Basket Case

Movie Review by Amy Castle

Starring: Kevin Van Hentenryck
Director: Frank Henenlotter

“What?s in the basket? Open it if you dare!”

This low budget, bizarre gore-feast centres on geeky New York youth Duane Bradley (Kevin Van Hentenryck) who together with his brother, sets out to destroy the lives of those who effectively wrecked theirs. Bradley is the human half of a set of Siamese twins separated when they were in their early teens. His brother, Belial is little more to his brother?s body than the head that grows on the neck of Richard E Grant in HOW TO GET AHEAD IN ADVERTISING. Nevertheless, he has the same murderous potential. A misshapen mutant with only a monster-like face and two mammoth hands, Belial survived the separation from his brother – Duane is permanently attached still carrying him around in a nice wicker basket! – and they communicate through telepathy.

BASKET CASE opens with the first of many grisly murders, as Belial attacks Dr Julius Lifflander, one of the doctors who operated on the brothers. From here on, the film is set in downtown New York, where the pair take resident in a seedy rundown hotel. A collection of humerous characters (humurous mostly because of the awful acting!) appear to ask “what?s in the basket?”. For the most part, they are brutally murdered, except for a prostitute with whom Duane becomes friends and subsequently reveals what is in the basket, and why. The film does offer an explanatory flashback where we see the boys? father instruct they be separated, whilst blaming Belial for being the cause for his wife?s death during childbirth. Ironically, the prostitute in turn meets Belial, but as the object of his affection, while Duane gets fresh with a young receptionist. In a bizarre finale and during a dream sequence, Belial?s jealousy of Duane?s new relationship has a tragic end.

Considering the shoestring budget that director Frank Henenlotter had to make his film, BASKET CASE is an exceptional example of the horror genre. In 101 minutes, it succeeds at being gripping, frightening and even comical. Van Hentenryck is perfect as dangerous dork, Bradley, turning from nice guy to sinister murderer in an instant. Perhaps most commendable is the excellent treatment of Belial. A combination of latex, claymation and simple puppetry make this character a convincing and grisly perpetrator. BASKET CASE is not a slick horror – there are some deep flaws – however because it works outside the Hollywood limitations, Henenlotter is able to create a genuinely inventive and engaging piece of work.

4 out of 6 stars

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