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
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