Location: 800 Young St, Tonawanda, NY 14150
FrightWorld America’s Screampark, located outside of Buffalo, New York, is one of the best haunted attractions ever visited by our review team. This attraction features five detailed, innovative and genuinely terrifying haunted attractions. Each attraction is perfectly crafted and custom-built to generate fear and caters to diverse fears. It is rare to find a scare or scream park, that features an almost perfect haunted attraction experience. Typically, when a scream park advertises “multiple” attractions, some of the attractions are weaker than others. At FrightWorld, every attraction is almost perfectly designed, features insane character actors and movie quality effects to make this a must visit for any haunt fan. FrightWorld America’s Screampark is well worth the lengthy trip to upstate New York as we give this attraction our highest recommendation. It is rare to find an attraction as memorable as FrightWorld, and we cannot wait to see what they have planned for the 2016 haunt season!
FrightWorld America’s Screampark is one of the most impressive, innovative and terrifying haunted attractions in the tristate area and features five unique separate attractions. FrightWorld, located in a commercial complex outside of Buffalo, New York, allows guests to visit each of the five separate attractions at their own pace. Each attraction is custom-built and features intricate set designs and intricate details that prompted us to go through the attraction twice to experience the depth and quality of this incredible haunted scream-park. While waiting to enter each attraction, the large space provided by the industrial complex features a snack bar and photo opportunities featuring talented scare actors. FrightWorld also has the advantage of a large parking lot, which makes getting in and out of the attraction far easier than most locations we have visited for the 2015 season.
At first glance, we expected little from FrightWorld, as the indoor/commercial complex did not seem to be the typical location for a scream-park. However, looks were deceiving as we were completely taken back by the design of each specific attraction, atmospheric use of sound and lighting effects used by this expansive indoor attraction. We have visited many of the major haunted attractions in the tristate area, including Pennhurst Asylum, Terror Behind the Walls, Reapers Revenge and Field of Screams, and can honestly say that FrightWorld is among this class as one of the best attractions ever visited. FrightWorld is also shockingly reasonable compared to many mainstream and local haunted attractions. General admission tickets are $25.00 per person, and VIP fast pass tickets are $33.00. The price point of this attraction is well below many of the attractions in the tristate area, and a value as we are typically used to spending well above these prices for attractions of lesser quality.
The first attraction visited, “Insanity”, is an indoor fence maze, that uses fog, strobe lights, insane character actors, blinding lights and lasers to constantly disorientate guests. “Insanity” was the first time we have ever become truly “lost” in an attraction, as the complicated maze and use of sensory attacks prevented us from easily escaping the attraction. Other guests entered into this maze and felt our level of confusion as we constantly walked into dead-ends and were bombarded by constant loud noises and character actors who clung to the chain-link fences. “Insanity” is designed to generate a genuine emotion of feeling “insane. Blinding fog and disorientating lights made us feel helpless in our endless effort to escape this attraction. Character actors used the all-out sensory attack of this attraction to torment us by taunting, grunting and popping out in front of us at the most unexpected times. We were expecting these actors to help us in our effort to escape but this was not the case.
“Insanity” is a unique maze attraction that uses sensory triggers to build panic and fear. Most mazes are easy to complete, or feature character actors that effectively guide guests to complete the attraction. Furthermore, we have been in mazes in which more guests hurt the overall experience, and reduced the difficult of the attraction. “Insanity” breaks these conventional perceptions of haunted attraction mazes, by mentally attacking and challenging guests to escape this terrifying structure. As more guests entered “Insanity” the panic level continued to rise, and the mazes confusing design, coupled with an all-out sensory attack created a constant sense of paranoia which quickly evolved into fear. “Insanity” uses loud sounds, such as blaring sirens, constant fog, and lighting effects to confuse, disorientate and create an environment in which we felt trapped. Lights would simply go out, leaving us submerged in the darkness, and pressure continued to rise as we frantically searched for an escape.
Eerie State Asylum
The second attraction visited, “Eerie State Asylum”, was a horror movie come to life, featuring authentic set designs, and gruesome scenes which perfectly compliment actors who play their “insane” roles to a tee. The set designs of this mental assignment are more detailed and disturbing than those found in “real” former asylums, featuring props which have been obtained from defunct medical facilities. “Eerie State Asylum” is a disturbing haunted attraction experience, featuring gory set designs, and talented scare actors who jump from “gurney” to “gurney” to convince guests they are truly insane. “Eerie State Asylum” is a mature haunted attraction, featuring intricate details that make each room disturbing. We visited rooms featuring surgical gloves stapled to walls, bloody props and medical devices used by insane actors, saw a lifelike dead body on an operating table and were constantly taunted by the aggressive scare actors around every corner. The disturbing imagery, and creative set designs, from the disgusting mess hall, to a realistic morgue make “Eerie State Asylum” a memorable haunted attraction, with nonstop action and insanity. We were impressed by the physical effort of each actor who constantly moved from room to room, jumping from scene to scene in an aggressive, relentless attack. Some of the actors ran themselves into walls, jumped in front of us, made inhuman noises and convinced us that they belonged in the “Eerie State Asylum”. We even found ourselves get “lost” in this attraction, as several passageways are confusingly designed to prevent escape.
The third attraction visited, “Grind House” inspired by the infamous movie classic “Texas Chainsaw Massacre”, features disturbing imagery, insanely detailed set designs, and aggressive scare actors that use the “saw” to generate constant tension and fear. “Grind House” is a disturbing haunted attraction in which the twisted scare actors use mature themes, gory props and intricate details to create a terrifying atmosphere. The level of detail in “Grind House” is indescribable as we found ourselves constantly finding new details that made each room uniquely themed in this house of horror. A knife yielding maniac chased after us as we gazed at a taxidermy collection, we passed through a disturbing hallway in which the house maniacs seemed to be developing “pictures” of their various victims, and encountered a movie quality scene in which a chainsaw yielding maniac burst out of a room to aggressively chase after our group.
We cautiously explored this attraction to appreciate the level of gore and horrific scenes featured in this attraction. “Grind House” is an exercise in cautious fear, encouraging exploration and rewarding with terrifying encounters with disturbed scare actors. Some of the most entertaining scare actors are featured in “Grind House”, such as a menacing weapon yielding maniacs, physically imposing actors, and a crossdressing actor who made us feel extremely uncomfortable. “Grind House” is an exhausting experience which uses mature scares to create a lasting impression on our psyche. We only wish a few more scare actors were added to some of the creepy set pieces. For example, when passing through a dark closet, we expected an actor to greet us before our escape. We were even told to watch out for “Uncle” as we entered into this closet yet the payoff felt flat. This was only a minor issue as the entire horrific design of “Grind House” is unforgettable, and the interactive scare actors featured in this haunt make this one of the best walk-through attractions of the haunt season.
The fourth attraction visited, “Condemned” is an elaborate, trip through an outdoor environment featuring detailed set designs including a visit with a cannibalistic scare actor in a tree- hut as we passed over a rickety bridge, an excursion through a hauntingly detailed graveyard, and a trip through a life-like swamp that made us forget we were inside an industrial complex. “Condemned” design transforms the environment of the attraction using sound effective and interactive set pieces along its lengthy path. The detail of this attraction is of the highest quality, we gazed into a waterfall, walked through the custom built cemetery and experienced various startle scares created by animatronic props. While “Condemned” is visually impressive, we found it to be the least scary attraction at FrightWorld. The attraction featured less actors than the other four which slightly hurt the overall experience. A few more scare actors hidden along the impressively detailed set pieces would make “Condemned” the perfect “swamp/outdoor” themed haunted attraction.
The final attraction visited, “Night Stalkers”, is the most innovative haunted attraction we have ever experienced. “Night Stalkers” is by far one of the creepiest, mentally disturbing and scariest haunted attractions of the 2015 haunt season. “Night Stalkers” is a mature, disturbing experience that is best described as an interactive video-game/movie experience, that encourages guests to explore the dark catacombs of this unique attraction. There is no attraction like “Night Stalkers” in the tristate area and the innovative technologies used by this attraction made the trip to FrightWorld unforgettable. As we entered “Night Stalkers” the attendant handcuffed a flickering “flashlight” to our arms, our only source of light as we made our way through the gritty hallways of this mature attraction. The flashlight turns on, flickers and turns off randomly along the attraction and actors are hidden amongst the darkness. We explored each room cautiously, and the attractions design kept us constantly in fear as we never knew what to expect. The level of detail encourages exploration, yet the flashlights unpredictably made us feel as though we had to preserve the “light” to escape. The interactive flashlight is not a gimmick, and adds immensely to this creepy, and hauntingly disturbing attraction. Mature scenes, from dead bodies sitting in church pews, to actors who hid in the walls made this experience terrifying. We found ourselves looking over our shoulders, searching each crack and crevice of the room to discover what was the source of our fears. This is by far one of the most innovative haunted attractions in the tristate area and adds an unparalleled level of immersion to the haunted attraction experience.
Throughout the attraction, we often found ourselves loosing track of the scare actors as the flashlight turned off and on. A constant urge to explore the detailed environments added to the dark atmosphere of this dungeon-like attraction. Several scenes featured in “Night Stalkers” are disturbing and mature. Pews of dead bodies greeted us along the darkness, and flickering lights constantly played tricks with our minds. It was difficult to guess what was “next” in this attraction as the constant manipulation of light and a false sense of control exerted by the “flashlight” made “Night Stalkers” an immersive experience that is unique to FrightWorld.
NEW for 2015! Buffalo's FIRST EVER interactive flashlight experience. Night Stalkers. Only at Frightworld, America's Screampark.
Posted by Frightworld America's Screampark on Saturday, September 12, 2015
The Final Word
FrightWorld America’s Screampark is one of our all-time favorite haunted attractions, featuring innovative, mature attractions that feature intricate details that have forever been etched into our memories. The attraction generates constant fear, and utilizes dark creativity to achieve this feat. Actors cannot touch you at FrightWorld, yet constantly come close and display a level of creepiness that disturbs throughout each attraction. The elaborate set designs of each attraction are above and beyond many mainstream haunted attractions, and play on individual phobias/fears. FrightWorld’s design is almost flawlessly executed as they use effective line management to ensure guests enter each attraction in small groups. The talented scare actors use the detailed set designs to create a unique, interactive experience in each diverse haunted attraction. Character and make-up designs of each actor are perfectly themed to each attraction and allow actors to interact with guests without touching. Minor touching would add to the terror level of the attraction and contact nights would be a welcome addition to this incredible haunted attraction. The hard-work, and dedication of the management, actors and staff of FrightWorld. is to be commended as they have created a very special haunted attraction experience. We cannot wait to visit FrightWorld again next year and strongly suggest you make the trip as you will experience an unforgettable haunted attraction experience and impressive technological innovations in a custom built nightmare.
Sinfonia Erotica Blu-ray Review – Jess Franco Meets The Marquis De Sade In This Romanticized Roughie
Starring Lina Romay, Armando Borges, Aida Gouveia, Mel Rodrigo
Directed by Jesus Franco
Distributed by Severin Films
After going my whole life without ever seeing a Jess Franco film, Severin Films is slowly forcing me to appreciate the man’s work. Previously, I had only ever seen Franco’s gargantuan output as an exercise in quantity over quality, which it arguably still is, but viewing the two recent “lost” pictures Severin just released has brought about a new appraisal. Franco’s films may have been done on the cheap, but the man clearly had vision, ambition, and brought as much production value to his films as budgetarily possible. He also brought controversy and damnation, since many of his works seem heavily focused on nudity and all manner of depravity. Even by today’s standard, when you can see virtually anything sexual on the internet, Franco’s level of lasciviousness is mildly shocking, if only because certain acts are typically verboten on the silver screen.
Sinfonia Erotica (1980) plays like it was trying to keep up with Tinto Brass’ Caligula (1979), only swap out Roman decadence for the posh trappings of a chateau in the French countryside. Franco remakes his own 1973 film Pleasure for Three here, though without having seen that picture I can’t say what he’s done differently. The storyline comes from the writings of the Marquis de Sade, whose writings were infamously erotic and dripping with all manner of sin. Franco brings as much of the page to screen as possible, leaving little to suggestion. Homosexuality, a “Devil’s threeway”, oral sex between all parties, rape, manual stimulation… all graphically presented in a way that is between Skinemax and actual pornography. But is there anything more to this threadbare feature than a storyline skeleton on which everyone can hang their clothes before getting down?
Kinda. The general plot here is the return of Miss Martine (Lina Romay) to the palatial estate she shared with her husband, Marques Armando de Bressac (Armando Borges), a notorious hedonist. Upon arrival, Martine is not greeted by her husband because he’s off gallivanting with Flor (Mel Rodrigo), his younger male lover. During one of their trysts in the fields they come across Wanda (Aida Gouveia), an unconscious nun who is about to be rudely introduced to some bad habits. After Marques and Flor molest the barely coherent woman, she develops a craving for their brand of unorthodox lust. Martine, meanwhile, is struggling not only with the fact her husband is essentially ignoring her after returning from a lengthy absence but that he now plans to enlist Flor and Wanda to help kill her. Of course, none of these machinations or revelations will stop any of these pleasure seekers from continuing to drown in the Devil’s work and writhe in passion.
While I can’t say this is a good movie, I do give Franco credit in a few areas. For one, I find it commendable that he’s chosen to redo an earlier film of his in the hope of making something grander. It shows maturity as an artist as well as a refusal to allow a perceived past failure to remain stagnant. Secondly, his location scouting ability is really something because one constant I have noticed across the three Franco films I’ve seen thus far is the man loves to shoot at places that seem like they’d be out of his budget range. The mansion and its impressive grounds are the ideal setting for this posh perversion picture, allowing Sinfonia Erotica to feel less like the Eurosleaze it is. Likewise, costuming and production design are a notch above what viewers might expect from such a ribald title.
In terms of horror, aside from watching two men rape an incoherent nun the only murder comes during the climax. The deaths are quick and simple, with no lingering shots or impressive effects work. Violence is wholly secondary to sex here.
The real coup here is that Severin Films is able to present this film in HD at all, sourcing their release from a newly unearthed 35mm exhibition print found in a crawlspace in Spain. Although scanned in a 4K the disc opens with a disclaimer discussing the provenance of available materials and suggesting viewers cut a little slack when watching something that might not have otherwise seen the light of day. That said the 1.66:1 1080p image isn’t awful by any means. Soft shots are frequent, film grain is often heavy and sometimes clumpy, and colors are lacking punch. Still, given what Severin was working with the picture does look reasonably cleaned up, though white flecks and damage are still visible, and the overall image is acceptably presented. Plus, like I’ve said many times before some films just look better when they stay rough around the edges and this is definitely one such example.
No dub is available, leaving the only audio option as a Spanish DTS-HD MA 2.0 mono track. This is a simple track with minimal sound design. Dialogue is understandable enough, though for most viewers this won’t matter since the subs are doing all the work. There is some hissing but it remains a minor issue. The score, composed by Franco, has a classical romantic feel, heavy on the piano and adding an air of regality to the proceedings. Subtitles are available in English.
“Jess Franco on First Wife Nicole Guettard” is an interview with the director in his later years (the year isn’t stated) discussing his working and personal relationship with the woman he divorced in the late ‘70s.
“Stephen Thrower on Sinfonia Erotica” is a typically informative featurette wherein Thrower discusses the period in Franco’s career during which he made this film, as well as covering various edits and title changes.
- Jess Franco On First Wife Nicole Guettard – Interview With Director Jess Franco
- Stephen Thrower On Sinfonia Erotica – Interview With The Author Of ‘Murderous Passions – The Delirious Cinema Of Jesus Franco’
This is probably the sort of film that appeals to only the most fervent of Francophiles out there but the work Severin Films has done to bring it home is commendable and the results, while far from earthshaking, are impressive given the difficulty level. As for the film, it’s an interesting exercise in debauchery and not much more.
Warhammer: Vermintide 2 Review – Rat Exterminator Simulator 2018
Available on PC through Steam (Coming to Xbox One and PS4)
Rated M for Mature
On the scale of cathartic guilt-free wanton slaughter, rat-men belong up there with zombies, Nazis, and cops in a Rockstar game. No matter how many limbs fly off, skulls get crushed in, and whispered wishes to see their families one last time before the cold embrace of death whisks them away, you’re pretty much free to do whatever without any of the self-conscious pangs that usually come along with murder. If Warhammer: End Times – Vermintide taught us anything, it’s that this unrestrained dealing of death is made all the more enjoyable when the victims are slightly adorable, in a gross ratty way. Now Warhammer: Vermintide 2 is here to deliver on more of the same, but with Chaos. Nurgle Chaos in fact, who are kind of like zombies and Nazis. So now that the gang’s all here, time to feel good about some ultraviolence.
For those of you unfamiliar with the series, Vermintide tells the story of the heroic Ubersreik Five (…or Four, whatever). An ensemble of fantasy tropes, you’ve got the racist snarky elf, the cheerful and outgoing dwarf, the shrill and sneering Witch Hunter, the maniacal and bloodthirsty Bright Wizard, and Markus Kruber. The team is brought together by plot for the purpose of rat slaying, and together with three of your friends you’ll murder your way to saving the world (but not really, because canonically speaking the whole world is fucked anyways). The series is an FPS in the vein of Left 4 Dead, but with a much heavier focus on melee combat. You’ll also have to unlock new gear like in Call of Duty, but unlike Call of Duty the class you play and loadout you pick actually matters.
Once you pick your favorite fantasy trope and prefered loadout, Vermintide 2 drops you into your selected level to complete a series of challenges and hopefully score some fat loot. In terms of simple playability, the maps are all as diverse as they are entertaining. The objectives are varied (sometimes you’ll be hunting for keys, sometimes surviving waves of foes, etc.), but always the same in that particular level. The level design is certainly geared more towards being a “game” than a living breathing world, and that’s fine. Games should be games, and if putting a random fence or broken bridge here or there to direct me towards my objective helps me slaughter rats I’m all for it. The overall effect is that the more you learn the level, the easier time you’ll have overcoming the endless hordes.
Now if this all sounds a lot like Left 4 Dead… well it is very similar. The major difference is the aforementioned focus on melee combat. While Left 4 Dead 2 used melee as an optional replacement for your sidearm, melee is the bread and butter for most characters in Vermintide 2. In service of that, the melee combat system is far more robust. You’ll have to learn to alternate between heavy and light attacks, block, dodge, and even what body parts to hit. On top of that, weapons have certain properties like armor piercing and high stagger. Even more on top of that, certain attacks have different applications of those properties. If you have a halberd, you’ll have to learn the difference between your sweeping attacks and your piercing jab attacks. The elf and Bright Wizard are more ranged focused, but the basic principles of knowing what your attacks do and which moves pierce armor still apply.
This is all just the basic overview of what Vermintide 2 is, but that’s basically all you need to know to have a good time. The game gets far more complex, but there’s a very primal satisfaction to be had in chopping your way through hordes of rats. In terms of just jumping in and having fun, the game is incredibly accessible. Anyone can understand the concept of pushing the attack button to remove heads from shoulders. Delving into the game’s complexity beyond that is really up to you.
If you do delve into it, you’ll find a hidden layer of challenge and reward that sets Vermintide 2 far above the competition. First off are the hidden tomes and grimoires. In every level there are three tomes and two grimoires hidden somewhere. These spots can be incredibly difficult to suss out, requiring excessive collectible hunting motivation to find them on your own. This can be a bit of a challenge when there’s an endless horde of rats nipping at your heels. In reality, you’ll probably just Google the locations and memorize them before the start of each map. Just knowing where they are isn’t all there is to it. Some are quite difficult to reach even if you know where they are, hidden behind jumping puzzles that are a bitch and a half. If you do pick them up, they will make your journey even harder. Tomes replace your potion slot—meaning that you cannot take a potion with you, not that you cannot ever heal again—and grimoires reduce your entire team’s max HP by 33% each. Collecting these prizes means more loot, but make sure your team knows their shit before you try one of these difficult challenge runs.
Now this is all stuff that was also in Vermintide. More of the same can be good when it’s well done, and Vermintide 2 is certainly well done. What makes Vermintide 2 a cut above the original is the new leveling system. Each character now levels individually, unlocking new traits and classes. There are 30 levels of traits to unlock, and two extra “careers” for each of the five characters. Each character levels individually, but loot boxes can be carried over between characters to make the grind a little easier. Still, it’s a hell of a lot of grind.
As a veteran of vanilla WoW, grind isn’t a dirty word to me. What matters is that the grind is leading towards something worth the time and effort. For Vermintide 2, that largely comes in the form of the different careers. More than just a visual change, careers can radically alter how your character plays. I’ve put the most time into Markus “Vanilla Ice Cream on a Waffle Cone” Kruber, as I like melee bruisers and I’ll be damned if I play a dwarf. Upon reaching level 7, I unlocked the Huntsman class and the character switched into a ranged damage role with strong melee backup. Reach level 14, and you’ll become a Man at Arms, an even tankier melee dude with a dash attack. Each career has its own skill tree, and certain weapons that only it can use.
So while I won’t see many people grinding all five of the crew to level 30, there is a lot of value to your repeated runs. The permanent progression that the leveling offers is a great way to add reward on top of the gear drops. The downside to this is that it’s far more difficult to hop between classes. While gear was certainly a factor in your success in Vermintide, you could still pretty easily jump into a character you only had a few pieces of gear for and do reasonably well. As your strength is now determined by your level, it’s not so simple in Vermintide 2.
This is a good segway into my biggest overall criticism with the game: playing with random scrubs is unbearable. If I had the choice between sleeping in an Arizona bar dumpster during the summer and trudging through all of the levels with random people, then I’d be using garbage bags as a pillow. Between having to know the locations of the tomes/grimoires and knowing how to actually be good at the game, finding a proficient four man team comprised of random people is like watching the last white rhino get hit by a shooting star. Even in my three man team, we’d quickly write off the fourth random player as more of a liability. The AI is decent enough at shooting stuff, but won’t pick up any of the collectible goodies without some inconsistent trickery. So you can either waste your time in subpar games, or get a solid group without other life commitments. And given the amount of grind that’s in this game, finding that consistently is the four-leaf clover wreath left on the rhino’s grave.
It’s a pretty major gripe in terms of my own personal enjoyment, but even in my most frothing moments of scrub-induced rage I couldn’t exactly fault the game for just being what it is. And what it is is excellent. A huge cut above other cooperate shooters, the edition of new chaos units and the leveling system makes Vermintide 2 replace Left 4 Dead as the industry standard. Cleaving hordes of skittering rats has never been so fun, and definitely shouldn’t be missed.
Here is where the review should end, but wait, there’s more! You can’t talk about Vermintide without mentioning the exceptional developer support. The original game was still cranking out patches, updates, and DLC years after its release. With Vermintide 2, Fatshark has already been on top of releasing a slew of balance changes, updates, fixes, and more. It’s only been a month since release (yes I know, this review is late), and they are on their third major quality of life improvement patch. As a game it was already excellent, but that kind of community interaction and developer support truly makes the game exceptional. It’s a game you should definitely buy, and a company you should be happy to support.
Ridiculously fun combat and near infinite replayability combine to form the perfect rat-smashing package. The best co-op shooter on the market. The only downside is that there isn’t a really good way to play without a solid team. Get your friends together and waste away the weeks.
Basket Case Blu-ray Review – Find Out What’s In Arrow’s Basket On This Definitive Release
Starring Kevin Van Hentenryck, Terri Susan Smith, Beverly Bonner, Lloyd Pace
Directed by Frank Henenlotter
Distributed by Arrow Video
Director Frank Henenlotter doesn’t boast a lengthy filmography but he is the rare director whose work is instantly recognizable and nearly every one of his pictures is a veritable cult classic. His decision to reject the studio system in favor of remaining in the dingy alleyways of independent cinema may have something to do with that limited output, but the films he has delivered are wildly original and patently weird – and it all began with a freak in a basket. Even Henenlotter must be astounded that he went from maximizing a $35,000 budget to film his debut, Basket Case (1982), to thirty-something years later seeing it lovingly restored in 4K by the Museum of Modern Art (and, boy, what a job they have done). Henenlotter’s films are pitch black comedic Cronenberg, taking body horror into the gutter and always ensuring his audience festers down there with it.
Duane Bradley (Kevin VanHentenryck) is an affable guy with boyish charm who has just arrived on the seedy streets of New York City with a wad of cash and a large wicker basket. His friendly nature and apparent naiveté belie the fact he has come to the city with a singular purpose – one with deadly intentions. Duane checks into a shitty room at Hotel Broslin and gets to work on his first task: tracking down a Dr. Needleman (Lloyd Pace). He succeeds and quickly heads downtown to meet the doctor, at first offering up his real name before deciding to use a pseudonym (Duane isn’t terribly bright). After blowing the doc’s mind with his body-length scar, Duane returns later that night, basket in tow, to pay the old “family friend” a visit and to answer the question on everyone’s lips: “What’s in the basket?”
The answer is Belial, Duane’s detached and deformed Siamese twin. Belial may be no larger than a basketball with T-Rex arms but what he lacks in stature he makes up for with brute physical strength and a savage bloodlust. Dr. Needleman is quickly torn to pieces and the duo begins to hunt down their next target. You see, Duane and Belial had a strong connection when they were younger and attached, one that included a psychic link that only Belial is now able to control, but after their father demanded an ad hoc team of doctors forcibly separate the two they’ve made it their mission to kill everyone involved in the surgery. Duane is committed to helping his brother complete their task, but he’s also trying to live a normal life – something Belial doesn’t understand. When Duane meets Sharon (Terri Susan Smith), suddenly his dynamic with Belial begins to shift, and when Belial gets angry it usually means one thing: someone is going to die.
Rex Reed famously called Basket Case “the sickest movie ever made!” and although sicker pictures had been produced before this (clearly Rex never ventured into Italian cannibal territory) he isn’t too far off the mark. It isn’t just about the buckets of blood Henenlotter spills here but the locations, too. Viewers will feel like a freshly steamed street vendor hot dog that’s been dropped into the gutter and kicked around for 90 minutes by the time the credits begin rolling. The squalor of early ‘80s NYC permeates the screen and forces audiences into a sticky, unsavory world. Henenlotter brings viewers to the underside of his “backyard” in a cinéma vérité style reminiscent of Abel Ferrara.
But also, there is a lot of gore. And grue. The bloodletting seen here reminded me of low-budget schlock like Blood Feast, where the filmmakers try to cover up cheaply done effects using lots of little bits – intended to be flesh, bone, skin, etc. – and the result is like chunky blood red mashed potatoes. It just looks sick. Belial kills with impunity and a complete disregard for suffering, often leaving his victims mutilated beyond recognition.
Henenlotter brings Belial to life via a handful of mediums. There is a puppet, a head appliance that is able to have a physical person bring facial life to Belial, and then there is the stop-motion animation, which is always a joy to see on screen no matter how crudely it may be rendered. The craftsmanship just oozes off the screen; you can’t not love it. Nearly every scene with Belial in attack mode strains belief that this thing could do much more than gnaw at some ankles but, hey, that’s the magic of movies.
One thing that is surprising: pathos. Duane and Belial have the closest bond siblings ever could, literally attached at the hip, and the flashback sequence treats their relationship and eventual removal with a degree of respect and heartbreak that, frankly, made the film feel much more tragic. I’m not saying viewers will be moved to tears but it’s a testament to Henenlotter that in the middle of all this death and dismemberment is a touching reminder of how these two came to be killers. Basket Case doesn’t hit the insane heights of my favorite Henenlotter picture, Brain Damage, but it does offer up a bit more heart alongside so much head-ripping.
Although Basket Case has been issued on Blu-ray a couple of times, this is the debut of MoMA’s 4K restoration and, just as you might suspect, it smokes every previous release. It would be easy to forget this no-budget feature was shot on 16mm because the clean-up of dirt and debris, as well as the finessing of film grain, has left the 1.33:1 1080p picture looking immaculate. Colors appear lifelike and rich, striking new life into the glitz of Times Square and the ever-present flow of blood. Black levels are excellent; deeply dark and never hazy. Soft shots abound, inherent to the source, but many close-ups and the handful of 35mm blow-up shows included in this transfer offer up strong definition and minute details. I can’t imagine the film could or will look any better, ever – and really, it shouldn’t. Clean as this picture is, it still retains enough grit and roughness to maintain its grindhouse aesthetic.
An English LPCM 1.0 mono track delivers the audio, which is free from hissing and other deficiencies, offering a finessed and simple delivery of the lo-fi soundfield. Gus Russo’s score bounces between moody keyboard synth cues and upbeat jazzy tunes that come into play when Duane has his big date. Scoring is minimal but effective when present. Also, expect to hear lots and lots and lots of screaming. Subtitles are available in English SDH.
Two audio commentary tracks have been included; the first, an all-new track featuring Fran Henenlotter and Kevin Van Hentenryck; the second, a legacy track with Henenlotter, producer Edgar Ievins, actress Beverly Bonner, and filmmaker Scooter McRae.
“Basket Case 3 ½: An Interview with Duane Bradley” is a fun short by Henenlotter in which he and a film crew head out to meet Bradley (Van Hentenryck) and interview him about life with Belial in present day, with an appearance by his diminutive double (naturally).
“Me & the Bradley Boys” is a new interview with Kevin Van Hentenryck, reflecting back on working with Henenlotter and making a cult classic.
“A Brief Interview with director Frank Henenlotter” is a weird, goofy thing that captures the director’s sense of humor, whether he’s in it or not.
“Seeing Double: The Basket Case Twins” is a sit-down with twin actresses Florence and Maryellen Shultz, who play the nurses in the film.
“Blood, Basket and Beyond” is a new interview with co-star Beverly Bonner, who has apparently taken her character outside the film world and into theater.
“The Latvian Connection” features interviews with a few of the film’s key personnel who share a heritage.
“Belial Goes to the Drive-In” is a great new interview with legendary film critic Joe Bob Briggs, who was a key figure in helping the film gain traction upon release.
“Basket Case at MoMA” is a lengthy Q&A from the film’s 2017 premiere.
“What’s in the Basket?” is a feature-length documentary that covers all three films in the series. This was previously seen on the Second Sight U.K. trilogy set, which is still available.
“In Search of the Hotel Broslin” has Henenlotter and his guest, R.A. “The Rugged Man”, searching out the remaining locations from the film, occasionally getting shut down along the way.
“Basket Case Outtakes” is a reel of quick, cut clips along with brief text descriptions.
“The Frission of Fission” is a video essay by Travis Crawford on freaks and twins in cinema, with emphasis placed on Basket Case.
Image galleries are included for Promotional Stills, Behind the Scenes, Ephemera, Advertisements, and Home Video Releases.
A promo gallery contains trailers, a TV spot, and radio spots.
The Slash of the Knife (1972) is a mock PSA short film made by Henenlotter and starring many familiar faces from Basket Case, about the dangers of the uncircumcised in America. It is available with optional commentary by Henenlotter and Mike Bencivenga. Outtakes and an image gallery for the short are also included.
Belial’s Dream is an animated short inspired by Basket Case. A featurette, “Making Belial’s Dream” is also included.
The package also includes a booklet with writings on the film, as well as reversible cover art and a basket-themed slipcover. All in all, a stellar release from Arrow Video.
- Brand new 4K restoration from the original 16mm negative by MoMA
- High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation
- Original Uncompressed Mono Audio
- Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
- Brand new audio commentary with writer/director Frank Henenlotter and star Kevin Van Hentenryck
- Basket Case 3-1/2: An Interview with Duane Bradley – Frank Henenlotter revisits Duane Bradley decades after the events of the original Basket Case
- Seeing Double: The Basket Case Twins – a brand new interview with Florence and Maryellen Schultz, the twin nurses from Basket Case
- Brand new making-of featurette containing new interviews with producer Edgar Ievins, casting person/actress Ilze Balodis, associate producer/effects artist Ugis Nigals and Belial performer Kika Nigals
- Blood, BASKET and Beyond – a brand new interview with actress Beverly Bonner
- Belial Goes to the Drive-In – a brand new interview with film critic Joe Bob Briggs
- Outtakes Featurette
- In Search of the Hotel Broslin – archive location featurette
- Slash of the Knife (1972) – short film by Frank Henenlotter
- Belial’s Dream (2017, 5 mins) – brand new Basket Case-inspired animated short by filmmaker Robert Morgan
- Behind-the-scenes of Belial’s Dream
- Trailers, TV Spots and Radio Spots
- Extensive Still Galleries
- Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Sara Deck
- FIRST PRESSING ONLY: Collector’s booklet with new writing on the film by Michael Gingold
Basket Case might be a dingy and gruesome slice of subterranean cinema but this excellent release from Arrow, touting the stunning 4K restoration by MoMA and packed with hours of awesome bonus features, is the kind of treatment Criterion usually provides. Highly recommended.
- Schwifty Wasn't it implicitly stated in the remake that Jason was a pot farmer? In fact, I recall reading a lot of reviews that complained about this very change from the original films.
- John Huckleberry Awesome cast
- DeadFuck What is going on with the comments section? It’s disqus on ipad and something else on my phone.
- Tarman_85 I really like it! It looks like the '78 Shatner mask that has been aged to look more like an old man mask instead of an old rotted mask.
- King 4_$$hole "A great man is made up of qualities that meet, or make, great occasions." James Russell Lowell RIP Bruno
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