BASKET CASE: THE BEST TRILOGY OF ALL TIME, NO QUESTION

featuring: DJ Sorce-1, Thomas and Trent Haaga

Genghis Khan once said “mediocrity knows nothing higher than itself, but talent instantly recognizes genius.”

That’s a good quote to use on your friends, when they disagree with you about movies. And it’s especially good to use when you’re talking BASKET CASE.

Do you know what BASKET CASE is?

It’s a movie/trilogy of movies — BASKET CASE, BASKET CASE 2, and BASKET CASE 3: PROGENY — that demands our attention today for its…well, we’ll let our trilogy of superstar writers use their own adjectives on you. Suffice it to say for now, these movies are the type of movies that make most of your mediocre friends say “this is why we never let you pick the movie.” But, for reasons discussed at the beginning of this article, they’re wrong. Don’t take my word for it, though. Take these people’s word for it: my three favorite writers, who responded to my pleading emails about this article with original, never-before-seen essays about the films. The fact that they responded to me, a fat, small-time loser with no credentials, speaks to the passion these films arouse in people, I think. Hopefully, you’ll be a little aroused too.

BASKET CASE NUMBER ONE, with DJ Sorce-1.

DJ Sorce-1 (@ginosorcinelli) is an acclaimed DJ and rap journalist whose writing can be found below, and on his treasure-filled website HEAVY IN THE STREETS. And you should also take a look at his medium page. Really tight interviews on there.

“There’s no excuse for it, which is why there’s every excuse for it.”
— Frank Henenlotter, explaining a scene that caused several members of his crew to walk off set in protest.

People often ask me why I have such an intense fascination with horror movies. After giving it some thought, I’ve come to the realization that much of the appeal comes from horror being a bastard child in the world of film. Horror movies are often misunderstood, critically panned upon their release, and viewed as a lesser genre of film. It is also a genre where less is more. Many of the all time great horror flicks were shot on minimal budgets by rookie filmmakers who utilized local, inexperienced talent for the cast and crew. Essentially, there is something very organic and rebellious about horror that I’ll always love.

BASKET CASE is no exception. Shot on 16 millimeter film for a grand total of $33,000, BASKET CASE launched director Frank Henenlotter into the realm of cult superstar.

The film is a perfect mixture of all the great horror elements: a bit of slasher, some Cronenberg/Lynch-like physical deformation, and old-fashioned bloody revenge. The plot of the movie revolves around Duane, a normal-looking young man, and his Siamese twin brother Belial. Belial is a hideously deformed mound of flesh with eyes and arms. As youngsters, the two are separated by a group of evil doctors who leave Belial for dead in a plastic garbage bag. Unfortunately for the doctors, Belial survives. Flash forward several years later and the movie finds the duo all grown up and ready for revenge. Duane, now a young adult, carries Belial around in a wicker picnic basket. The two journey around New York City on a mission to murder those responsible for their crude separation. Sounds pretty good, right?

Among its many feats, BASKET CASE does a great job of capturing 42nd St. as it used to be. Having grown up there, Henenlotter has a keen sense of urban decay, and the nighttime city shots are some of the film’s finest. It shows New York in the 80’s before it was “cleaned up” and sanitized. The seedy Hotel Broslin, which serves as Duane and Belial’s hideout between murders, is the perfect setting for the outcast twins, and a charming cast of 1980’s drunks and degenerates provide comedic relief throughout the adventure.

It is difficult for me to summarize exactly what this film means to me and how it has shaped my viewing habits. BASKET CASE, along with the EVIL DEAD trilogy, was instrumental in turning me into a horror movie junkie. Since first viewing it on VHS nearly a decade ago, I have come to love the film for its bizarre sense of humor and its unmatchable originality. I have seen it countless times, and it is my opinion that there will never be another movie quite like it. While it can be deliberately hokey & silly, there is something genuinely disturbing about this film. It has aged well, especially with the overabundance of crappy low-budget horror today. If you haven’t already done so, do yourself a favor and pick up the 20th Anniversary DVD from your internet retailer of choice, or from your local depressingly-lit used DVD store.

BASKET CASE 2, with Thomas.

Thomas is the reclusive author behind the excellent, dead rap blog 100 GRAND ON MY WRIST, YEAH LIFE SUCKS.

It took a total of 8 years for a sequel to the original Basket Case movie to come out. Why is that, you ask? Probably because for the first seven years, everyone was like “making a sequel to this movie would not be a good idea.” But then finally they all did a bunch of blow and started having coke dreams like, “LET’S MAKE BASKET CASE 2, WE COULD WIN AN OSCAR WOO!!!”

Just to give you a quick overview; the Basket Case movies are about a guy named Duane who was born with a siamese mound of flesh twin who was surgically removed and is now carried around in a basket and kills people while his Duane feels conflicted about it all.

Basket Case 2 starts off right where the first one ended, with the mound of flesh monster, Belial (not a great monster name, I know), and his brother being rushed to a hospital, which they then escape from immediately. Why is it that hospitals are always so shortstaffed in horror movies? In real life hospitals are overcrowded with visitors, patients, and health care staff at all times, but in horror movies they are always dark and have a total of two incompetent nurses working in the whole building.

After they escape they move into a house of fellow freaks that is run by an old lady named Granny Ruth. Her motivation for running a safe house catering to deformed monsters is never explained, but we can assume that was left out on purpose for important artistic reasons.

Things all appear well until a reporter starts snooping around and discovers that Duane and his deformed monster brother are living there. The monsters then kill a total of three reporters and everything is ok again. Something interesting to note is how Belial, the basket case monster, is able to leap at people sans legs. He’s not using his arms either, he just floats at people when he attacks…he must have a really well developed core or something. Anyways, Duane then accidentally kills a girl who he really loves and then loses his shit and sews his deformed brother back to his side. The End.

“Well shit Thomas, you just told us the whole plot of the movie.”

You’re welcome! I imagine the screenwriter was apologizing profusely as he was handing out the scripts to the cast and crew, like “I’m sorry guys, I swear I tried really hard though. Let’s just make the best of this!”On a surface level, this appears to be a cheap, crappy horror movie, but who knows, maybe this movie is a metaphor for life that mere simpletons will not be able to pick up on. Here is a list of things this movie could possibly be a metaphor for:

1.) How you have to accept your family, no matter how embarrassing they can be.

2.) How difficult life can be when you “don’t fit in” with other people.

3.) How the media’s sensationalizing of news stories has lead to moral decay within our country

4.) If you have a strong core then you have a perfect foundation from which to make everything else strong.

5.) How the ever expanding global economy has changed out perception of nationalism. (You have to be really perceptive to pick up on this one).

This movie is terrible and there is no reason for you to watch it. If you actually are one of those people who goes out of your way to watch crappy horror movies that were released before your time then I highly suggest you get yourself a new hobby. Perhaps something that will not cause society to shun you as much, such as weightlifting or playing tennis. (EDITORIAL NOTE: These are Thomas’s two hobbies.) I’m kidding of course, this movie is the purest form of art and if you do not recognize its brilliance then you are probably a complete idiot who is barely able to function in everyday life.

OK, I guess Thomas didn’t like the movie. Don’t listen to him. He’s a music guy, not a film guy.

BASKET CASE 3: PROGENY, with Trent Haaga.

Trent Haaga is a beloved horror actor and screenwriter. I don’t want to weigh this bio down with his credits, but check the imdb. It’s glorious. He updates his blog, trenthaaga.com, 3–4 times a year, during the 10 annual minutes he doesn’t spend working on movies.

While cinema scholars endlessly debate the “has there ever been a sequel better than the original film” quandary ad nauseam, no one can deny that the third entry in a film’s series is almost universally terrible — a pale and sad shadow of the original film. I’m not here to claim that BASKET CASE 3: PROGENY is the best of the series, but I will argue that it truly stands on its own merits and manages to come neck and neck with the other films in the Basket Case series in terms of weirdness and originality. And I think that we can all agree that the films of Frank Henenlotter can be gauged in those terms.

BASKET CASE 3 picks up six months after the events of PART 2. Duane is in a straight jacket due to his break with reality, Granny Ruth is still the matriarch of the freak clan, and Belial’s girlfriend, Eve, is pregnant with his brood and ready to pop. The freak circus must go to visit Uncle Hal, an expert on mutant birth, and continue to run into trouble as they have to interact with the “real world” (who are invariably more evil and grotesque than our loving mutants). Add in a whole gaggle of baby Belials, a musical number, some insane alliteration, a guy in leopard print speedos, and a roboBelial, and you’ve got a great addition to the Henenlotter pantheon.

What can I say? I’ve got a soft spot for these films. Taken purely as a historical document, BASKET CASE 3 represents the kind of low-budget filmmaking that predominated the late 80s, before digital video put the direct-to-DVD world in the hands of kids who have only seen movies where six unsuspecting teenagers in a van on the way to a rave break down and get picked off by guy with a [fill in the blank] on his head. Back when “low budget” meant more than a couple of hundred dollars spent in the backyard of Mom’s house. These films are actual movies, not merely the death scenario movies that modern low-budget impresarios seem to love these days. Rubbery special effects, technicolor spew, and a body dysmorphia that would make David Cronenberg jealous wrapped up in a film with a pro-family, pro-mutant, anti-authority, anti-normal agenda…and entertaining as hell, to boot. Not only that; the film oozes an individual sensibility, which is something that all the best art should do. We’re taking a peek into the horrible and touching and funny and crazy brain of Frank Henenlotter, and it’s a place that I, personally, feel right at home in. A perfect illustration of this is the fact that when you look at the “recommendations” page for BASKET CASE 3, the third movie listed (behind the other two BASKET CASE movies) is CITIZEN TOXIE, a movie that I wrote and produced. Obviously I’m hugely influenced by the bizarre sensibility of the series, and I’m damn proud of it.

Damn, Trent. Thanks for carrying the torch. (And for this article.) Thanks, also, to the Estimable Pop Historian DJ Sorce-1. And to Thomas, too. And YOU! Stay weird, pal!

THE END.

http://www.instagram.com/boringhatofthemonth.