Meet Duane Bradley, a chummy quiet kind of guy that loves good conversation, tasty drinks and is a fan of the ladies. Ask him anything and he’ll gladly tell you, as long as it’s not about what’s in his wicker basket. Duane carries it with him wherever he goes. It’s probably just his laundry. Or maybe something far more sinister. Open it if you dare!
Basket Case is a 1982 horror film directed by Frank Henenlotter who would later film Brain Damage and Frankenhooker. It stars Keven Van Hentenryck as the restless Duane Bradley and Beverly Bonner as Casey and Terri Susan Smith as Sharon.
There were actually two versions of the film, one a directors cut (and the film most people see) which depicted vast amounts of blood. Then there is the edited version with the blood and gore decreased. The studio believed the movie was too gory and needed to be a comedy while Henenlotter saw his version with the blood as the comedy. To him, the parts where people die and blood splatters was the punchline. The studio disagreed and released the film in a few cities where it tanked. It wasn’t until Joe Bob Briggs offered to run the film at a Dallas premiere, but only if it was Henenlotter’s version. The film finally caught on and they replaced the edited version with the original cut and since then has gained a massive cult following.
Revenge is Great
Since doing 1971’s The Abominable Dr. Phibes, a story about a mad man seeking revenge for his wife’s death. I figured why not do another revenge horror film that’s kind of similar to Dr. Phibes? I love revenge movies! It’s very commonplace in movies like Westerns and Kung Fu flicks. But I don’t think there is a revenge flick like this. Revenge makes for a great theme and Basket Case is a perfect example of that theme. The story about a twin brother carrying his twin sibling around in a wicker basket and uses him as a personal pet monster to kill a group of doctors! That’s brilliant! Not at all far-fetched.
We follow Duane Bradley walking through the streets of New York City while carrying nothing but a backpack and a large wicker basket. He checks into this cheap hotel where the Looney Tunes detective Eddie Valiant is manager. Gosh that Roger Rabbit situation didn’t pay off on that guy! Duane meets his lovely neighbors: Josephine, a prostitute named Casey. We soon learn that residing in his basket contains his deformed twin brother named Belial. They’re both seeking revenge from the doctors that separated them at a young age and go on secretive covert missions to kill them. But then, something happens to these two brothers? A woman named Sharon catches Duane’s fancy and what happens then is an epic showdown of sibling rivalry.
Belial the Beautiful
At about thirty one minutes into the film we finally get a good glimpse of Belial and it’s so awesome! He’s this pale bulging wad of skin with two arms and a head. He’s extremely strong and has claws and sharp teeth for ripping apart his victims. He doesn’t talk, just screams and hollers like it’s know ones business and boy is he pissed off! It’s not just the doctors he’s mad at. When his brother wins the affections of Sharon, he flips out and holds it against Duane. He also has some sort of psychic ability that links him to Duane. So he’s this monstrous gelatinous mound of human flesh with super strength, fangs and psychic powers and he’s pissed because his brother is getting laid and he’s not.
The prop of Belial was done with a latex puppet kind of similar to 1974’s It’s Alive, a horror film about a killer mutant baby that goes on a killing spree. They made a cast of Hentenryck’s face which makes sense since Belial and Duane are twin brothers. The scenes where he freaks out and destroys a room were shot with stop motion. A process of animation where an object’s movements are shot one single frame at a time.
King of Cult
Basket Case may be the most “cult-ish” of all cult horror films. Meaning it takes a certain psychotic breed of horror fan to love this movie. It’s a pure example of 70’s and 80’s exploitation films. The acting and dialogue are hilariously bad. The effects look like they were made in your sisters Easy Bake Oven and the story is so moronic that you have to laugh. It was shot with 16 mm film which gives it that cloudy and degraded feel. I can’t describe it but that griminess is something I love in these kinds of films. You wouldn’t get that in a modern film today.
It was filmed on 42nd street of Midtown in New York City during the 80’s, a place where slime ran rampant. Go back to the city today and what you see in the film isn’t there anymore. Strip clubs, porn, crime and drugs were widespread. The area was dangerous and just as disgusting as the movie. It kind of makes me think of 1981’s Roar, a film that was shot with actual wild large cats. Those were the days when movies were made with no fear of the environment they were shot in! BALLS TO THE WALL MOVIE MAKING!
Basket Case is an interesting film in that it is an extremely low budget movie, with very low expectations; but is so awesome. I hold this film in high regards just like The Deadly Spawn. It shows that great films don’t have to be made with large budgets. All you need is a group of enthusiastic people and the DIY approach. It gives people like us the ability to say “Wow, I should make a movie. It can be done!” It sounds odd but in my opinion, movies like this offer more inspiration than larger budgeted films. It’s disgusting, repulsive, stupid, totally awesome and completely non-PC. Seriously, I think if you haven’t seen this movie and you have social justice juices flowing out your anus, then you might as well skip this one. For everyone else still living on planet earth, it’s a perfect film for a sick, twisted, fun-filled time.
There isn’t too much to the film as a meaningful story. I mean you could view this movie as a exploration into the mental health of a very messed up guy. Maybe Belial isn’t real, kind of like The Wolf Man theory. That Belial represents the evil half of Duane and is just a manifestation of Duanes. Concocted by Duane as a consequence of his father or the doctors. Whenever we see Belial kill or get a handful of booby without asking, we’re just seeing Duane in his alternate personality. Which really does make an awful lot of sense. Duane is nice, naive and gentle. He’s a ladies man and almost angelic. While Belial is deformed, ugly, angry and dangerous. His name “Belial” is actually a Hebrew term for devil. These two are polar opposites that are fighting over which one reigns true. We see moments of Duane arguing to Belial but never actually seeing Belial. It’s insinuated that they have this psychic connection together but it could be that it’s just Duane talking to himself.
I don’t know if this is true, to be honest it’s a shock film so it wouldn’t surprise me if all that psychological stuff was crap. Regardless, it’s one of my most favorite films. I love it for it’s insanity and extreme moments of gore and blood. The dialogue between the two brothers is awesome and I completely love the scenes where Duane feeds him hot dogs. A true gem of the early 80’s and it’s why it’s a proud addition to my Horror Movie Marathon 2018.