Monday, October 5, 2009

Film Review: BASKET CASE (1982, Frank Henenlotter)

Stars: 4.5 of 5.
Running Time: 91 minutes.
Notable Cast or Crew: Henenlotter cronies Beverly Bonner and Kevin van Hentenryck.
Tag-line: "The tenant in room 7 is very small, very twisted and very mad."
Best one-liner: "What's in the basket? Easter eggs?"

BASKET CASE belongs to a specific subgenre, that of balls-to-the-wall, shoestring, dingy basement DIY filmmaking. It's for people who think EVIL DEAD had a comparatively big budget; it's for the fans of THE DEADLY SPAWN, BAD TASTE, and DEADBEAT AT DAWN; movies made by passionate craftsmen without two dimes to rub together, but with a whole lotta perverse, steadfast moxie. Presented, for your consideration, Times Square, 1981: "cockroaches big as dogs, saxophones playin' at 4AM, and winos pissin' on your doorstep."

It's a world that's gone to hell in a handbasket, and director Frank Hennenlotter is more than eager to provide the basket.

The contents of said basket include a lovingly rendered monster, alternatingly a puppet, mask, and some schweet stop motion. A throwback to the classic, tragic monsters who've yearned to be human, it's got equal parts Freudian subtext, Cronenbergian ickiness, and IT'S ALIVE-style pathos. It interacts with a cast that has that special breed of questionable acting, readily provided by real-life hobos and wacky eccentrics.

“They heard someone on a rammmm-page.”

SEE our shaggy, pompadoured hero feeding his basket a dozen raw hot dogs!

WATCH bloody, brutal revenge exacted on the sleaziest members of the medical profession!

GAZE upon a victim taking handful of scalpels to the face! This is great stuff. You will find yourself endlessly cackling at the awkward romance, ridiculous dramatic monologues (that I wish would make the rounds at auditions!), and perhaps the most prolonged scream in film history. As with every Henenlotter film, there's constant mumbling (a director's trademark- "But, eh, what do I know, I just run the, but what do I know..."), and the presence of Beverly Bonner (as the lovable, rambling hooker, Casey).

Kevin van Hentenryck and Beverly Bonner kick back a few Buds.

And be sure to check out the extras on the Something Weird DVD special edition (where Henenlotter sometimes works as a producer), which feature a glimpse of Bonner's insanely great public access TV show

and a spur-of-the-moment return to original locations (a few of which they're denied entrance to thanks to a-hole tenants) featuring the genial Henenlotter and the unhinged rapper/writer "R.A. the Rugged Man."

R.A. and Frank will become two of your new favorite people.

Five stars.

-Sean Gill

Side note: My forthcoming Halloween show will feature a piece paying homage to BASKET CASE, as well as another Henenlotter masterpiece, FRANKENHOOKER.

2009 Halloween Countdown

31. PROM NIGHT (1980, Paul Lynch)
30. PHENOMENA (1985, Dario Argento)
29. HOUSE OF WAX (1953, André de Toth)
28. SILENT RAGE (1982, Michael Miller)
27. BASKET CASE (1982, Frank Henenlotter)

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