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Basket Case

USA 1982
produced by
Edgar Ievins, Arnold H. Bruck (executive) for Ievins-Henenlotter
directed by Frank Henenlotter
starring Kevin Van Hentenryck, Terri Susan Smith, Beverly Bonner, Robert Vogel, Diana Browne, Lloyd Pace, Bill Freeman, Joe Clarke, Ruth Neuman, Richard Pierce, Sean McCabe, Dorothy Strongin, Ilze Balodis, Kerry Ruff, Tom Robinson, Chris Babson, Maria T. Newland, Florence Shultz, Mary Ellen Shultz, Constantine Scopas, Charles Stanley, Sydney Best, Johnny Ray Williams, Yousef Abuhamdeh, Lubi Kirsch, Catherine Russell, Mitchell Huval, Pat Ivers, Emily Armstrong, Noel Hall, Bruce Frankel, Russell Fritz
written by Frank Henenlotter, music by Gus Russo, special makeup effects by John Caglione jr, Kevin Haney, Ugis Nigalis

Basket Case

review by
Mike Haberfelner

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42nd Street, Manhattan: A young man, Duane (Kevin Van Hentenryck) checks into a seedy hotel populated by hookers, drug addicts and general low-life. He carries a big bundle of money with him and a big basket of unknown content. Both fuel curiosity.

Duane visits Doctor Needleman (Lloyd Pace), who totally panics once Duane shows him the giant scar on his side. However, Needleman's receptionist Sharon (Terri Susan Smith) seems to feel quite attracted to Duane, and the two of them soon set up a date - but for some reason, Duane is overly careful his basket (!) doesn't overhear their conversation. That night, Duane returns to doctor Needleman's and unleashes the content of his basket onto him. The next day, Needleman is found dead, brutally murdered.

The basket, it turns out, contains Duane's (separated) Siamese twin Belial, a monster made up basically of a head and two arms, who has been made homicidal by the society who rejected him. first and foremost Duane's dad (Richard Pierce), who insisted on having the twins separated against their will and endangering Belial's life in the process after hiding them away for 12 years. Now Duane and Belial are on a mission to take their revenge on the doctors who did that (Lloyd Pace - see above -, Diana Browne, Bill Freeman), and they're pretty good at it, leaving barely a trace in all the bloody mess they create. But their relationship becomes more and more strained as Duane falls for Sharon more and more, and Belial suffers from fits of jealousy. And since he has never been taught any better, he expresses these fits with bursts of homicidal violence ...

 

By 1982, with home video slowly starting its rise to prominence, grindhouse cinema was already on the downturn - and Basket Case feels on the same time as a highlight and a last hurrah of the genre. And it's not so much because of the originality of its story as such - especially Larry Cohen's It's Alive has told a similar plot in a more thoughtful way - but because of its well-placed over-the-top moments, its eccentric details, its dark humour throughout, making it an early example of a genre-conscious horror momedy, a film that took the very core of grindhouse entertainment (long before the word grindhouse has even become fashionable) as its source of inspiration and playfully put together some of its key elements, including a grotesque monster, gory murders, science gone awry and of course the obligatory boobs. Add to this the seedy 42nd Street settings (for many the epitomy of grindhouse as it is) and a directorial effort that finds just the right balance between subtlety and excess, and you've got one genre classic.

Highly recommended!

 

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review © by Mike Haberfelner

 

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Robots and rats,
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Tales to Chill
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Tales to Chill
Your Bones to
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a collection of short stories and mini-plays
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Tales to Chill
Your Bones to

the new anthology by
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Out now from
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On the same day
a Burglar wants to kill you
and your Ex wants
to make up ...
... and for the life of it,
you can't decide
WHICH IS WORSE!!!

 

A Killer Conversation

produced by and starring
Melanie Denholme
directed by
David V.G. Davies
written by
Michael Haberfelner
starring
Ryan Hunter and
Rudy Barrow

out now on DVD