31 Days of Hell: Basket Case (1982)

Michelle is back with a review of Basket Case!

Frank Henenlotter doesn't have the longest or most illustrious filmography, but he managed to fit as much gore and depravity as he could into every frame of film. His first film, Basket Case, is as low budget as it gets, but luckily came out just as home video was starting to take off in the early eighties.  It's one of the pioneers of the "Video Nasty" generation and a must see for any fan of crappy trash movies.

Basket Case revolves around a young man named Duane Bradley (Kevin Van Hentenryck) who is the owner of a old, rickety basket with mysterious and dangerous contents. Once other people discover what inhabits the confines of the basket, that is when all hell breaks loose. Most low-budget horror flicks are light on substantial story elements, and this one is no exception. Things just kinda...happen for...reasons. This isn't too much of an issue though, because the result is people dying in hilarious and bloody ways which is exactly the entire point of watching a film like this! There is a thin plot that does end up being interesting in a demented sort of way, and things move along at a brisk pace. Just don't expect any intricate characterization or deep themes and you will be fine.

"Agh! I don't remember lipstick being this hard to apply!"
When Henenlotter first released this film, he didn't have much control over the final processing. It was filmed in 16mm but blown up to a different aspect ratio when it was shown in theaters. Something Weird Video released a Blu-ray in 2011 that restored it to its original aspect ratio and used the original print (which was initially thought to be lost). While this isn't the type of movie that needs a pristine copy, it did get a substantial visual upgrade with the Blu release, and is the definitive version of the film available. The sound quality on the disc is so-so, but the movie is over thirty-years-old so that is somewhat forgivable (there is only a mono track available).

The special effects in the film are low-budget but still quite effective. They used a lot of puppet work for the monster augmented with some rad stop-motion scenes--yeah, it's dated but it still holds a lot of charm. The puppet they used has a lot of detail, but moves around in that herky-jerky way that puppets are know for. Truth be told, it's effin' hilarious looking and adds to the overall fun and cheesy atmosphere. Don't let that fool you though, it's still stomach-wrenchingly gory and at times disturbing. There are the requisite naked lady scenes, so if bloody killings aren't your thang, there are still boobs to look at to keep you occupied. For the most part, the acting is godawful, but it doesn't matter in sleazy films like this, and arguably adds to the fun factor. Side note: Hentenryck's glorious white boy afro should have been credited as a supporting actor.

If this is your first foray into Frank Henenlotter's menagerie of schlock, then you are in for a treat. He ended up making three films in the Basket Case series and each one was more insane than the last. The third film in particular is just off its rocker and should be experienced by any fan of cult cinema. There is a sweet steel book case available with all three films on Blu-ray though it tends to be a bit pricey.


- Michelle Kisner