To support the weight of our Halloween-themed month on the site, every few days I've been stopping by our last local Mom & Pop-style video store, checking the old horror section for any lost gems worth reviewing. Going by the merits of the video box art and teaser paragraphs on the back isn't easy, and for every rental that ends up immortalized with a review, there's one I get only halfway through before turning off the VCR to watch Cosby reruns. Occasionally, I strike gold. "Basket Case," a 1982 gorefest with a budget that wouldn't buy you a value meal at Wendy's, was just what I was looking for.
The characters are terrible, or more correctly - the acting is terrible. The effects make use of bad puppets and rushed stop-motion animation, with some scenes kept atrociously dark to make the effects seem passable. It's got an awful build and an awful ending, but the story here was just too damn odd to miss out on.
Imagine a movie where the lead villain is a head and arms. No legs, no torso, nothing else. Just a head and arms. Then, imagine that the creature isn't supposed to be an alien - which would make (something resembling) sense given the genre - but rather a vindictive lost half of a pair of Siamese twins, who controls his more normal brother through telepathy to make him do bad, bad things. Just when you can't imagine anything worse, factor in the creature's penchant for hamburgers and raw hot dogs. I think we have a winner here.
The film is dreary and depressing almost beyond compare, and you won't have much fun watching it. It's not the type of bad 80s horror film you rent for a cheap laugh, because even if there are a few of those, they're buried in a sea of despair and fake blood. No, Basket Case should only be watched to quench your own morbid curiosities. Nothing more. If you're torn, don't worry - just read my review of the mess and be satisfied enough with that. There's little reason to actually sit through the 90 minutes of this unless you're trying to halt your appetite without the use of pills.
At first glance, Duane Bradley seems like a pretty typical guy. Well, except for the hair. Sure, he's carrying around this huge picnic basket with a big lock on it at all times, but hey, everyone's got their nuances, right? Considering that he's wandering through the lesser streets of NYC, very little stands out about Duane and we've got no reason to think he's a CRAZY MURDERER WITH HALF OF SATAN'S BODY FOR A BROTHER. Not yet, anyway.
Originally from further up north, Duane's made his way to the big city for reasons he's not ready to share. He checks into a rundown motel, filled with drug addicts, prostitutes, and winos. This is because people like drug addicts, prostitutes, and winos are less likely to notice or care if you've got a man-eating monster in your suitcase.
He feeds whatever is in that basket (we're not supposed to know yet) a few burgers while reading some previously stolen medical files. The idea here is that Duane and his brother are seeking revenge on the doctors who performed surgery to separate them. Once you get a closer look at what's in that basket, you'll be surprised Duane didn't buy those doctors palm trees made of solid gold. Most people have a hard enough time taking their shirt off by the pool if they've got one or two moles on their stomach - Duane used to have the devil itself hanging out of his. Why the anger, Duane? Why the hair, Duane?
The next day, our heroic duo makes a stop at one of those evil doctor's offices uptown. Before his appointment, Duane meets up with the lovely receptionist, Sharon. After an extended sequence (read: never-ending sequence) where Sharon thinks he's there to fix the typewriter, the two establish rapport and make plans to tour around the city. You've gotta admire Duane for keeping his lovelife rolling along throughout this huge mass murder plot. You've also gotta admire Sharon as a risk taker - would you date a dirty, complete stranger who walks into a doctor's office carrying a huge picnic basket while sweating profusely? It makes you think Sharon's got a detached, Siamese sister too, hiding under her desk, eating rats.
I'm not sure how many of you remember it, but software developer 'Creative Labs' used to have this game called Dr. Sbaitso, the automated psychiatrist. When you typed in a question, the good doctor would answer it as best he could over the speakers. You could also have him repeat whatever you said. I'm mentioning this because I'm 100% sure that if you were to type in each of Sharon's lines into Dr. Sbaitso's talkbox, he'd repeat them with four-hundred times the charisma and believability of Sharon herself. And Dr. Sbaitso wouldn't waste an hour of shooting time everyday to put on makeup.
Kevin meets with the doctor, who notices the huge unholy scar running down his hip and remembers a certain surgery he partook in many years ago. Since it's daylight and there's people around, Duane and the basket monster can't kill him yet. They're sure to do it later that night, though...
We finally get to see it! Hooray! Duane's brother got their father's great eyes, but little else. He's just a big glob of flesh with two clawed hands, which serve as his primary weapon. It doesn't take the little cretin long to kill off the doctor, who gushes more blood in this one scene than the first four Friday The 13th movies had in their entirety.
The brother's name is 'Belial,' and he's brought to life mainly through cinema's lost art of stop-motion photography. If you've ever seen what goes into that, you'd know it's a real painstaking process. There's a scene in The Empire Strikes Back where we see Luke riding a Taun-Taun over the snowy terrain of Hoth - the scene only lasted a second or two, but took a full eight hours to film. Somehow, I don't think the stop-motion effects in Basket Case took more than six minutes to slap together, hence Belial's seeming ability to teleport from one spot in the room to another, almost instantly!
Problems arise when Duane and Sharon start their romance. See, Belial doesn't like it. He doesn't have a dick. Why should Duane get to do all that cool sexy sex stuff when he's stuck at home eating burgers and trying to forge working legs out of bedposts? It's just not fair. Since the brothers are telepathically linked, Belial does his best to drive Duane crazy whenever he senses that he's macking it to one of the ladies. Jeez, a guy with Duane's level of baggage is gonna have a hard enough time picking up chicks without some little hellspawn screaming cursewords into his brain every ten minutes. Give the guy a break, you little troll.
For some reason, Duane and the hotel's resident hooker decide to go get a few drinks together. It's nothing kinky - they're just friends. It's only natural that a demented bloodthirsty Siamese twin and a monkey-faced prostitute would find common ground. Problem is, once you get a little liquor in Duane, his mouth forgets which things aren't all that kosher to share with the general public. The scene sets up a long flashback sequence that reveals the origins of the brothers, providing some of the sicker visuals in any movie I've seen recently...
These scenes are supposed to leave you with an understanding of Duane and Belial's train of thought - you're meant to feel a little pity towards them. But the only thing I can muster up are more AHHHHHHS. The sight of a young Duane standing there with one of the Ghoulies creeping out of his denim shirt is bad, but it gets much worse.
See, Belial really wasn't all that terrible at first. Sure, he looked like hell, but he was still his parents' son. They felt differently, likening him to a pile of shit. Even though the doctors insisted that they were both very real people, Belial was never truly considered one of their sons, and his parents did everything they could to get him away from their 'good boy.' So, without their blessing on that fateful night long ago, Duane and his brother were dragged onto a makeshift operating table. This is where the magic happened!
Okay, that's fucking disgusting. I want my money back.
Now that we know the truth, we can watch the rest of the movie with clearer vision. Or we can turn it off and do something more enjoyable, like prying our fingernails off with tweezers, or drinking tar. I think I'll suffer through the rest, just to see how many times Duane can make the word 'you' sound like 'yo ho.'
I've read some reviews on this movie calling it a 'classic,' even comparing it with some of John Waters' cult masterpieces. Personally, I don't think any of John Waters' projects were 'masterpieces', but fuck me if they weren't interesting to watch. Basket Case managed to hold my attention, because killer Siamese twins who look like clay tend to draw double-takes with relative ease. I fail to see where the 'classic' moniker is justified, though. The director, Frank Henelotter, is pretty well-loved by fans of this genre, so I guess some people out there just couldn't accept that they were watching total crap, and instead decided to call it 'misunderstood,' 'cult,' 'pulp,' or some other word that goes a long way in masking a really bad movie.
Back to the present - the brothers kill off the last doctor, so technically they've completed their mission and all should be right in the world, no? Wrong. While Duane is satisfied, Belial is still a little nutty and he doesn't want to stop killing just because they've run out of people who've previously pissed him off. Guys shaped like demons with no legs don't have a heavy platter full of hobbies available to 'em - murder seems the best way to pass the time.
Duane starts having a dream where he's running through the streets naked towards Sharon's house, totally horny and wanting her body wrapped into a pretzel-shaped position, bouncing up and down. It's implied, I swear. I didn't quite get where they were going with this at first, but then it all became clear. Remember, Duane and Belial are telepathically linked. They see what the other one sees, they know what the other one knows. It worked great when they needed answers on history tests, but now it's just a nuisance. Duane wakes up from his dream in a panic, and becomes doubly concerned after noticing that Belial's missing from his Happy Fun Basket Box. I smell trouble. I smell Siamese necrophilia rape scenes. It doesn't smell good. This movie needs Fabreeze!
Indeed, Duane's dream was just an extension of Belial's reality. The cute little tyke made his way across the city, (see, told you he could teleport) and now he's above Sharon's naked and admittedly big-titted body. What does he want her for? Not sure, but he chokes her to death to kick things off. After that, it gets worse. He has sex with her corpse. We're talking full-on, breast-fondling, ear-licking animal sex between a corpse and an alien twin. It would be inappropriate on every level in any other movie in the world besides this one, where it fits in perfectly and fills me with warm fuzzy feelings inside.
God. Yuck. Duane tries to make the save, but it's too late. Sharon's dead and his brother is a little more crazy than he thought. He shoves Belial in the basket and runs home, heartbroken, as my watch tells me we're entering the final minutes. They've left a pretty obvious track with all these murders, so either the duo is about to die or go into some sort of weird scientific study lab, where one of them will be forced to eat various animal eyes to see if the other can guess if they're duck eyes or cow eyes. In my opinion, either ending is satisfactory.
Wow, I made it the whole way through this review without hitting one 'we are Siamese if you please' joke. Should I be proud or ashamed?
Duane takes the bastard back to their hotel room, where the screaming and yelling has amassed quite the little crowd. Belial escapes his wicker prison, grabs Duane by the balls, and both of them fall out of a nearby window. It's not as exciting as it sounds.
Of course, they both plummet to their deaths. At least, I'm pretty sure they're dead. Hard to tell since Duane's character was resurrected for this movie's two sequels in the 90s, played by the same actor. I'm not interested in Basket Case enough to go back and check if he was really dead or just in a coma. He's out of my life and that's good enough for me.
Overall: No, no no. Don't rent it. Not good. Bad movie. Make you sad. Me no like. You'll no like either. Basket Case is, at least, a unique movie with a new premise, but I could make a film about living wall paint that tells bad jokes, and the same could be said. Only see this one if you're really into these types of movies - if not, stick with the fun ones.
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