e-mail:Smokey X. Digger
1982, Dir. Frank Henenlotter
If there's one thing I can't get enough of in these kinds of movies, it's people dancing around screaming while holding a model up to their faces in order to simulate being attacked by something. And among its numerous other charms, Basket Case has plenty of that. After a Dr. Lifflander is killed in his home, Dwayne Bradley (who looks like one of The Kids In the Hall) arrives in New York City with only a backpack and a large wicker basket. He checks into a seedy motel and begins going about his business. This is the first of several areas in which Henenlotter succeeds: setting. Almost all of the locales shot in are ghetto, grimy, nasty, really capturing the seediness of the New York City that Dwayne inhabits. You can almost smell the urine in the hotel hallways and the b.o. coming off the hotel manager, easily the most entertaining performance in the film.
Another excellent aspect of the film is the character of Dwayne, portrayed by Kevin van Henteryck and written by Henenlotter. First and foremost, Dwayne is a rube from upstate New York who is totally lost in the big city. He has a strange relationship to the murders that are committed because he's not only along for the ride, but he is the ride. Let me explain.
In that wicker basket is Dwayne's brother Belial. Dwayne's horribly deformed telekinetic ex-Siamese twin brother Belial, who looks like a cross between the bat-boy from Weekly World News and something that William Hurt turned into in Altered States. He is hell-bent for revenge on the doctors who separated him from Dwayne, shown in a flashback sequence that is somewhat Lovecraftian in its creepyness. He also hates it when Dwayne gets any play. Consisting of only a face, two arms and and indeterminate lumps of flesh Belial doesn't get around much, hence the need for Dwayne to cart him around in a wicker basket. The scenes in which Belial actually moves on his own are done in stop motion animation which does render them kinda silly. The sounds he makes, be it eating, moving, or screaming are pretty unsettling though.
So our strange pair sets off in search of Doctors Needleman and Kutter to enact their revenge. Of course a love interest pops up that causes friction between the brothers. The end "dream sequence" (that's all I can call it without giving anything away) involving the love interest and the brothers is bizzare and will leave you thinking; "But he doesn't have one of those, how'd he..."
IN CLOSING: If you watch the credits right up until the end, you'll notice the line "Dedicated to Herschell Gordon Lewis." That's as sure an indication of quality I've ever seen. This movie is nasty in look and feel, gory, campy, for the most part horribly acted, in other words a classic. It's appeal goes beyond those who have had a large growth / brother removed from them at some point in their lives and touches everybody's heartstrings. If only more directors had Herschell in mind when crafting their masterpieces...