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Blu-ray Review

DVD cover

Basket Case
The Trilogy


Starring: Kevin Van Hentenryck, Terri Susan Smith, Beverly Bonner and Annie Ross
Second Sight
RRP: £29.99
Certificate: 18
Available 22 October 2012

In the first film, Duane checks into a seedy hotel in New York, carrying a wicker basket. Inside the basket is Belial, his deformed siamese twin. The two had been born joined at the hip, Belial a misshapen head and two short arms. Although all the experts had said it would be dangerous to separate them, their father viewed Belial as an abomination and employed the services of a doctor prepared to take on the job. Belial was surgically removed against the express wishes of the brothers and left for dead. However, the two are telepathically linked, and Duane saved his brother and escaped to New York. Now Duane wants his revenge on the Doctor. However, Duane falls in love with the receptionist and tries to keep his liaison secret from Belial, who becomes furious at what he sees as competition for their special relationship...

Understandably, it's many years since I last saw this film. By today's standards it could be described as quaint. Viewers are more likely to laugh than be shocked or appalled, although I should point out that it was writer/director Frank Henenlotter's original intention for it to be a little tongue-in-cheek, if not an outright black comedy horror. Basket Case was a labour of love for him, which began with a more than modest budget of $7,000 but escalated before its completion to $160,000. Even in 1982 this was peanuts for the film industry.

Unlike Henenlotter's 1988 film Brain Damage, Basket Case has much to offer. The stop-motion sequences, particularly the one in which Belial trashes the hotel room, although dated, are well-handled for the time. But this film's strongest asset is the emotional bond between Duane and Belial, something you don't expect when it essentially involves a lump of rubber which spends most of its time in a basket and doesn't talk audibly. This is testament more to the strength of the script than the acting abilities of Kevin Van Hentenryck, who wanders through the proceedings with a Frodo-like startled expression.



The sequel continues directly where the first film left off, with Duane in a straitjacket and locked room in Granny Helen’s house, after his psychotic burst which culminated in his stitching Belial to his side again. Although Belial has been removed, and Duane assures Helen and her house full of ‘special people’ (or freaks as outsiders would call them) that he is quite sane now, Duane harbours resentment at Belial’s romantic attachment to one of the house guests. He also sees himself as normal; he longs to live a normal life, but his mental connection to his brother is impossible to shake off. Can he himself enjoy female companionship...?

A mistake often made in film sequels - particularly genre pieces - is that if one of something proves successful, then many more of the same will work even better. It often has the opposite effect, adding to the detriment of the original premise. These characters, all of which for some reason have bizarrely shaped heads, only add to the numbers, not the intrigue, as most of them are benign. The fact that one looks like a mouse and another like he’s swallowed a set of Pan pipes is merely a showcase for the make-up effects.



In the third film, Helen and her house guests travel in an old school bus to visit a friend in a small town. Belial’s lady friend is pregnant, and no sooner do they arrive than she’s popping out baby Belial's like peas from a pod. Meanwhile, Duane attempts to strike up a relationship with the Sheriff’s daughter, but she has an agenda of her own. A couple of police officers learn of Belial’s presence and break-in to the house to abduct him as a money-making enterprise. However, in a shock reaction they shoot the mother of Belial’s children and take the babies instead. Blood and chaos soon ensues, as Helen’s house guests gang together to take revenge. However, the babies are not as helpless as they first seem...

More of the same here. This is a better constructed film than the first sequel, but it still suffers badly from diminishing returns. There is one new special person... and, of course, the carnivorous babies. You will no doubt feel a brief pang of regret when Belial’s love interest meets her gruesome end, because she is the only one who could curb Belial’s violent tendencies. I know these films are supposed to be darkly humorous as well as gory and weird, but the truth is they’re not. They come from an era of prosthetics and model effects - well before the advent of CGI - so credit must be given for what was achieved. But the bottom line is, although they look very shiny in their new Blu-ray clothes, these films have dated badly, and so will only appeal to a horror collector or someone who has fond memories of them from youth.

I understand there are some extras present on the discs, but as my copies didn’t incorporate them I can’t/won’t comment on them.


Ty Power

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