Directed by Frank Henenlotter
Distributed by Something Weird Video/Image Entertainment
I’m going to level with you, dear readers- I’d never seen the cult classic flick Basket Case until a few days ago when I checked out the upcoming Blu-ray release from Something Weird Video and Image Entertainment. I have no idea how I missed experiencing Basket Case for so many years, but I’m certainly glad that this was my inaugural viewing for the movie because they really pulled out all the stops here.
Writer/director Frank Henenlotter recovered the original 16mm film reels for this transfer, making the Blu-ray the first time ever fans get to experience the madness and vibrancy of the flick just like Henenlotter always intended for us to.
If you’re like me and your experience with Basket Case is limited, let’s take a look back at this bizarre tale of telepathic conjoined twins, one a regular boy and one a deformed heap attached to the other’s side, who exact revenge on all those who were involved with the secretive surgery that separated the brothers against their will.
At the start of the film, we meet nice-guy Duane Bradley (Van Hentenryck) who’s just arrived in New York City (at the height of the city’s “sleazy neon” era) with a pocket full of cash and a mysterious wicker basket that he keeps locked at all times. Duane decides to check in to the rundown and shady Hotel Broslin, which is host to a handful of colorful characters including the cranky hotel manager (Vogel) and a “hooker with a heart of gold” named Casey (Bonner).
Once the young traveler settles in at Hotel Broslin, we soon find out the score: Duane used to be a conjoined twin, and several years back his father (who felt shamed by the freakish appearance of Duane and his massively malformed brother Belial) hired three crackpot doctors to perform surgery to separate the brothers in hopes that Duane could have a normal life and the hideous Belial would die from the operation. However, both brothers ended up surviving the surgery and once they realized they’d been separated against their wishes, the telepathic twins set out to destroy everyone involved with their separation, starting with their callous father.
Once Duane and Belial locate the doctors involved with their surgery, they set out to the Big City in hopes of confronting them and making them pay for their misdeeds. However, the brothers’ plan gets sidetracked a bit when Duane ends up falling love with good-natured receptionist Sharon (Smith), who works at one of the nefarious doctor’s offices. This does not please jealous brother Belial, and soon Duane’s deformed other half is unable to control his murderous rage when he realizes his brother’s attention is slipping away from him. After a series of attacks on the residents of Hotel Broslin, things finally escalate to a breaking point after Belial escapes and attacks Duane’s main squeeze Sharon.
Both Duane and Belial find their brotherly love being pushed to its limits, which leads to a tragic showdown for the film’s climax between the two, and if I say anything more, I risk ruining it for those who may not have seen Basket Case either. What I will say, though, is that considering the kind of bizarre and silly nature of the film, I found Henenlotter’s conclusion surprisingly mature and almost Shakespearean-esque, which was a nice twist.
Released in 1982, Basket Case was known for being one of those “you have to see it to believe it” kind of movies so that’s probably why it was one movie my mom just never let me walk out of the video store with as a horror-loving kid in the 80s. And if you’re a regular reader here on Dread Central, then it’s probably safe to say I don’t really need to sell you on Basket Case– if you have already embraced its oddball style and love Henenlotter’s hilariously gory cult classic, then you’ll want to make sure you pick up the Blu-ray once it hits shelves on September 27th. And if Basket Case isn’t a movie you’re familiar with, then this is the way you need to experience it your first time out- the way the director always intended the film to look like.
For the Blu-ray release Henenlotter created a brand new video introduction for the disc explaining the reasoning behind the release of a movie like Basket Case onto a high-def format (not a format you would regularly associate with a low-budget affair such as this) and why he wanted to present the film here using the original 16mm film for the transfer.
In terms of quality comparisons, when you look at the version of Basket Case currently available on Netflix Instant and judge it against what is being released on the Blu, there’s no doubt that this latest edition of the film is by far the best it’s looked in a long time. And if you have 120hz refresh rate capabilities on your flat screen, be prepared to have your mind blown because it’s highly unlikely that even if you were lucky enough to catch Basket Case in theaters in ’82, you still wouldn’t have seen the movie look as great as it does here. It’s still a 16mm film so don’t go in expecting high gloss or anything, but the movie definitely looks crisp.
The Basket Case Blu-ray is also bursting with even more bonus features than Henenlotter’s new introduction, making this a great value for horror fans out there. Not only do you get a wildly entertaining commentary with Henenlotter, producer Edgar Ievins and cast member Bonner, but you also get a really fun video called In Search of the Hotel Broslin (which was not an actual hotel in NYC at the time of filming) and a gaggle of outtakes and BTS footage straight from Henenlotter himself and a few other goodies (like the classic radio spots) as well.
The only negative thing I can really think of in terms of the latest Basket Case release is that I would have loved better audio on the disc. The film is presented in mono (which I get that it’s like the film was originally released with almost 30 years ago), but it left the movie’s audio really low and tinny-sounding at various times throughout the flick. But even though the sound could have been better, I can dig on the retro vibe of the presentation so I don’t feel like that’s a big enough reason to not purchase the Blu-ray if you’re still on the fence about spending your hard-earned money.
For those of you longtime Basket Case fans out there, this is a disc that is well worth picking up, and if you’ve never experienced Frank Henenlotter’s insane masterpiece that lovingly celebrates the sometimes schlocky and sleazy side of cinema, then I can’t think of a better introduction than this.
It made a Basket Case fan out of me!
Blu-ray™ Bonus Features:
3 1/2 out of 5
4 out of 5
Discuss Basket Case in the comments section below!
American Psycho Meets Creep – Strawberry Flavored Plastic Review
Starring Aidan Bristow, Nicholas Urda, Andres Montejo
Directed by Colin Bemis
Recently I wrote up an article here on Dread Central which was basically an open letter to anyone who was listening called “I Miss Found Footage.” Well, it seems like someone WAS listening, as I was then sent the link to an all-new found footage film called Strawberry Flavored Plastic from first-time writer-director Colin Bemis.
The film follows the “still-at-large crimes of Noel, a repentant, classy and charming serial killer loose in the suburbs of New York.” Basically, you could think of the flick as American Psycho meets Mark Duplass and Partick Brice’s Creep. That, or you could think of it as “Man Bites Dog in color!” However you choose to label Colin Bemis’ psychological thriller, just make sure you check out the film once it hits in the future.
As I alluded to above, the film is basically a found footage version of American Psycho. But that said, the film sports a twist on the charming serial killer subgenre that I have yet to see play out in any of the above-mentioned classics. I’m not going to go into spoiler territory here, but I will say that the film introduces an element to the tale that spins it into much more of a character drama than a straight horror film. Not that there is anything wrong with that!
Truth be told, the film’s turn from serial killer flick into a layered character study might have been its kiss of death, but this slight genre switch is rendered a minor issue as the film’s central narcissistic antagonist is played by Aidan Bristow. Bristow is an actor you may not have heard of before this review, but you will hear his name more and more over the years to come, I promise. The guy gives (no pun intended) a killer performance as the film’s resident serial killer Noel Rose, and time after time surprised me with how chilling, charming, or downright vulnerable he chose to play any given scene.
Bristow’s performance is, in the end, the major element the film has going for it. But that said, as a fan of found footage, I was smiling ear to ear at first-time director Colin Bemis’ understanding of what makes a found footage suspense sequence work.
In Strawberry Flavored Plastic director Colin Bemis is confident and content to allow full emotional scenes to play out with the camera directed at nothing more than a character’s knees. Why is this so important? Because it keeps the reality of the film going. Too many found footage directors would focus on the actors’ faces during such emotional scenes – no matter how contrived the camera angle was. In this film, however, Bemis favors the reality that says, “If you were really in this emotional state and holding a camera, you would let it drop to your side.” I agree, and it is small touches like that which make the film feel authentic and thus – once the shite hits the fan – all the scarier.
On the dull side of the kitchen knife, the film does feel a bit long even given it’s short running time, and there doesn’t seem too much in the way of visceral horror to be found within. Again, graphic blood and gore aren’t a must in a fright flick, but a tad more of the old ultra-violence would have gone a long way in selling our main psychopath’s insanity and unpredictability. But all the same, the film does feature a rather shocking sequence where our main baddie performs a brutal home invasion/murder that puts this film firmly in the realm of horror. In fact, the particular POV home invasion scene I’m talking about holds about as much horror as you’ll ever wish to witness.
In the end, Colin Bemis’ Strawberry Flavored Plastic is a must-see for fans of found footage and serial killer studies such as American Pyscho, Creep, and Man Bites Dog. I recommend giving it a watch once it premieres. If only to be able to point to Aidan Bristow in the near future and tell all your friends that you watched (one of) his first movies.
Lead actor Aidan Bristow turns in a star-making performance in Colin Bemis’ Strawberry Flavored Plastic, a found footage film that plays out like Man Bites Dog in Color before introducing a new element to the charming-serial-killer subgenre and becoming more character study than a straight horror. Think American Psycho meets Creep.
Who Goes There Podcast: Ep 148 – Inside (2017 Remake)
We’ve all heard the old saying, “in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” Well, I’m here to tell you that’s only partially true. It seems there is a third certainty that had been omitted from the original quote, “It is certain, if you enjoy a movie, at some point someone will remake that movie.” Now is the time when one of my favorite movies gets reimagined, “for an American audience”.
In the late 2000’s an explosion of “French extreme” horror films was released. Martyrs and or High Tension can often be found on any number of lists of the “most fucked up horror movies ever”. Unfortunately, the vastly superior Inside is often forgotten (as well as Frontier(s), but that’s a whole ‘nother rant). Now, ten years after it’s initial release, Inside has been Americanized. Don’t worry, we watched it so you don’t have to. You’re welcome.
Mommy says you’re not dead. Is that true? It’s the Who Goes There Podcast episode 148!
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Totem Review – It’s Not Always A Bad Thing To Look Up From The Bottom Level, If You Like That View
Starring Kerris Dorsey, James Tupper, Ahna O’Reilly
Directed by Marcel Sarmiento
Following the untimely death of a family’s matriarchal figure, a young woman finds out that managing to hold all of the pieces in place becomes increasingly more difficult when otherworldly infiltrators make their presence felt. We’re going to have to work our way up this Totem, as
17 year old Kellie is the leading lady of the home following the passing of her mother Lexy, and with a needy father and tiny tot of a baby sister, she still keeps things in working order, regardless of the rather large hole that’s been left in the dynamic due to the death. Kellie’s dad after a while decides to ask his lady-friend to move in with the family, so that everyone can move onto a more peaceful existence…yeah, because those types of instances always seem to work seamlessly. As fate would have it, Kellie’s sense of pride is now taking a beating with the new woman in the mix, and her little sister’s new “visitor” is even more disturbed by this intruder – only question is, exactly who is this supernatural pal of sorts? Is it the spirit of their dead mother standing by to keep watch over the family, or is it something that’s found its way to this group, and has much more evil intentions at hand?
What works here is the context of something innately malicious that has found its way into the home – there are only a couple moments that come off as unsettling, but the notion of having to weave through more than half the film acting as a sullen-teen drama is rather painful. The presentation of the “broken family” is one that’s been done to death, and with better results overall, and that’s not to say that the movie is a complete loss, it just takes far too much weeding through at times stale performances and even more stagnant pacing to get to a moderately decent late-stage conclusion to the film. Under the direction of Marcel Sarmiento (Deadgirl), I’d truly hoped for something a bit more along the lines of a disturbing project such as that one, but the only thing disturbing was the time I’d invested in checking this one out. My best advice is to tune into the Lifetime channel if you want a sulky teen-melodrama with a tinge of horror, or you could simply jump into this one and work your way up…but it’s a LONG way to the top.
Sulky, moody, and ridden with teen-angst buried in the middle of a supernatural mystery – SOUNDS like a decent premise, doesn’t it?
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