Sunday 2 September 2007

Basket Case (1982) Frank Henenlotter

While Basket Case could hardly be described as a classic example of stunning filmmaking, it has every component required to become a real cult favourite. Lead actor of a bunch of terrible actors is Kevin VanHentenryck who plays Duane Bradley, a young man who looks normal in every way. He's tall, a bit naive, perhaps, and looks like a young Tom Hanks, but he seems normal enough, except of course, for the locked wicker basket that he carries around with him wherever he goes. Duane has found his way to New York City with a mysterious purpose that soon makes itself apparent. Inside the basket is his deformed and mutated Siamese twin brother, named Belial, and between them they're taking their bloody revenge on the doctors who separated them against their will.

Writer/director Frank Henenlotter apparently grew up inside the grindhouses on 42nd Street watching no end of exploitation films of every subgenre there is. That's completely obvious from the way Basket Case was put together. It exudes sleaze like you wouldn't believe. Most of the acting and dialogue feels like it belongs in a porn film and the sound effects and gore are gloriously over the top. It really is a genius piece of work, as much as that genius is really twisted.

One of the best decisions Henenlotter made was to not make a comedy. This has light hearted moments, for sure, but it's no comedy and that adds to the sleaze but also the value of the piece. While we're revelling in the outrageously inventive material, we really feel for young Duane and his animatronic mutant twin and we root for them in their gruesome quest. The characters are hardly great literate creations but they're well enough defined for us to despise the doctors and be thankful for Casey and Duane's aunt who are obviously good people, whatever else they might be.

It's also great to see real people, as that's exactly what these people are. From what I can gather none of them, from Kevin VanHentenryck on down are actors. Those few of them who appeared in more films than just this one rarely if ever ventured further than Henenlotter's other movies, and they seem exactly what they are: real people. They're almost the exact opposite of what we're used to seeing in the movies: they're balding, overweight, past their prime. They wear too much makeup and their clothes don't fit precisely right. Yet they're as perfect for their location as the buzzing Hotel Breslin sign.

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