Features and Columns · Movies

The Grimy Charms of ‘Basket Case’ Find a Home On a Fantastic New Blu-ray

No one makes Frank Henenlotter movies like Frank Henenlotter.
Basket Case Header
By  · Published on March 19th, 2018

No one makes Frank Henenlotter movies like Frank Henenlotter.

Sure other directors make horror/comedies, exploitation pictures, and generally odd cinema, but any minute of a Frank Henenlotter film is instantly identifiable as belonging to his singular mad genius. My personal favorite among his filmography remains Frankenhooker (1990), but you can’t help but be charmed by his very first feature, Basket Case. The lovely folks at Arrow Video are also fans and have just released the film to Blu-ray with a fantastic 4K restoration and an over-sized basket-worth of extras.

The story is simple. Duane Bradley (Kevin VanHentenryck) is a young man in New York City who arrives at a seedy hotel with only a big basket, a wad of cash, and the clothes on his back. He hides the contents of the basket from people, and it’s for the best — his “twin” brother Belial sits inside. Belial, a lump with small arms and a face, was separated from Duane’s torso when they were teens, but they reunited and have now arrived in the city with a singular purpose. They want revenge on the doctors who performed the operation.

The plot of Basket Case sounds simultaneously grotesque and ridiculous, and Henenlotter delivers on both counts. Belial’s attacks on the doctors, along with anyone else who crosses his path, are bloody affairs that see geysers of blood and torn flesh left in their wake. His screams terrify and hurt the ears, and his victims try to keep pace with drawn-out, guttural yells of their own as Belial’s claws rake across their faces. It ends on an equally bleak note too that ends the brothers’ story in a decisive manner guaranteeing that there would be no sequel. (And definitely not two follow-ups.)

For all of its violence and bloodletting, though, and sometimes even because of it, the movie is home to a healthy dose of blackly comic humor. The brothers’ psychic relationship leads to some dark fun, and some of the supporting players have a good time playing up their characters. The laughs aren’t played broadly — that’s saved for the two sequels that Henenlotter definitely didn’t make seeing as how this first one ends — and instead they’re more situational or purely in response to the absurdity onscreen.

Basket Case is an odd little creation that plays by its own rules in its characters’ quest for revenge. It most definitely isn’t for everyone, but if you can stomach the blood and appreciate the humor it’s a film you’ll carry around with you for a long time to come.

Arrow Video Basket Case

Arrow Video bring’s Hennenlotter’s debut feature to Blu-ray with a fantastic new 4K restoration completed for NYC’s Museum of Modern Art. The film was shot on 16mm, but their work still delivers as sharp and distinct a picture as you could imagine. Not content to simply deliver the film with the best possible image, the label has also loaded it with extras new and old that offer insight into its production, have fun with the filmmakers, and reveal an immense love on the part of all involved for the film itself. All of the supplements below are worth a watch, but the ones with Henenlotter are must-sees. The guy is an endless stream of knowledge, insight, and candor.

Buy Basket Case on Blu-ray from Amazon

Related Topics:

Rob Hunter has been writing for Film School Rejects since before you were born, which is weird seeing as he's so damn young. He's our Chief Film Critic and Associate Editor and lists 'Broadcast News' as his favorite film of all time. Feel free to say hi if you see him on Twitter @FakeRobHunter.