How in the hell had I not yet seen Basket Case? I’d been hearing about this movie for at least a decade, everything about it sounded right up my alley, and yet I never actually sat down and partook in its glory until this morning. Yes sometimes I have to watch horror movies at 8 AM but my living room is dark as shit so don’t worry it all works out ok.
Basket Case tells the story of Duane Bradley. He is a charming fellow, moving into a New York apartment building (hotel?) at the start of the movie and winning over his neighbors right away. The strange thing though, is that Duane is always walking around carrying a picnic basket. He refuses to show people what’s inside, and when somebody asks him about it he is always saying it’s something innocuous like clothes. Hey maybe he’s telling the truth, perhaps it really is just clothes or his luggage and belongings. Or perhaps it’s his Siamese twin who was separated from the side of Duane’s body and now is just this lump of flesh with a face that can physically talk to Duane and wants to murder all of the doctors who separated them when Duane was young. Spoilers – it’s the second thing.
So yeah, Basket Case is clearly a bat shit insane movie. I mean seriously, look at that plot synopsis I just wrote up there. Doesn’t that sound like a movie you absolutely want to watch? That’s why I love 80’s horror movies man, people will come up with ridiculous ideas like that and then actually follow through on them and get the movie made. You so rarely see that kind of thing these days.
What’s great about this movie is that it takes its crazy premise and then proceeds to play the whole thing completely straight. In fact, the story about the two brothers is borderline heartwarming. If you were to take out the people getting sliced in half or having their faces torn apart then you might just end up with a family drama here. But then you wouldn’t have people getting sliced in half or faces being torn apart, so I think they went the better route. But it does get heavily into the back story of the two brothers and you actually become surprisingly involved in their plight, to the point where you start to almost feel bad for this….thing….that is his brother.
For the most part the brother (IMDB says that his name is Belial but I genuinely don’t remember that ever coming up) is represented by a puppet that remains mostly stationary except for some light arm movement and lots of screaming. In some scenes though he is stop motion animated, and those parts are awesome. Perhaps my favourite scene is where Belial (may as well just go with that name I guess) freaks out and starts trashing their room because he’s upset that Duane is out on a date. The scene requires him to move around a lot so they have a stop motion version of him flinging drawers and chairs around while screaming the entire time. It doesn’t look convincing in any way but its all part of the charm as clearly they tried to make it worst as best they could. Trust me, its great stuff.
Belial himself isn’t very scary, though the scream he is doing almost constantly oddly disturbed me. There are also a few moments where his face seems to become more human and his eyes will also start to glow, and there he definitely got pretty creepy looking. One thing though – I have no fucking clue how this guy kills people. It never really explains it either. He just pounces at someone and then they struggle against him and then they are dead. He must be one strong son of a bitch because everyone he encounters is completely powerless to do anything against him at all. Actually I know he’s super strong because at one point he grabs a human being in the crotch and then proceeds to lift him up off the ground using only one hand. You don’t want to fuck with Belial.
The gore is quite plentiful and also well done. You get lots of clawed faces, some dismemberment, some needles in the face, and more. Though the part that I found the most disgusting is when they show the actual surgery to separate the two brothers. They don’t shy away from showing the whole thing and it’s played quite straight which makes it all the more effective and gross. Also when Belial is separated, his entire bottom is just a bloody mess of nonsense which is pretty sick as well.
I mentioned in my review of Q The Winged Serpent (that feels so long ago now) that I really enjoyed the New York atmosphere featured in the movie. Basket Case is another great example of the same thing. It captures it all perfectly and every set feels appropriately run down and grimy. The budget for this I’m guessing was insanely small so they did a good job giving it a sense of scope.
Basket Case is a goodie. It’s a way out there idea that is played without a hint of irony and with no winking at the audience. I feel if they made this now it wouldn’t be as good as it would have a tone of “yeah guys we know this is silly so people in the movie also think it’s silly” and it wouldn’t work nearly as well that way. Playing it absolutely straight is definitely the way to do it. The effects are low rent but charming as all hell and the whole thing is just such an odd experience that I have to whole heartedly recommend it. Bring on the sequels!