The Halloween Top 13: Number 7: Basket Case

200px-basketcaseposterHere we are on lucky number seven. With only 6 days to go until Halloween, I wanted to bring you something tonight that contained everything a Halloween movie could need. It has laughs. It has chills. It has unrepentant gore. It has had me watching it for years and years. I remember when I first watched it I had only heard of Frank Henenlotter in the pages ofFangoria. He had just released his 1990 film Frankenhooker,and while I desperately wanted to see it, it did not play on the dark side of the moon I was living on at the time. So having read a bit about him, I managed to get my hands on tonight’s feature, and I’ve been a Hennenlotter fan ever since. I’m very glad that this movie ended up where it did on the list. I promise it was a complete accident. See I want to relate the tale of the two brothers who stay in room number 7, and I want you folks to tell me which one is the…

Basket Case (1982) starring Kevin Van Hentenryck, Terri Susan Smith, Beverly Bonner, and Rober Vogel. Directed by Frank Henenlotter.

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As the film opens we get a bloody slaughter right off the bat. Always a good start. Then we meet Duane (Henternryck), a young man from upstate New York and new to the Big Apple, and we meet his basket. Duane walks down 42nd street and checks into the seedy Hotel Breslin. The hotel manager (Vogel) has lots of questions for him like “What’s in the basket?” to which Duane replies innocently “Clothes.” The manger accepts this explanation but warns Duane “I don’t want no junkies in here this is a respectable hotel.”Once in his room he sets down his mysterious basket and whispers to it “We’re here.”. Duane runs out and gets some burgers and comes back to the room where we finally get a tiny clue as Duane feeds something in the basket. It feeds greedily with a ton of great slurping and smacking sounds. After the feeding Duane consults a bloodstained file, and begins to track down Doctor Needleman.

Duane manages to find the doctor and makes an appointment to go see him. In the waiting room Duane meets Sharon (Smith). Sharon is clearly out of her mind and is desperately flirting with Duane. (Between her wig and her acting I’m not sure which was worse.) Duane finally gets called back and reveals to the Doctor a massive scar running down his right side. Needleman is quite shaken up by this and ushers Duane from his office. The Doc then makes a call to a Dr. Kutter to warn her that the kid they once operated on has been poking around asking questions, and that their colleague Dr. Lifflander has recently been found cut in two. Dr. Kutter, busy seducing a young man, is not interested in what Needleman has to say and hangs up on him.

basket_case_screenyDuane hangs around the office until Sharon leaves, and then he sneaks back inside. He kneels on the floor and lets something out of the basket. Slowly it stalks the doctor until finally we get a glimpse of the creature which mauls Needleman’s face and ultimately splits him in half as well. The beast returns to Duane with the doctor’s bloody address book. The next day Duane goes out to case Dr. Kutters place, or so he tells the creature, Belial. What he really does is sneak off for a date with Sharon, but when they kiss Belial goes crazy and trashes their room. The hotel manager checks the room but the creature hides while all the residents of the hotel gather in the hallway to peer inside. Finding nothing, the hotel manager closes the door and shouts for everyone to get back to their rooms. One of the residents, O’Donavan, spied Duane’s money laying on the bed and breaks in to steal it only to be killed by the creature. Duane gets back into the hotel in time for the cops to question him about all the noise in his room. The cops come in to look around and even check in the basket, but it is empty as Belial has taken refuge in the hotel toilet.

basket-case-7Duane feels mighty stressed and goes out for a drink. There he runs into Casey (Bonner), one of the other residents of the Breslin, and tells her his whole sad tale. We learn of his birth and the malformed Siamese twin named Belial that was forcibly removed from him. He tells how he saved his brother and how together that have come to New York to get revenge on the doctors that separated them. With only one more doctor to go, can Duane hold on long enough to do what Belial has in mind ? Or will his inhuman brother ever allow him to love Sharon or anyone else?

Film Facts

–When Doctor Needleman is cut in half the “guts” in the scene are leftover pizza smeared with movie blood.

bonner–The crew was so small on the film rather than repeat names in the credits they just made up more to fill the spaces.

— Duane’s wad of cash is according to director Henenlotter the total budget of the film.

–The bar Duane goes to is the infamous New York sex club “The Hellfire Club.” The club is so large it was used for several other scenes in the film as well.

–There are actually 3 Belial’s used in the film, a clay one for the stop animation, a puppet for his leaps from the basket, and disembodied hand glove which Henenlotter manipulated.

Why Do I Love It?

basketcase1
tatbncax9wkvica3k8qljcancv7pnca583m5rcai46cs2ca0mxq9pca00t76zcae7dunrcaw5ax18cagm5bwsca92kfywcah8eyiccayw0r8jca6zs2pccaft8habcalo8bz4canugv1xcaxjf917ca72xsawI love it because this is a film that’s got everything. To me it’s the perfect kind of movie for a Halloween party. It has an interesting plot for folks that want to sit down and watch the whole film, and it’s got plenty of comedy and gore for casual watchers. It’s the kind of film that rewards either kind of viewer. The kills are especially awesome. Who doesn’t love seeing a puppet tear people apart and stick scalpels in their face? Commies, that’s who. The acting and movie making are of course not stellar, but I don’t see a problem with that. In essence, Henenlotter made a perfect grindhouse movie just like the one’s that he loved, and he continued to make more of the same gracing us with other classic like Brain Damage and Frankenhooker. Frank has made precious few films with only seven to his credit, but a new one is to be released this year. I’m sure I’ll love it just like the others, but Basket Case will always be Henenlotter’s shining moment. I would also like to highly recommend that you get your hands on the Something Weird Video DVD edition of the film. Not only is it a gorgeous transfer; it’s packed full of the goodies that just enhance a film like this. So this Halloween when you’re planning your party or having some friends over, pop this one in and sit back and enjoy. You’ll have a great time and learn valuable lessons like never ever asking what’s in a basket.