Dir: Frank Henenlotter. Cast: Kevin Van Hentenryck, Terri Susan Smith, Beverly Bonner. 1982
Basket Case is the tale of two brothers, Siamese twins separated against their will, who take revenge on those who’ve “put them asunder”.
I first saw Frank Henenlotter’s feature debut during its initial VHS release by Media. If memory serves, I’d read about it in the pages of Fangoria magazine, and so, had my eyes pealed for its appearance at any of the video stores in my area. Lo and behold, one day, there it was.
I took it home, and popped it in my home player (or did I have to rent a VHS machine?). As it began, I remember being hit with these impressions: cheap, gory, outrageous. These are three of the characteristics I love about Basket Case, though in hindsight, it's much more than that. It’s also clever, a thorough snapshot of early 80s Times Square, it’s populated with unforgettable characters, and it’s utterly endearing.
The moment early on in which a murder takes place accompanied by squeaky ballon sound effects, I was hooked. By the time, also early on, that a character is cut in half with a buzzsaw, the deal was sealed.
Henelotter has a terrific ability to covey a sense of place, to create unforgettable characters/creatures/outsiders (Belial from Basket Case, Aylmer from Brain Damage, Frankenhooker), and to bring them together under intriguing circumstances expressed with unbound outrageousness. At heart, Hennelotter works to keep classic exploitation alive, and there is no better example than here in Basket Case.