over, the story was about them getting revenge on the doctors that killed them so the story was finished so when the film became, you know very successful over here all I kept hearing was, do a sequel, do a sequel. I had know intention of doing a sequel, I didn’t even know what it would be about

Frank Henenlotter

LoveHorror: How did you come up with the ideas for Basket Case 2 and 3, did you plan them together?

Frank Henenlotter: No,no,no the 2nd one I had met James Glickenhaus he was the director of The Exterminator and he was making movies on his own and started his own distribution company to sell his movies but like every company he needs something in between. So he and I met I wanted him to do another script and he just said it was a great script but I ain’t going to touch it you know no one in the world would go see it.

So you know on the spot I kind of made up the plot of Frankenhooker. Then he said oh that’s great I love it else do you have? Well I didn’t have anything else but I knew he’d go for it so I see we could always do a sequel to Basket Case, I had no idea what that meant. So he said oh great which one do you want to do? Lets shot both back to back.

Then I had to come up with an idea for Basket Case 2 I actually, I didn’t want to do a re-hash of the 1st one. I didn’t want it set in another sleazy hotel or skid row I wanted exactly the opposite and I already had a film idea about a community of creeps so it was not a big deal to suddenly splice Duane into the story and I was very happy with it

LoveHorror: How did you come up with all the amazing freaks living at Granny Ruth’s?

Frank Henenlotter: Oh that was Gabriel Bartalos he’s an amazingly creative artist he’s basically a sculptor and that’s how he approaches make up as pieces of art so we were talking these crazy ideas and he would make these little small versions of the creatures we’d look at it and I had so idiot ideas let’s make a guy with giant teeth. Why, you know. Let’s make a guy with this or a guy with that and then we just saw them and went crazy looking at that stuff. Fortunately we had the budget but he’d really, really made some amazing creatures at that time. I really didn’t want anything resembling real life for these deformities, just cartoon deformities. Like in Frankenhooker, I don’t have real life hookers they were all fantasy cartoon hookers, you know.

Frank Henenlotter

LoveHorror: After the first Basket Case what was it like making movies with a much bigger budget?

Frank Henenlotter: Well yeah it was extreme but it still comes down to I’ve got to be the one who figure out where the shot are. You have a lot more people but it’s the same only different I don’t know if that makes sense. It still comes down to you’re trying to figuring out what lens to use and where to point the camera.

LoveHorror: Basket Case and all your films have achieved cult status how do you feel about the Basket Case re-release?

Frank Henenlotter: No,no,no,no,no,no, when Basket Case the first one became a cult hit when it was first released. It played at midnights at a theatre literally about 4 blocks away from where I am talking now and it player for over two and a half years at midnight. That’s kind of remarkable. The others were meant to be commercial films, they weren’t meant to be cult movies of anything they were meant to you know basically if you get a theatrical show great, I mean they did but mainly to sell on VHS, at the time. So I never looked at them as having anything as a lasting impact I just thought they were all transitory entertainment that’s all.

LoveHorror: For the Basket Case Boxset release there are tons of new extras, interviews and features on all three Basket Case films how involved in that where you?

Frank Henenlotter: Well I wasn’t really, Second Sight hired director David Gregory to do some extras he ended up, I didn’t know what he had in mind I didn’t care I like David so whatever he wanted to do. I thought he was going to have a little ten-minute thing on Basket Case 2 and a little ten-minute interview on Basket Case 3. He turned out to do an 80-minute feature length thing on all the films. And he dug up just about everybody. I haven’t seen it yet, so I have no idea.

LoveHorror: Are you looking forward to seeing them?

Frank Henenlotter: Well I don’t know, I don’t like watching myself, so no I’m not looking forward to seeing it. I wish there was a version I could watch that didn’t have me in it. So I could sit and watch everyone else and really enjoy it.

LoveHorror: Maybe they’ll re-edit for you?

Frank Henenlotter: I wish they would, I think not if they had said to me or I had been given final cut it would have been simple I would of said that was great but take me out of it.

Frank Henenlotter

LoveHorror: You where quoted saying, “I never felt that I made “horror films.” I always felt that I made exploitation films” what did you mean by that and what do you think is the difference?

Frank Henenlotter: Oh absolutely

LoveHorror: What’s the difference?

Frank Henenlotter: Horror films by nature are sombre and grim, that’s not the only definition but you know what I’m saying. They are meant to inspire fear and provoke that. Exploitation films is what I grow up with its the kitchen sink approach you can have a horror scene you can have a comedy scene you can have tits and ass you can have this. It’s really much more I thought more anarchy doing exploitation and that’s what I was trying to do I liked that fact I did a kitchen sink approach on these films.

If nothing else just to be startling to keep your attention going and just to make them crazier. That’s what I was really interested in just kind of making these crazy and surreal even when I had to do them with an R rating. Okay so I can’t show the blood so why don’t we have some idiot freaks having sex, okay great.

LoveHorror: You definitely achieved that!

Frank Henenlotter: That was my little goal

LoveHorror: All your horror movies including the Basket Case and the amazing Frankenhooker have a heavy dose of humour alongside the comedy which always works brilliantly. Why did you decide to combine the two in your films and how do you keep the balance when scripting them?

Frank Henenlotter: I’m not sure I do balance it, I really am not. You are asking the wrong guy. My sense of humour over rides almost everything else. So really no matter how nasty or grim a sense is I’m usually finding something to chuckling at, even if its just watching the poor actor covered in blood. So you know I don’t see any rules saying I can’t have fun so I put comedy into these things.

LoveHorror: You do balance it and it works, it gives them longevity they aren’t sombre and grim just real good entertainment

Frank Henenlotter: Well that’s all I was after no one wants to spend 90 minutes of their life and then grumble afterwards. At after 90 minutes you say that ain’t so bad maybe I’ll watch it again someday or they’ll go tell somebody, that’s all I’m after.

Frank Henenlotter

LoveHorror: What’s next for you?

Frank Henenlotter: I just finish a documentary on sex exploitation films that’s just on the West Coast now in the post-production process. I’ll be starting a new film its the first one that isn’t a horror movie so it going to be interesting. Its kind of exciting to do after all this time won’t say a legitimate one but maybe semi-legitimate one.

LoveHorror: What’s it about?

Frank Henenlotter: It’s a true story about these guys who erm … I shouldn’t say. I’m not going to say just in case there is a delay I don’t want anyone grabbing the subject

LoveHorror: We’ll look out for information on it. Would you ever revisit Basket Case again and do you have an idea if they told you they needed a fourth one where the story would go?

Frank Henenlotter: Yeah I do actually, it’s one I would like to do but nobody has asked me for it. But I have this, it is such a radical idea, its such a stupid ridiculous, cock-a-maykneey idea, that I really want to do it because its not a sequel per-say but its got everybody in it and I am playing with it. If I could do it fast and cheap people, well fans would … well they are either going to hate it or say wow this is really something different probably both

LoveHorror: Well there is definitely a market for it, I think you should go for it.

Frank Henenlotter: Well I would like to it all comes down to where do I get the money, you know what mean that’s always the issue. So okay fine you know I think when I get through with this next one not horror film I’ll do it, I’ll be ready to throw blood on everybody

LoveHorror: Good, I hope so. Thank you for your time and I for one am already really looking forward to Basket Case 4?

Frank Henenlotter: Thanks a lot.

Read the rest of the Basket Case interviews here and here and watch out for full reviews soon.
Basket Case – The Trilogy Special Edition is out on Blu-ray and DVD on the 22nd of October.

Kevin Haney


Alex Humphrey

Alex studied film at the University of Kent and went on to work for Universal Pictures in their Post Room gaining an inside look at the movie industry from the very bottom. Constantly writing reviews in everything from local magazines to Hip Hop sites Alex honed his critical skills even spending a brief period as a restaurant critic. Read more

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