Basket Case (1982)
WRITER: Frank Henenlotter
DIRECTOR: Frank Henenlotter
STARRING: Kevin VanHentenryck as Duane Bradley
Terri Susan Smith as Sharon
Beverly Bonner as Casey
Robert Vogel as Hotel Manager
Diana Browne as Dr. Kutter
Lloyd Pace as Dr. Needleman
Bill Freeman as Dr. Lifflanker
QUICK CUT: A young guy heads to the big city to see the sights, fall in love, kill some doctors, and start a new life. Oh, and also, he has his formerly conjoined brother in a basket he always carries around.
Duane - Just your average kid from upstate New York, in the big city for the first time, and he is gawking at everything, unsure what to do, and trying to help his family.
Sharon - An odd duck working as a receptionist in a doctor's office. She's nice, but also a bit forceful, and a little bit strange, but Duane falls for her anyways.
Casey - A tenant in the hotel Duane comes to when he arrives in NYC, and the one the movie focuses on the most. I'm not gonna make any assumptions here, but she brings home a lotta guys here. She seems like a nice sort, but is bombastic, and sweet, and looks out for Duane when no one else is.
Dr. Kutter - The primary person that the antagonist of the movie is looking for, and the one the movie spends the most time with, so she gets something of a personality. She's dedicated to her work, and saving lives, and is a very good doctor. However, she also is running from her past, and doing a good job at that, until it just won't go away.
Belial - Duane's little brother, who has some anger issues, and some dependency issues, who just won't let his brother have a moment of peace and quiet. ...Oh, he was also a conjoined twin who was removed when they were in their teens, and managed to survive as a head with arms where his ears should be.
THE GUTS: Hello, Triskelions! All things dark and horrible are done and sent back to Hell, well, except for yours truly, but let us never speak of that again. In the meantime, things are FINALLY back to normal hear at the hallowed, horrored halls of Triskdom, and after the last two months, I am going back to basics with a simple little horror idea, and a bit of a cult classic, Basket Case.
I know, it's December, but I need a break from anything holiday related. And the simpler the story, the better, so here we are. Let's do this.
And in true cheese an' sleaze horror tradition, the movie wastes zero time in shaking trees at, then having the camera chase down a doctor into his home, and into his own death. He frantically calls for help as the phone line is cut, the power goes out, and he freaks out.
Eventually, the doctor grabs a gun and fires wildly into the darkness, and I sure hope he's better with a scalpel than he is with a gun. But it all does him no good as the unseen assailant eventually grabs his face and leaves the rest behind.
It sets the movie up well, as this sends the plot along the rest of its way, which starts off by leading us straight into the heart of New York City.
We meet Duane and his basket, looking for a place to stay, and checking into the Hotel Broslin, populated with a number of colourful characters to keep things interesting and hopefully bite it...which will also keep things interesting.
Duane rushes out and grabs some food, feeding whatever's in the box, while trying to research some names in the files from the dead doctor's home.
After some sleep, Duane and his basket head off to find the first name on his list, Dr. Needleman. Once he's at the office, he lies and says he's a friend of the family, so he can meet the guy.
He also meets the doctor's receptionist, who seems super offended that Duane hasn't visited any of the sights yet. It's this really weird and awkward scene, and somehow these two hit it off with a romantic connection? Okay then.
So Duane meets Needleman, and we don't really get to see the scene, but we do get to see a gigantic scar on Duane's side, and the after effects of their meeting, with Needleman sitting around and stressing out over what he just saw.
After that, the movie treats us to a better movie, as we watch some old kung fu flick, while Duane takes his basket out to the theatre.
While out there, some guy thinks the basket looks like a tempting target, swipes it, and makes the great escape to...the men's room. Not the brightest mind, I guess. What did he expect to do? Escape through the toilet? The property's owner is right behind him, and he runs into a room with only one door?
Eh, but I digress. The criminal mastermind breaks off the lock, takes a peek inside, and gets his face ripped off. He runs away, and Duane reclaims his basket. Face ripping seems to be this creature's go-to move.
Meanwhile, Needleman is still weirded out, and calls the other name on Duane's list, a Dr. Kutter, whom Duane is unable to track down because she's not in the phonebook. Anyways, she's not happy about the phonecall, doesn't care about her dead colleague, or the kid hunting them down, and goes back to her date.
Duane returns to the office after hours, releasing the basket's occupant, and tells it to retrieve the address book. Boy, it's a good thing Needleman and Kutter actually keep in touch. That's a bit of a coincidence, especially since they make it clear they're not supposed to be in contact, for whatever reasons.
The doctor hears the commotion the creature is causing, finds it, and is quickly attacked as we finally get to see the thing. A malformed human head with arms, and pretty much a giant lump of a thing. Oh, and he kills the doctor before we're done.
With one doctor down, Duane plots to head out the following morning, but rather than casing out Kutter's apartment like he says, he's actually off on a date with Sharon. But he at least leaves Lumpy a new tv to kill time with.
The couple frolic around the city's sights and get closer, until they kiss. Thanks to the Corsican Brothersy connection between Duane and his dark half, the lump senses the emotions and freaks out, because he knows Duane is off mission, because he lied, and because he was left home alone with nothing good on tv.
Our monster throws a tantrum like he's a rock star in a hotel room on too much blow. It's a hilarious scene of stop motion animation and room trashing. The commotion draws the attention of damned near EVERYone with all the screaming and banging and smashing.
The landlord/hotel manager/sleazeball opens the door and checks things out, and while the room looks like a hurricane smashed through, the horseless headsman has snuck back into his basket so no one sees him and wonders what happened.
When the crowd disperses, one of the tenants, who has been lurking around wanting to steal Duane's giant roll of 20s, breaks into the apartment to do just that. Now, if he'd taken the money and ran, he'd be fine, maybe. But he got greedy, looked around for anything else. Which naturally led to the basket for any valuables, but all he finds is a murderous ball of flesh.
So everyone rushes BACK up the stairs to apartment 7 to see what's all the screaming about THIS time. And this time there's a dead body.
Duane feels the murder with his brain magic, and rushes home to see the carnage and question his lumpy friend. But before that happens, he runs into a pesky detective actually doing his job and asking questions of his own.
Once the cops are gone, the lump climbs up out of the toilet where it was hiding, and mentally yells at Duane for lying and abandoning him.
So he dries off the head, and wanders down to the bar, because he really needs a drink. I've just written several of the strangest sentences ever, and even *I* need a drink.
While at the bar, Duane runs into Casey from down the hall, and tells her his story. Oh, and yes, he brought the basket to the bar with him. On the one hand I'd question no one questioning this, but on the other hand, it IS New York City.
Duane finally reveals that the lump is his brother, a deformed twin that was connected to him at birth, and they were kept a secret for years, until they were separated, and Duane could live a normal life.
As the kid passes out from all the cheap Bud he's drinking, he slips into a lengthy drunken flashback. It goes all the way back to around the time of his birth, and we see how his father hates the kids, only his aunt cared for them, and the procedure to slice them in half.
Everyone seems pretty okay with dropping the twins into a paper slicer and whacking them in half, except for Duane himself. Sure, the twin will probably die, but it will give Duane a chance at a normal life. Hahahaha, yeah that didn't work out well.
And let me tell you, what should be a serious, and possibly even gory scene as they operate to remove the twin from Duane, is instead hilarious. All because someone decided, "Hey, you know what would be great sounds for slicing them in half? Yeah, pass me that watermelon and a knife..."
Once the operation is done, Duane wakes up about 20 pounds lighter, and wanders off into the night, finding his brother in a trashbag, Not Really Dead. And that's how they became the basket bunch.
That night, Duane's father hears a racket down in the basement, and goes to check it out, finding his tools left out, and his table saw still on...which is flung at him and slices him in half. I thought I told you kids, no horsing around!
While this flashback is going on for way too long, and grinding the story to a halt, I will give the movie points for a really cool death scene. I love the pair of legs flopping in different directions as the father is bisected vertically.
I mean, seriously. Do we need to see the aunt taking the kids in, reading Shakespeare to Herman's Head, and her funeral? Get *on* with it.
Seriously, it's nearly 13 minutes long. It's a good origin and explanation, but there had to be a better, quicker, way to do it. If not for the surgery and patricide, it's a slog.
Casey takes the drunken Duane home, not sure if she believes his alcohol fueled ramblings, and drops the kid off in his bed. She's unable to resist her curiosity, and opens the basket finding...NOTHING.
She heads back to her own apartment, gets ready for bed, and her curiosity kills her, as Belial finally arrives and says hey.
Yeah, the monster's name is Belial. I dunno, I think naming your kid after a demon from hell is kinda just asking for him to turn evil and murderous.
Casey screams and everyone comes running AGAIN. This is the busiest this floor has been ever, I bet. It's the third event of this nature in just a day.
Finally, the movie goes after Belial's final victim, and we get back to the actual plot, as the twins head out to visit Dr. Kutter the next day.
They have their little confrontation, and finally Kutter asks, what's in the box? What's in the boooox?? and she finds out with a giant pouncing Belial.
She tries to save herself by opening a drawer full of medical stabbies, but Belial just shoves her face into the door and kills her with her own toys.
On his way home, Sharon chases down Duane to tell him that she's a wreck, her boss was killed! Yeeah, he might already know about that.
Duane comforts her, they start kissing and making out, but Belial is still a jealous little shit, and starts screaming and throwing another tantrum. Which uh, *kinda* surprises Sharon, to say the least.
He flings his girlfriend out of the room, and she bangs on the door, drawing *more* attention to the room. Again. While he curses his brother for being a nosy little bugger. But hey, that's what little brothers are for.
Sharon leaves, Duane heads to sleep, and Belial wakes up in the middle of the night to sneak off and uh...wait, why are his eyes suddenly glowing red? Eh, at this point, whatever. Ten minutes to go, the evil puppet lump has red glowing eyes, fine.
We get treated to full frontal nudity as Duane has a fever dream of running around NYC without his clothes on. And still no one notices. It's an interesting way to see the two brothers' blending together, and how Duane taps in to what his brother is up to, but it's also weird.
Duane wakes up from the nightmare, knowing Belial has gone off to fondle his girlfriend. Isn't it just like brothers, always wanting what the other has?
Now, the movie is unclear what happens to Sharon, but considering Duane's following reaction of yelling and screaming and flinging the basket around, I'm going with another death.
And guess what! His yelling draws all the tenants again! This has been the single most exciting week at the Hotel Broslin before or since.
Everyone bursts into the room, Belial bursts out, and grabs Duane, lifting him into the air by his groin. That...that's impressive.
Belial and Duane crash through the window, and they dangle off the hotel sign, with Belial being the only thing holding the twins up there.
You get a sense that Belial is legitimately trying to save his brother, but instead his vast strength chokes him out, and even the little lumpy Hercules can't hang onto the sign forever, carrying both their dead weight.
Belial gives into despair has his brother dies by his own hands, and he lets go, letting them both plummet to their deaths at the street below.
Well...that's one downer of an ending.
Video: It looks more than fine for a cheaply shot no budget flick from the early 1980s. With that in mind, I'd argue it looks great. And in fact, the look just adds to the general griminess of the movie.
Audio: A decent audio mix is found her, although it has that cheap feeling of something you know is recorded.
Sound Bite: "This isn't a hotel, it's a nuthouse!!"
Body Count: Considering Belial has no legs, he sure does get around, and actually makes for a decent body count.
1 - Three minutes in and hapless lawyer dude bites it.
2 - Dr. Needleman meets Belial and spills his guts.
3 - After being a little thief, O'Donovan gets what he deserves.
4 - In a flashback to their youth, we see Duane and Belial's father get sliced in half with a table saw.
5 - Duane and Belial's aunt dies from, as far as we know, natural causes.
5 - Belial finishes his revenge by stabbing Dr. Kutter in the face with lots of things.
6 - I assume Sharon dies from whatever Belial does.
7 - Duane dies by accidentalish choking from Belial
8 - And Belial plummets to his death right next to his brother where he belongs.
Best Corpse: The honour this time WOULD go to their father, if we saw more than the legs falling in directions legs don't work in (And that's still tempting), but I'll go with Needleman's demise, since we get to see that, AND a bonus bisection at the waist.
Blood Type - B+: There's oodles of blood here and there, and some...interesting effects. I can't QUITE call them good. Let's be real, Belial looks cheap as hell. The stop motion animation is terrible (Wonderfully so, but still), but there's still something kinda great about it, even in its cheapness. Belial has personality, and that goes a long way.
Sex Appeal: Frequent female nudity.
Drink Up! whenever Belial appears and screams.
If you're a more daring sort and hate your liver, whenever you see Duane carrying his basket around public areas.
Video Nasties: I had a few choices this week, and I eventually settled upon Belial's tantrum while Duane is getting some. It's a good scene showing Belial's personality, and the stop motion animation if brilliant.
Movie Review: This movie has more than its share of problems. The plot is thin, and the holes are plentiful. But I can excuse some of that because it's short and largely to the point. It's a low budget, simple movie, and that's what you get. But there are also long stretches of not much happening, a flashback diversion from the story, and I feel like the movie needed more focus and more doctors for Belial to deal with. After the opening death, that's just two people he HAS to take care of, and the movie should have invested more in that stuff, by either dealing with it more exclusively, or expanding on it beyond Kutter and Needleman. And oh yes, those names are straight out of the Edgar Wright school of VERY appropriate names to characters. For a movie that just does its thing and gets on with it, it's not terrible, but beyond the basement of sleazy horror, the light of day really starts to disintegrate it and show its problems. Two out of five baskets.
Entertainment Review: However, it is quite a trip. Duane is *genuinley* charming, in that guy from upstate who lived in seclusion, and is now in the big city kinda way. He's wide eyed and not exactly *innocent* but the actor brings a lot to the role that makes you root for him. Somehow, even the puppety makeupy head of Belial is charming. Even though he's a hideously howling monster, he's got something to him. You can't quite root for him, since he's not developed much, and is little more than a monster, but they do a lot with a cheap monster effect. When Belial is tearing up the screen, the movie shines, in its awesomeness, its blood, and yes even its cheese. The rest of the actors are largely forgettable or strange, or awkward, but they do add to the fun and entertainment of the movie. The plot may be brief, but the movie is populated with a lot of weirdos, and there's something fun here, in spite of itself. It's easy to see why this is a cult classic, but just as easy to see why it's never managed to be much more than that. Four out of five foil wrapped burgers.