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Duane Bradley always carries a wicker basket with him. It contains Belial, the mutant conjoined twin that was removed from Duane's side and left for dead when they were born. The two brothers are still connected telepathically, and have come to New York City to take revenge on the surgeons who separated them.
For more about Basket Case and the Basket Case Blu-ray release, see Basket Case Blu-ray Review published by Casey Broadwater on September 29, 2011 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.0 out of 5.
Starring: Kevin Van Hentenryck, Terri Susan Smith, Beverly Bonner, Robert Vogel, Diana Browne, Lloyd Pace
Director: Frank Henenlotter
» See full cast & crew
Basket Case Blu-ray Review
The tenant in Room 7 is very small, very twisted, and very mad.
Reviewed by Casey Broadwater, September 29, 2011
Between The Thing and Poltergeist, 1982 was a banner year for major studio horror movies, but as always, the truly grisly exploitation fare was being put out independently and underground, from The Slumber Party Massacre and Lucio Fulci's The New York Ripper to The Last Horror Film and Dario Argento's Tenebre. One of the sleaziest of these cheapo gore-and-nudity schlock-fests from '82 is director Frank Henenlotter's Basket Case, a no-budget slasher of sorts set in and around pre-Disney-fied Times Square, then still a neon-lit cesspool of peep shows, sex shops, and drug dealers. Made for $35,000 and shot on grainy 16mm, it's a loveably grimy film, evoking a specifically seedy time in New York's history. It's since become a cult classic and spawned two sequels, while Henenlotter—to give you an idea of his fascinations as a filmmaker—recently returned to directing in 2008 with the poor man's Cronenbergian body-horror freakout Bad Biology, a "godawful love story" about a woman with several clitorises and a man with a drug-addicted penis. No, really. Basket Case is quaintly tame in comparison, but it's fun specifically because of how goofy and nostalgic it is in retrospect.
Big-haired upstate bumpkin Duane Bradley (Kevin Van Hentenryck) arrives in Times Square with a wet-behind-the-ears expression, a giant wad of cash in his pocket, and a conspicuously padlocked wicker basket under his arm. He takes a rent-by-the-day room in the first place he comes across— the skeevy Hotel Broslin, home to prostitutes and alcoholics—and promptly goes out to buy a bagful of burgers from the greasy spoon across the street. Back in his room, he dumps about a dozen of them into the wicker holding pen, and we hear a cacophony of om-nom-nomming that would put Cookie Monster to shame. "Hey, what's in the basket?" is the question Duane gets asked by nearly everyone he meets, and this happens so often that if you made a drinking game out of every time you heard it, you'd be slack-faced drunk by the middle of the film.
The answer is no spoiler; secreted away in this over-sized Longaberger is Belial, Duane's separated Siamese twin, a monstrous fleshy lump with a mean-ass face, jagged teeth, and two deformed hands that it uses to drag itself around. And murder people. Yes, Duane and Belial—who can communicate telepathically—are actually on a homicidal mission to track down and kill the team of doctors who once performed their backroom separation surgery, a grisly scene shown to us in flashback.
Belial is one of the more ridiculous, utterly unconvincing movie monsters in the history of exploitation cinema, and that's really saying something. Next to the groundbreaking practical effects in The Thing, he looks laughably cheap, constructed of foam and latex, with cheesy glow-red-in- the-dark eyes. When he attacks, it seems like his victims are just holding him to their faces as he bites and/or humps them to death. (Because they are.) There's even some gloriously bad stop-motion animation that attempts to bring the floor-scooting torso mutant to life. While there are a few memorable kills—like the veterinarian who ends up screaming with scalpels sticking out of her face, or the twins' father, who gets hacked in half by a circular saw—most of the gore is of the fake-looking red-food-coloring-in-corn-syrup variety, spat up and smeared on dingy tenement walls.
Of course, there's a fair helping of gratuitous nudity as well. Part of what happens in the movie—plot seems like too grand a term here—is Belial's mounting fear of abandonment and his resentment over Duane's luck with two ladies, hooker-with-a-heart-of-gold Casey (Beverly Bonner), and Sharon (Terri Susan Smith), a blond wig-wearing receptionist. Basically, Belial's a horny little monster, and when he breaks loose near the end of the film, he's after one thing and one thing only—and it's not more hamburgers. Honestly, I could probably do without ever again seeing a foam puppet grinding on a dead woman, but hey, anything goes in exploitation.
This is an extremely low-budget production, and it shows in every scene. The acting is across-the-board amateurish, the script is impossibly hokey —"I know an awful lot of guys, Dwayne, but you're…different"—and the camerawork is, at best, merely serviceable. But this all adds to the film's raggedy, hand-made-in-Hell's Kitchen charm, the stuff cult classics are made of. Henenlotter dedicated the film to Herschell Gordon Lewis—the so- called Godfather of Gore—and Basket Case is very much a mutated descendant of Lewis' campy and depraved proto-exploitation shockers.
Basket Case Blu-ray, Video Quality
Under the supervision of director Frank Henenlotter, Something Weird Video and Image Entertainment have produced a new high definition master of Basket Case that's quite impressive on Blu-ray, especially if you've seen any previous standard definition versions of the film. In the special features, there's a new introduction by Henenlotter, who starts off by saying, "I know what you're thinking, Basket Case in HD?" He then goes on to explain exactly how preparing the film for Blu-ray has made it look better than it ever looked theatrically. When the film was released, the 1.37:1 16mm print was blown up to 35mm and projected in widescreen 1.85:1, resulting in an image that was cropped, extremely grainy, and had lost much of its color and clarity in the blow up. Here, Henenlotter and the Blu-ray producers went back to the original 16mm negatives and made the decision to present the film in its native aspect ratio, which restores quite a lot of the picture to the top and bottom of the frame. Henenlotter also talks about the decision to keep the 16mm grain structure as is, and not try to digitally smooth it out with noise reduction techniques. The result is a 1080p/AVC- encoded transfer that's faithful to its low-budget source—grainy and never as sharp as a 35mm picture would be, but definitely true to itself. The films were made ten years apart, so it's not exactly fair to compare them, but Basket Case subjectively looks quite a bit better on Blu-ray than Wes Craven's Last House on the Left, which was also shot on 16mm. There's an often surprising level of detail in the picture—this does have the effect of making Belial look faker than ever—and color is bright and natural, with largely consistent black levels and good contrast. There are some scenes that look a bit too dark, but they were probably shot this way. The print itself is in fairly good condition—minus a few small scratches, hairs in the gate, etc.—and the encode is solid, with no overt compression issues to report.
Basket Case Blu-ray, Audio Quality
The film features a lossless Linear PCM 2.0 track here—I didn't hear any distinct separation, so I'm assuming it's actually mono—and while this is probably the best Basket Case has ever sounded, that's really not saying much. The low-budget audio recording techniques used on the film result in an overly bright, sometimes brash and tinny quality that's characteristic of movies like this. And that really can't be changed much. That said, the presentation is by no means ear-grating, and if you know what to expect, you shouldn't be bothered by the dynamic flatness. Most importantly, dialogue is almost always easy to understand. (This is especially important because there are no subtitle options on the disc.) Gus Russo's synthesizer score is also delectably cheesy, and sounds as good here as it likely ever will.
Basket Case Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Basket Case Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Like Maniac or The Driller Killer, Basket Case belongs to that distinctively New York brand of sleazy slasher exploitation. Let's not candy-coat this—it's an awful movie, irredeemable in any traditional sense, but it's also one of those rare films that's so unswervingly bad that it transcends itself and somehow becomes an amazing piece of pop culture ephemera, a cult classic. You won't believe it 'til you see it, but Basket Case actually looks pretty great on Blu-ray, considering it was shot on 16mm with a budget that couldn't buy you a mid-priced car nowadays. If horror/comedy is your thing, this release is well worth checking out.
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Basket Case Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Basket Case Blu-ray - July 11, 2011
Image Entertainment and Something Weird have announced the Blu-ray release of Frank Henenlotter's 1982 horror classic Basket Case. The film, which stars Kevin Van Hentenryck and Beverly Bonner, will street on September 27th with a SRP of $17.97.
• Basket Case Blu-ray Planned for October - February 10, 2011
Via his Facebook page, director Frank Henenlotter has revealed that he hopes that his directorial debut, the cult horror movie Basket Case, will have a Blu-ray release by October, released by Image Entertainment. The film will be remastered from the original 16mm ...
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