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Basket Case (1982)



Made on a shoestring budget by a previously unknown filmmaker and starring an unknown cast, Basket Case is a classic of the horror genre. While I'd prefer to stick with a more vague description of the plot since the film is even more effective if one is completely in the dark from the beginning, the premise is no secret (including the text on the back of the video box), so I'll give a brief recap.

The story centers on Duane Bradley and his Siamese twin, Belial, a misshapen mutant attached to Duane's side. Belial is little more than a head, two mammoth arms and hands, and a scrunched-up, partial spine. The film opens in the present, with Duane carrying the detached, telepathic and super-strong Belial around in a basket. About halfway through, an excellent, lengthy backstory is presented detailing Duane and Belial's situation from birth through shortly after their separation. The backstory gives a deep, symbolic motivation for their present revenge spree.

Most of Basket Case is filmed in the super-seedy 1970s New York City of films like Taxi Driver and Hardcore -and Taxi Driver is the only film that comes close to Basket Case's ability to capitalize on this seediness. The cast plays their parts with both creepy realism and understated camp at the same time, and there are plenty of uncomfortably scary moments. There is also plenty of gore for those of us who prefer our horror films to possess it. But the gore is not so overdone that it seems to be the only reason for the movie or that it seems out of context, and it shouldn't be offensive to anyone with the slightest taste for the genre.

The creature effects, while appearing a bit dated by now, are none the worse for it. They are a combination of claymation, simple puppetry and acting with dead props, but the direction, editing and acting are so superb that you never wish that you had computer graphics or million dollar models instead and you always suspend your disbelief. In fact, the seediness of the film is heightened by the nature of the special effects-hi tech bells and whistles would not do the trick here.

Basket Case is poignant, atmospheric, superbly executed and a textbook example of the advantages of working outside of the Hollywood system (it also has a refreshing non-Hollywood ending) on a tight budget with a dedicated, creative group of artists. There are some film fans with a complete lack of appetite for horror who might find it too disturbing. For everyone else, this is a must see.


The production was allowed to use a run-down hotel as a location, on the condition that the establishment's name not be revealed for fear of the Health Inspector.