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BASKET CASE (1982)

Directed by Frank Henenlotter
Written by Frank Henenlotter
Starring Kevin Van Hentenryck, Terri Susan Smith, Beverly Bonner, Robert Vogel


There are scenes in BASKET CASE that haunt me to this day. I remember renting the film when I was around 13 and being utterly creeped out by the sordid juxtaposition of sex, violence, and grime this film oozes from every frame. Though everyone mentions Cronenberg when the subgenre of “body horror” arises, I’d argue that Henenlotter’s films are just as effective and just as horrific as some of Cronenberg’s classics. The thing that differentiates Cronenberg and Henenlotter is that it seems Henenlotter isn’t afraid to get his shoes dirty, while I feel an almost meticulous restraint from Cronenberg’s films. But enough about comparing two great filmmakers, BASKET CASE is a classic film that shouldn’t be missed and if you haven’t seen it, you have no right calling yourself a fan of horror.


Henenlotter’s story of conjoined twins who seek vengeance on the doctor who separated them is a bizarre masterpiece filled with over the top gore, uncomfortable sex, stop-motion animation, and one of the most honest depictions of New York City I’ve ever seen. I know folks would scoff at this comparison, but like Scorsese’s TAXI DRIVER, BASKET CASE shows the real New York. 42nd street lit with dingy neon and covered in a damp ooze that doesn’t wash out. The people have the stink of the street on them and an outsider sticks out like a sore thumb. That’s Duane (Kevin Van Hentenryck) in the first moments of the film, when he shows up to a dingy hotel carrying nothing but a knapsack and a large basket containing his twin brother, Belial. Though all of the accolades Scorsese has for being the documentarian of New York are attributed rightly so, Henenlotter’s BASKET CASE is just as effective a snapshot of a specific feel in a specific time in America.


The concept of Belial in the first place is a horribly creepy one. Carrying a malformed legless midget with sharp teeth and claws in a basket may sound goofy, but dammit if Henenlotter doesn’t play it all straight as an arrow. Duane’s conversations with his brother emit real feeling between two brothers and you can’t help but root these two freaks on. And once you see Belial in all of his lumpy glory, it’s an image you’ll never forget. In fact, there are so many iconic images in this one: young Duane and Belial on the operating table, a woman with a face full of scalpels, Belial’s sex scene, and the final minutes of the film which to this day have me on the edge of my seat and goosebumpy just thinking about it.


The Arrow BluRay Special Edition consists of the following special features; a brand new 4K restoration from the original 16mm negative by MoMA, HD Blu-ray (1080p) presentation, original uncompressed mono audio, brand new audio commentary with writer/director Frank Henenlotter and star Kevin Van Hentenryck, “Basket Case 3-1/2: An Interview with Duane Bradley” – Frank Henenlotter revisits Duane Bradley decades after the events of the original BASKET CASE, “Seeing Double: The Basket Case Twins” – a brand new interview with Florence and Maryellen Schultz, the twin nurses from BASKET CASE, a brand new making-of featurette containing new interviews with producer Edgar Ievins, casting person/actress Ilze Balodis, associate producer/effects artist Ugis Nigals and Belial performer Kika Nigals, “Blood, BASKET and Beyond” – a brand new interview with actress Beverly Bonner, “Belial Goes to the Drive-In” – a brand new interview with film critic Joe Bob Briggs, outtakes featurette, “In Search of the Hotel Broslin” – archive location featurette, “Slash of the Knife” (1972) – short film by Frank Henenlotter, “Belial’s Dream” (2017, 5 mins) – brand new Basket Case-inspired animated short by filmmaker Robert Morgan, Behind-the-scenes of Belial’s Dream, trailers, TV & radio spots, & extensive still galleries!

As perverse and horrifying as it gets, BASKET CASE is a must own for all of you ghouls out there.

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