Review: Basket Case (Blu-ray)

2011/10/12 15:26:00 +00:00 | Derek Botelho

“What’s in the basket?” is the constant refrain of Frank Henenlotter’s feature directorial debut, Basket Case, a cult film from 1981. Duane Bradley and his brother Belial are in New York City on a mission: to get revenge on the doctors who separated them as children.

No, they weren’t put into different foster homes. They were conjoined twins, and at the behest of their father were surgically separated. Did I mention that Belial is just a mass of flesh with two arms and a face that used to grow out of Duane’s side? And now Duane keeps him in a basket?

If I were to read this film’s synopsis I would instantly think that’s it’s nothing but campy fun, but it is surprisingly more than that. Kevin Van Hentenryck plays Duane with a great deal of care, that isn’t typical of this kind of production. He allows Duane to be human and not just a cartoon character with a weird sidekick on a murderous rampage. Duane does these things to keep his brother happy, and even meets a girl he likes in the proceedings. Oh the dilemma, the love of your only sibling or a young, attractive woman?

When a horror movie has doctors named “Dr. Kutter” and “Dr. Needleman”, you know you’re in for some comedy. I must disclose that I am not a big fan of horror comedies. I find them tiresome for the most part. This film is an exception. Whereas most movies that try to blend comedy and horror fall flat, Troma I’m looking at you…this one knows at all times which side of the highway to drive on and doesn’t miss a trick.

Sadly acting wise, Mr. Van Hentenryck is the only good one in the bunch. Everyone else is either camping it up or just dead flat, and the film suffers some for this, but since the bulk of the film is carried by Duane and Belial, I can forgive some not so stellar acting from the supporting cast. Henelotter’s script takes some surprising turns, especially when it comes to the importance of family, and what makes a family. The dialogue is never off the charts bad, but at times is a little goofy. For a first time director, and for a movie shot quickly and cheaply there is a decent amount to admire. The film never feels padded or sluggish as these things often can, so my hat is off to Henenlotter here too.

On the A/V side of things, Basket Case looks amazing! That’s really all I can say. I don’t think I have ever seen a film shot on 16mm look this good on video. Especially one that had a very low budget and was made thirty years ago! You really have to see it for yourself. It’s almost flawless, sure there are a few hairs and spots here and there, but the HD transfer is probably as close to a new print as we ‘re going to ever get visually. And I would hazard to say it didn’t even look this good upon its initial release due to the 35mm blow up that occurred for theatrical run. The audio doesn’t fare as well as the picture; it’s clear, and dialogue is never muffled, but for a low budget thirty-year-old film shot by first timers, it’s perfectly serviceable, nothing more.

As for the bonus content we have a commentary by the director, Frank Henenlotter, who is joined by the producer Edgar Levins, and actress Beverly Bonner. Additional bonus features include a video introduction by Henenlotter, outtakes and behind the scenes footage, radio and TV spots, a video short from 2001: “In Search of the Hotel Broslin”, and a behind the scenes/promotional photo gallery.

A simple story of brotherly love, a terrible secret, and a picnic basket; what could be sweeter? Well not much, is my answer! I remember seeing parts of Basket Case as a teenager on cable, and being intrigued by what I saw, but never being able to catch the entire film. Well, thanks to the good folks over at “Something Weird”, I have now rectified this longstanding error on my part. Henenlotter has crafted a cult film that has endured since its release in the early 80’s, and in my humble estimation it has earned its longevity. It’s by no means a perfect film, but it is made with heart, and the passion for the project shows on screen.

While marketed as a comedy in some territories (the murders were edited out), and a horror movie in others, Frank Henenlotter’s, Basket Case works because it knows how to walk that fine line between comedy and horror and do them both well. The film is often hilarious and shocking in its violence, yet it still manages to actually be emotionally resonant at times. I can recommend this to fans of horror, comedy, or just anyone on the look out for an interesting film that doesn’t look like every other thing out there.

Film Score: 3.5/5  Disc Score: 4/5

*Note- Blu-ray screens are courtesy of