Basket Case (1982)

Wearing its sleaze with pride, this New York splatter movie is the one about the young man who hauls his deformed Siamese twin around in a wickerbasket. Duane (Van Hentenryck) checks into the Skid Row Hotel Broslin with his basket, then unleashes the twisted Belial on the careless doctors who made a botch of the operation to separate them. Duane sees a way out of the horrors in a relationship with the pretty receptionist, but the devoted Belial - who has a psychic link with his twin - feels threatened and sets out to wreck his brother's chances of happiness.

Made in 1982 by Frank Henenlotter, who has since given the world Brain Damage and Frankenhooker - not to mention Basket Case 2 and 3 - this was one of the first films to try on purpose for that mix of horror and humour that predecessors like H.G. Lewis (to whom the film is dedicated) and Ted V. Mikels only managed by accident and ineptitude. Basket Case has the look of an on-the-streets underground slice-of-life or Deep Throat-era hardcore, with ugly pictures of uglier places and even uglier people (the nearest the script has to a romantic line is "You're cute when you slobber"), and the monster / gore effects are at once laughably fake and genuinely repellent.

Nevertheless, it's a hard film to forget: they may not be given much to do by the sloppy script, but the protagonists are somehow interesting and, if only for a moment - Belial clawing his way out of a twist-tied garbage bag after being disposed of as medical waste - affecting. In an era where the cheapest, most disreputable films still look like professionally-shot TV movies, there's something invigorating about a film that goes all out for grottiness.
KIM NEWMAN

First Published In: Empire no.129 (March 2000) p.120 (UK)


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