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Reviews » Blu-ray Reviews » Basket Case (Blu-ray)
Basket Case (Blu-ray)
Arrow Video // R // February 27, 2018 // Region A
List Price: $22.64 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Oktay Ege Kozak | posted April 4, 2018 | E-mail the Author
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The Movie:

Frank Hennenlotter has a special place in the annals of gorefest cinema. Just like Sam Raimi and Peter Jackson's early work, there's a cartoonishly over the top quality to his body horror-based gore and mayhem. Yet the ridiculousness of his premises is paired with a borderline atonal melodramatic approach that asks us to truly care about the tragedy that his protagonists go through. Take Duane (Kevin Van Hentenryck) from Henenlotter's debut feature Basket Case. Here's a meek young man who's the protagonist of a movie about a rubbery, tiny, monstrous conjoined twin who looks as if a melted testicle came to life and went on a murder rampage, with all of the giddy silliness that premise brings, yet we can still easily relate to his desire to simply date a nice girl and lead a normal life for a young man.

As straightforward as that sounds, it's a hard goal for Duane, since he has to carry his disfigured tiny twin in a mesh basket with him everywhere, and if he leaves him alone for more than a couple of minutes, mutilated dead bodies start piling up. The aforementioned creature is Belial, who wants to take revenge on the doctors who cut him off of Duane and literally treated him like trash. So Duane and Belial move to the dingiest of all dingy movie hotels in order to track down the doctors. Of course this thin plotline is solely an excuse to line up as many grotesque and off-putting death scenes as possible. What's interesting about the story is how, in the middle of all this carnage, Duane falls in love with a young pretty receptionist (Terri Susan Smith), yet can't bring himself to commit to her because he's rightfully afraid that Belial, at the very least, will be hostile towards her. If even a movie about a tiny rubber monster clawing out people's faces can land a fairly relatable romance at the center of it, no other project has any excuse for not pulling it off.

Basket Case was made on the shoestringiest of shoestring budgets. The crew was so tiny, that they had to make up extra names for the credits because they were worried that using the same names over and over again would make the movie look as cheap as it was. "Art through adversity" firmly applies here, as the crew knows exactly how to manipulate their one unique special effect, the Belial puppet. They know when to use the puppet itself, or when to cut to impressive-for-its-budget stop-motion shots. In order to sell this glorified rubber finger puppet as a somewhat believable horror monster, they know that the visual is not strong enough, so they put more emphasis on sound, giving Belial a haunting scream that fully sells the creep factor.

At 90 minutes, the film is already overlong and especially gets repetitive during the second act with one predictable murder scene after the other. A brisk 70 minutes or so would have served this tiny budget cult classic better. I understand that this refers more to the film's lack of make-up budget, but having every killing culminate in tracks of fake blood on the actors' faces also limits the film's creativity. Hennenlotter found clever ways of bringing Belial to life, he could have been more versatile when it came to each kill.

The Blu-Ray:

Video:

Arrow's 1080p transfer from a new 4K restoration is the clearest and crispiest you will probably ever see Basket Case on home video. The presentation also offers a healthy amount of grain, without much scrubbing. Yet do you really want to see Basket Case so clearly, allowing you to notice issues with the special effects and make up? Well, that's another matter. For now, this looks objectively great.

Audio:

We get an LPCM mono presentation that does a good job of capturing the dialogue and music as clearly as possible. I think this is more of an issue with the original sound mix, but the range between dialogue and score is a bit far. Be ready to have your finger on the volume button if you need to watch it late at night in a quiet environment, which is the ideal way to experience Basket Case.

Extras:

New Audio Commentary: This commentary by Hennenlotter and star Kevin Van Hentenryck is full of amusing anecdotes.

Old Commentary: This older commentary from a previous DVD release has Hennenlotter and a chunk of the crew talk about the production in detail.

Basket Case 3.5: An amusing new 10-minute short by Hennenlotter that catches up on Belial after all these years.

Me and the Bradley Boys: An introspective interview with Kevin Van Hentenryck.

Interview with Frank Hennenlotter: This bizarre 3-minute "interview" should be seen cold.

Seeing Double: This is for super die-hard fans only, since it's an interview with the twins who have a tiny role in the film.

Blood, Basket, and Beyond: A short interview with Beverly Bonner.

Belial Goes to the Drive-in: Cult horror expert Joe Bob Briggs talks about Basket Case.

Basket Case at MOMA: You read that right. Basket Case was restored at MOMA, and this is a Q&A after a screening.

What's in the Basket?: A breakdown of all three Basket Case films.

In Search of Hotel Broslin: A 2001 tour of the main location from the film.

The Frisson of Fission: A really well done 30-minute visual essay by Travis Crawford.

Slash of the Knife: An early short film from Hennenlotter, which features a lot of the cast and crew from Basket Case. It's as weird and depraved as you might imagine. It also comes with optional Outtakes and Image Gallery.

Belial's Dream: An appropriately weird animated short by Robert Morgan. It comes with a brief Making-of Featurette as well.

We also get Outtakes, Image Gallery, and Promo Gallery.

Final Thoughts:

Arrow Video once again knocks it out of the park when it comes to their releases of important cult films, with a stellar A/V presentation and an overabundance of extras. The film in question is far from a masterpiece, and it has no desire to be one, but for super low-budget schlock, it's pretty impressive.

Oktay Ege Kozak is a film critic and screenwriter based in Portland, Oregon. He also writes for The Playlist, The Oregon Herald, and Beyazperde.com

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