BASKET CASE (1982) Review by Steve Kirkham



4 stars
Arrow. Limited edition 4K UHD and Blu ray – plus 4K streaming. 30th April

BASKET CASE, the super low budget feature debut of writer/director Frank Henenlotter – a filmmaker with a singular world vision – has been a fixture on various home video releases since the VHS days. Who would have thought it would ever be on 4K – but here it is, taken from the original Super 16mm negative held in the MoMA (Museum of Modern Art) collection. This is the very definition of cult classic which played on the midnight movie circuit for several years in New York.

“What’s in the basket”, ask several of the gallery of quirky characters that inhabit this sleazy, blood spattered horror comedy. Kevin VanHentenryck plays Duane, a young man from out of town, who arrives in the Big Apple – he knows what’s in the wicker picnic hamper, his deformed twin brother Belial. They take up residence in the scuzzy, seedy Hotel Breslin, after wandering through the arse end of New York – probably past many place that no longer exist. They are there for one reason – to track down the doctors responsible for separating them some years back, to exact bloody revenge.

VanHentenryck is good at capturing the naïveté and duality of his character – he also provided a face cast for the creation of Belial and did the voice effects as well. As the gory, straightforward narrative plays out, gruesome scenes mix with black comedy.

Presented in an appropriate 4×3 ratio, the image here is sharp enough, if inevitably rather grainy due to the source. The special make-up effects, by John Caglione Jr. and Kevin Haney, for the misshapen Belial are somewhat crude, though this suits the vibe of the film. There is also some rudimentary stop motion work to depict the freaky twin – which just adds to the charm.

Director Henenlotter not only penned the script but also did the editing – though it’s likely he carried out many other tasks throughout production, with many of the credits at the end actually fake, to cover-up how small the crew was.

This is a fun comedy horror which lead to two sequels.

Steve Kirkham

Extras – 4 stars

Audio commentary with writer/director Frank Henenlotter and star Kevin Van Hentenryck and Archival audio commentary with Frank Henenlotter, producer Edgar Ievins, actor Beverly Bonner and filmmaker Scooter McRae

Interviews with Duane Bradley; actor Kevin Van Hentenryck; Director Frank Henenlotter; actors Florence and Mary Ellen Schultz; actor Beverly Bonner; with film critic Joe Bob Briggs

The Latvian Connection – featurette including interviews with producer Edgar Ievins, casting person/actor Ilze Balodis, associate producer/special effects artist Ugis Nigals and Belial performer Kika Nigals

Basket Case at MoMA – footage from the 2017 restoration premiere

What’s in the Basket? – feature-length documentary covering the three films in the Basket Case series

In Search of the Hotel Broslin – archival location featurette

The Frisson of Fission: Basket Case, Conjoined Twins, and ‘Freaks’ in Cinema – video essay by Travis Crawford

Slash of the Knife (1976, 30 mins) – short made by Frank Henenlotter

Outtakes; image galleries; Trailers, TV & radio spots

Belial’s Dream (2017, 5 mins) – animated short by filmmaker Robert Morgan

Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Sara Deck/Double-sided fold-out poster featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Sara Deck/Collector’s booklet featuring writing on the film by Michael Gingold and a Basket Case comic strip by artist Martin Trafford