Review: Basket Case – The Trilogy

BasketCaseTrilogy_BlakBluray_3D-hiRes-FNLWritten and directed by Frank Henenlotter

Second Sight, Out 14 March, 3 Disc Blu-ray,

What’s in the basket?

Where to start? The original Basket Case gained notoriety, especially over here in the UK, due in no small part to the fact that it ended up on the Video Nasty list of the early 1980s. A comedy horror made on a shoestring budget, its bad acting and dodgy effects only enhanced its cult appeal – spawning two belated sequels in 1990 and ’91.

The original begins with the gruesome murder of a guy in his own home, before introducing us to Duane Bradley (Kevin Van Hentenryck) who has arrived in New York carrying a basket under his arm. Ignoring the obvious question he keeps getting asked, Bradley checks into the Hotel Broslin – more like a seedy block of flats where prostitutes ply their trade. The reason he’s here? Duane is a Siamese twin, whose telepathic brother Belial was born deformed – basically a head with a couple of hands – and they’re taking revenge on the doctors who separated them (we’re shown in a bloody flashback how Belial was cut from Duane’s side). Getting mixed up in all this insanity are doctor’s receptionist Sharon (Terri Susan Smith) who tries to start up a romantic relationship with Duane – much to his brother’s chagrin – and good time girl Casey (Beverly Bonner) who wakes one night to find the creature in bed with her. It all ends in disaster, of course, leaving little wiggle room for a follow-up… Or so we thought.

After somehow surviving the events at the end of the first film, Duane and Belial are rescued by friends of their aunt, Granny Ruth (Superman III’s Annie Ross) and her daughter Susan (Heather Rattray). Turns out they run a kind of halfway house for freaks, including a female version of Belial: Eve. But dogged reporter Marcie (Kathryn Meisle) is on to them, enlisting the help of a detective friend of hers to discover what really happened to the Times Square Freak Twins.

In the third movie, The Progeny, the group have to take a heavily pregnant Eve to see Uncle Hal (Dan Biggers) to help with the birth, dragging along an even more mentally unstable Duane. The result is a litter of tiny Belials, but it isn’t long before the authorities get wind of what’s going on and trouble ensues.

These films are definitely an acquired taste (often bad), straddling the very fine line between genius and complete garbage – sometimes tipping one way, sometimes the other. As they progress the effects get better, especially some of the make-ups on the freaks, but the storylines just seem like they were made up as everyone went along. By the time you get to the sing-along on the bus and the ‘Robo-Belial’, you’ve practically given up searching for any kind of sense in proceedings and gone along with the flow. Like Peter Jackson’s early efforts, you also get the feeling that some of it was thrown in just to provoke a reaction – like the sex scene between Belial and Eve. However, there are some laugh out loud moments too, like when the Sheriff’s daughter in 3 rips off her dowdy dress to reveal she’s actually a raving S&M devotee who attempts to seduce Duane: ‘What have I told you before about messing with my prisoners?’

All the extras are located on the first disc, including an introduction from Henenlotter himself (‘I know what you’re thinking… Basket Case in HD?’), audio commentary from the writer/director, producer Edgar Ievins and star Beverly Bonner, plus outtakes, a video short called In Search of Hotel Broslin, trailer, radio spots and a stills/promo gallery.

Verdict: Violent (Basket) Cases 7/10                                                        

Paul Kane

Basket Case is released by Second Sight on 14 March

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