When it comes to the inspirations behind making a horror movie, some film-makers are inspired by current events and the metaphorical struggle of the human animal, other works of horror cinema, are purely the result of a warped, creative mind. Basket Case, is definitely the result of the latter. In 1982 Basket Case was the first film of exploitation film-maker Frank Henenlotter, a Director who has becomes well known in the horror community for his particular brand of bizarre low budget horror films such as Brain Damage, Bad Biology and Frankenhooker. Basket Case feels like the prototype for Frank Henenlotter’s bizarre film career as the film showcases Henenlotter’s passion for grisly special effects, use of puppetry and bizarre creature designs. These three traits would become the staples of Frank Henenlotter’s film career.
However, despite how trail-blazing Basket Case was for Frank Henenlotter’s career, and for 1982 overall, Basket Case is an independently made film that had near to no budget whatsoever, and that fact is clearly evident upon viewing the film: the mis-en-scene of Basket Case is made up of dirty, cramped sets, cheap gore effects, and non-actors who can’t give a good performance to save their life. In fact, the whole film is full of mistakes in sound engineering, cinematography, and editing thus making viewing the film a frustrating experience for anyone who takes cinema too seriously. Even the gore effects are underwhelming: the effects that are shown onscreen look really cheap and nasty, and most of the deaths happen off-screen, with blood being thrown across the walls to simulate gore. However, I feel that a lot of these problems were budget related and, in the end, I feel that Frank Henenlotter did the best he could with how little he was working with. In all honesty, the film could have been a lot worse if it were placed in the hands of someone other than Frank Henenlotter.
Alongside the problems that the film clearly sports, Basket Case does contain a few aspects that really stand out, and overshadow the film’s flaws. Firstly: although many of the actors are enjoyably terrible, there is one actor who stands head and shoulders above the rest: Kevin Van Hentenryck, who plays Duane Bradley – the ‘normal’ Bradley Twin. In contrast to everyone else onscreen, Kevin Van Hentenryck is a very charismatic actor and his quirky acting style, which is reminiscent of 1980’s comedy films, feels right at home in a film as bizarre as Basket Case. The other positive aspect of Basket Case is the creature known as Belial – the monstrous Bradley twin. Evidently, a lot of effort was put into the creation of the little abomination, as Belial is quite impressive to see once he appears on-screen. The creature is very well designed with a frighteningly human face and a twisted, deformed body. The behind the scenes puppetry of the creature is a treat to see as the creature climbs up windows, attacks doctors and smashes furniture. Even if lot of scenes incorporating Belial are incredibly crude, such as the stop-motion “Rampage” scene, the effect of the creature never lessens due to how sparingly the creature is used throughout the film.
Basket Case is a 1980’s curio of the lowest of low-budget cinema. However, over the years, Basket Case has enjoyed a cult following for a damn good reason: all in all, the film is very enjoyable example of exploitation cinema, even with it’s bizarre concept and grisly special effects. Personally, I enjoyed my time watching Basket Case because the film is genuinely impressive when you take into consideration what the production team was working with: low budget, inexperience and an Editor who wouldn’t allow Frank Henenlotter any creative control of the final cut. In the end, Basket Case is a firm recommendation from me, as long as the person who watches the film doesn’t take cinema too seriously.