Basket Case (1982)

Sometimes with the good Grindhouse titles of the seventies and eighties, there are also the truly awful ones that make it through the ringer and come out looking pretty. Unfortunately Frank Henenlotter’s “Basket Case” is a piece of junk that has managed to garner a massive reputation as a horror classic. For what reasons? I have no idea. I guess because Henenlotter is such a creative and interesting director. I won’t lie, a movie about a guy walking around with his deformed brother in a basket is original, but that doesn’t mean it’s watchable. Duane Bradley is an average guy with a large secret who has just made it in to New York, and is living in a hotel with some of the most idiotic neighbors around. They’re all so eccentric and colorful it becomes obnoxious after their second introduction.

Any time there’s even a remote noise in Duane’s room, all the neighbors rally around his door to bicker and no one ever actually calls the cops. This is a running gag that loses its appeal after the first time. And of course no one has the keys to Duane’s room to see what is happening. Duane is carrying around his brother Belial, a deformed demonic mongoloid beast creature who doesn’t really have a clear motive except to eat a lot of smother people with his hands. The editing is so awful Belial often looks as if he’s rubbing his victims faces with his hands as they spray blood along their cheeks screaming in horror. And there’s never a clear explanation as to what Belial can and can’t do. He requires being carried around, but can seemingly crawl.

He doesn’t have the strength to break a lock on a wicker basket, but can claw people to death and throw furniture around. Director Henenlotter wisely never reveals Belial for the first half of the film, and then once the script runs out of steam and motivation to care about anything happening, Henenlotter reveals Belial in his true form. What is shown is quite possibly some of the worst claymation ever shown in a film. And this is a laughable sequence considering by the eighties claymation had a charm and advanced with enough skill. But the claymation for Belial’s form as he runs around his hotel room trashing the furniture so bargain basement it looks as if someone with only a week’s worth of art school training approached this sequence and failed big time.

“Basket Case” can barely muster up any interesting characters and tries at every turn to introduce supporting characters who offer nothing to the story. Duane Bradley is a bland character and his sub-plot involving his romance with an office secretary is abrupt and poorly crafted. “Basket Case” really isn’t a film I intended to take with a stern dramatic element, but even as D grade comedy, it fails horribly. Even with Belial mauling people to death and running around with no legs, Frank Henenlotter’s film is tedious and almost unwatchable. Director Henenlotter’s film has a unique energy to it which may sum up why it’s considered a classic, but for me, it’s a film I won’t re-visit any time soon.A downright unwatchable horror comedy with terrible performances and amateur production values, “Basket Case” is a waste of time, and a film that fails to build a remotely interesting horror villain.