Screen Reviews
Basket Case

Basket Case

directed by Frank Henenlotter

starring Kevin Van Hentenryck, Beverly Bonner, Terri Susan Smith

Arrow Video

There are few films that embody the aesthetic and vibe of grindhouse movies quite like Frank Henenlotter’s 1982 cult masterpiece, Basket Case. ​​Henenlotter’s film was not only pitch perfect entertainment for the sleazy theaters that populated 42nd street in Times Square, but also functions as a document of the neighborhood, made with great love and little reverence. Basket Case also had the good fortune to catch on with a worldwide audience via VHS basically while it was playing in the dilapidated movie palaces in midtown Manhattan.

Naive hayseed from upstate Duane Bradle (Kevin Van Hentenryck) checks into the Hotel Broslin with a thick wad of cash and a large wicker basket. Little do the collection of weirdos that call the Broslin their home realize that the basket Duane is so protective of contains the malevolent, malformed creature Belial, who as we come to discover was Duane’s formerly conjoined twin. The brothers are in the city looking to exact revenge on the doctors who forcibly separated the brothers years before, a violent and bloody revenge. When Duane becomes smitten with a girl named Sharon, Belial goes into a jealous rage, and what little control Duane held over his other half is severed — no one around Duane is safe.

Basket Case
courtesy of MVD Entertainment
Basket Case

Shot for $35,000 on 16mm and blown up to 35mm for theatrical release, Basket Case looks as grimy as the streets of Times Square, and that is one of the film’s greatest assets. If the film had been made with a professional budget, the sheen would not have been as authentic to the time and place Henenlotter sought to capture. Henenlotter’s shadow world of this little sliver of New York, with its population of hustlers, whores, and thieves is the perfect base for Duane and Belial to carry out their plans. The absurdity of the entire premise isn’t lost on Henenlotter, and his embrace of that absurdity is what makes Basket Case so beloved. The film manages to be an authentic grindhouse movie, while also lampooning some of the very films it would play alongside. When you laugh at Basket Case it is by design. It works both as a gross-out horror film and an irreverent send up of gross-out horror films.

Basket Case seems an unlikely film to get the 4K UHD treatment, but here it is, glistening in all of its grainy glory. It is doubtful that the film ever looked this good. Even in its theatrical run, assuming the prints were pristine, they were still being shown in theaters where the cigarette and marijuana smoke lilting up to the third balcony would have rendered any film a bit hazy and dark. The disk also comes packed with extras, including two audio commentaries, a Frank Henenlotter short, an interview with Joe Bob Briggs, and a feature length documentary on Basket Case, its sequels, and lasting cinematic legacy.

Arrow Video


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