Basket Case (1981)

USA, 1981
90m
16mm film blown up to 35mm, colour, 1:37:1
mono, English

An American horror film directed by Frank Henenlotter.

Plot Summary

From a 42nd Street hotel, Duane Bradley and his surgically removed Siamese twin, a psychopathic monstrosity named Belial that he carries around with him in a large wicker basket, plot their revenge on the surgeons that separated them.

Credits

Crew
Directed by: Frank Henenlotter
© 1981. Basket Case Company
An Analysis Film Corporation presentation. An Ievins/Henenlotter production
Executive Producers: Tom Kaye, Arnie Bruck
Produced by: Edgar Ievins
Written by: Frank Henenlotter
Director of Photography: Bruce Torbet
Editor: Frank Henenlotter
Music by: Gus Russo
Sound Recording: Sam Peca
Make-up: Ken Clark
Special Makeup Effects: John Caglione Jr, Kevin Haney
Hairstyles: Ken Clark
Art Director: Frederick Loren

Cast
Kevin Van Hentenryck (Duane Bradley)
Terri Susan Smith (Sharon)
Beverly Bonner (Casey)
Robert Vogel (hotel manager)
Diana Browne (Dr Kutter)
Lloyd Pace (Dr Needleman)
Bill Freeman (Dr Littlander)
Joe Clarke (O’Donovan)
Ruth Neuman (Duane’s aunt)
Richard Pierce (Duane’s father)
Sean McCabe (young Duane)
Dorothy Strongin (Josephine)
Kerry Ruff (detective)
Ilze Balodis (social worker)
Tom Robinson (thief in theatre)
Chris Babson (Kutter’s date)
Maria T. Newland (patient)
Florence Schultz
Mary Ellen Schultz (nurse)
Constantine Scopas

Alternative Titles

Basket Case – Der unheimliche Zwilling – West Germany
Basket case (¿dónde te escondes, hermano?) – Spain
El caso del canasto – Argentina, Chile
Frère de sang – France
To kalathi tou tromou – Greece
Korgväskan – Sweden
O Segredo do Cesto – Portugal
Sepetteki ölüm – Turkey
Veriveljet – Finland
Wiklinowy koszyk – Poland

Sequels
Basket Case 2 (1990)
Basket Case 3 (1991)

Extracts included in
Rewind This! (2013)

Press

1982
Variety 21 April 1982 p.16
[A]n ultra-cheap monster film created by neophyte filmmaker Frank Henenlotter with a tongue-in-cheek approach which may catch on with audiences seeking offbeat, “cult” pictures. General audiences are likely to be bewildered by the black humor approach to a “case history” story. […] Henenlotter is overly cryptic in delaying necessary exposition until midway through the picture, as well as overdoing the gimmick of one-sided conversations of Duane responding to telepathic messages from Belial, but handles suspense sequences well. Acting styles vary (creating intentional camp humor), but the leads are fine […] Key to picture’s success (or failure) will be reaction to the monster, a rubbery little concoction which combines pathos with genuine strangeness. Seen too often (and in too close proximity) to be convincing, Belial sports startling red, flexible eyes (lit from within), realistic teeth and for inserts puppet-worn hands. Makeup men Kevin Haney and John Caglione Jr deserve a nod for creating something nice on the cheap, but Hennenlotter’s occasional silly stopmotion animation of the monster is a failure. – from a review by Lor

1983
Monthly Film Bulletin vol.50 no.591 (April 1983) pp.92-93 (UK)
For about half its running time, Basket Case‘s deliberate ghastliness is amusing. All the characters are socially handicapped to such a degree that the leads of Trash could look down on them […] Most reviews have cited De Palma’s Sisters as the source of the plot, but Duane and Belial are much less like the twinned Margot Kidder than the protagonist(s) of “The Mannikin“, one of Robert Bloch’s more unpleasant short stories. Unfortunately, the film establishes its situations with much more invention than it develops them. The flashback includes not only the best sick joke (Mr. Bradley’s legs falling out of frame after he has been sawn in half) but the most imaginative and affecting images (Belial weakly clawing his way out of a twist-tie garbage bag; the aunt cradling Belial as she reads aloud to the brothers). Sadly, the revenge motif, with Belial killing the doctors who performed the separation, and Belial’s jealous attempts to frustrate Duane’s relationship with Sharon, are not strong enough to sustain the film beyond the resolution of its mystery. The main problem lies with the overstated performances of all concerned, as satirically feigned badness all too easily turns into genuine badness. – from a review by Kim Newman

Positif no.274 (December 1983) p.74
Dans le tout-venant de l’épouvante, Basket Case se distingue par le monstre qu’il met en scène. C’est un jumeau parasitaire ou asymétrique: une tête, des épaules, deux bras, et… et rien. Henenlotter imagine la réussite d’une opération impossible; et que le jumeau détaché conserve avec son frère des relations télépathiques; et qu’il cherche à châtier ceux qui les ont séparés. Le drame de Ia créature rappelle le mythe de l’androgyne. Sa gloutonnerie et son appétit sexuel le tirent vers la bouffonnerie. Tous les autres personnages sont des charges. Dans tel jeu d’images comme dans ces caricatures, et aussi dans les déplacements du monstre de caoutchouc, l’on croit distinguer une intention parodique. Parodiques seraient alors le décor de l’hôtel miteux, le patron et les clients d’un lamentable grotesque, les deux savants fous des plus minables, mais la manière de l’épouvante, nous l’avons déjà dit, rend la confusion aisément possible. Plus que d’autres, Basket Case, à cause de la puérilité du héros et de la grossière simplicité de l’ensemble, confirme que cette épouvante-là est fabriquée par de jeunes cinéastes pour de très jeunes spectateurs. Est-ce d’ailleurs une raison pour la montrer de façon aussi laide? – from a review by A.G. [Alain Garsault]

2000
Empire no.129 (March 2000) p.120
[T]his was one of the first films to try on purpose for that mix of horror and humour that predecessors like H.G. Lewis (to whom the film is dedicated) and Ted V. Mikels only managed by accident and ineptitude. Basket Case has the look of an on-the-streets underground slice-of-life or Deep Throat-era hardcore, with ugly pictures of uglier places and even uglier people (the nearest the script has to a romantic line is, “You’re cute when you slobber”), and the monster/gore effects are at once laughably fake and genuinely repellent. Nevertheless, it’s a hard film to forget: they may not be given much to do by the sloppy script, but the protagonists are somehow interesting and, if only for a moment – Belial clawing his way out of a twist-tied garbage bag after being disposed of as medical waste – affecting. In an era where the cheapest, most disreputable films still look like professionally-shot TV movies, there’s something invigorating about a film that goes all out for grottiness. – from an illustrated video review (Videos to buy) by Kim Newman

2001
Starburst no.279 (November 2001) p.66
While some films are so bad they’re good, some just remain bad: here the acting and visuals rarely anything [sic] even approaching convincing, as the film’s daring you to take them seriously. – from an illustrated DVD review (DVD file: Basket Case) by Ian Atkins

References

Periodicals

  • Cinefantastique vol.12 no.5/6 (July/August 1982) pp.91-92 – review
  • City Limits no.93 (15 July 1983) p.20 – review
  • L’Écran Fantastique no.25 (1982) pp.39; 80 – credits
  • Empire no.129 (March 2000) p.120 – illustrated video review (Videos to buy by Kim Newman)
  • The Hollywood Reporter vol.271 no.21 (13 April 1982) pp.3, 15 – credits, review
  • Monthly Film Bulletin vol.50 no.591 (April 1983) pp.92-93 – credits, synopsis, review
  • Positif no.274 (December 1983) p.74 – review (by A.G. [Alain Garsault])
  • Samhain no.33 (July/August 1992) pp.10-11(UK) – illustrated interview with Frank Henenlotter (A pretty sick guy by Edward Murphy)
  • Screen International no.404 (23 July 1983) p.9 – credits, review
  • Sight & Sound vol.10 no.2 (February 2000) p.61 – video review (Video reviews: retail by Geoffrey Macnab)
  • Sight & Sound vol.11 no.11 November 2001 p.62 – DVD review (Home movies by Danny Leigh)
  • Starburst no.279 (November 2001) p.66 – DVD review (DVD file: Basket Case by Ian Atkins)
  • Time Out no.673 (15 July 1983) p.39 – review
  • Variety 21 April 1982 p.16 – credits, review (by Lor)

Books

  • The Aurum Film Encyclopedia: Horror by Phil Hardy (ed.) p.359 – credits, review
  • Comedy-Horror Films: A Chronological History, 1914-2008 by Bruce G. Hallenbeck pp.219 – credits
  • The Films of the Eighties by Robert A. Nowlan and Gwendolyn Wright Nowlan p.33 – credits, synopsis
  • Horror and Science Fiction Films III by Donald C. Willis p.19-20 – credits
  • Horror Films by Subgenre: A Viewer’s Guide by Chris Vander Kaay and Kathleen Fernandez-Vander Kaay p.79 – credits, review
  • Horror Films of the 1980s by John Kenneth Muir pp.217-219 – credits, synopsis, review
  • Regional Horror Films, 1958-1990 by Brian Albright pp.243-244
  • Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror Film Sequels, Series, and Remakes by Kim R. Holston and Tom Winchester p.44-45 – credits, review
  • The Stop-motion Filmography by Neil Pettigrew pp.54-55 – credits, review