Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Basket Case (1981)

Here's a short review of a picture I will be recommending until the day I return to dust (which sort of implys I'm recommending it beyond the grave. spooky). There's nothing quite like the love felt between two brothers, especially siamese twin brothers. Especially when one of those twins is a grotesque stinking blob of a creature that looks like Jabba the hut, except small enough to fit in a basket. Hence the title. What we have here is Frank Henenlotter's original masterpiece of filth (later surpassed by the unbelievably sublime Brain Damage). I don't know that I've ever seen a picture quite like this one and since I still haven't seen the two sequels I can truly say that this is the best film I've ever seen about a little blobbish man named Belial who lives in a basket, scarfs down hamburgers, murders with impunity, and repeatedly cock blocks his brother. If you want to see a movie where a blob with no sex organs somehow manages to rape a chick, well, this is the movie for you!

Duane (the other brother) is played by Kevin Van Hentynryck. He's the guy toting around Belial in the basket. Hentynryck certainly doesn't give what could be construed as a good performance, but it's still a fun one. Duane and Belial have come to New York City in search of the doctors who separated them. They lodge in one of those seedy Time Square hotels that used to exist at the same time as cheap hookers and peep shows. Before Giuliani stepped in and ruined it for us destitute perverts who can't afford the luxury services you might find online or in the yellow pages. Anyway, what will Duane and Belial do when they find the doctors? Duane does all the leg work such as casing the joints, etc. Belial, well, you'll just have to see for yourself. The actor who plays Belial gives a masterful performance. He's about one-foot-one and all skin and hands. Somehow, he's able to leap out of his basket and shred through skin, cartiledge, and crotch. Actually, he's not an actor at all. Belial was created through the magic of some crappy stop motion, the kind that's so crappy I couldn't help but love it.

The supporting cast in this thing is terrific as Henenlotter employed genuine New York derelicts; hookers, beatnicks, drunks, and dealers. I loved the effects of Belial on one of his rampages as he gouges, bisects, and gut rips his victims. In the oeuvre of New York City horror films, this one is at or near the top. Henenlotter is an innovative director who knows his way behind a camera and gets some truly memorable performances out of his actors, not one of which could be considered an accomplished thespian. Still, it's the relationship between the two brothers that make this a picture to cherish. When Duane tells Belial "don't worry, I'll never desert you" we believe him. Belial doesn't (he can read Duane's mind), however, and somehow manages to rape Duane's pretty new girlfriend (still not sure how). After such an egregious break in trust, how can the relationship between Duane and Belial possibly continue in the two sequels? I have no idea, but I can't wait to find out.


elmo said...

This thing has been staring at me from video store shelves for ages. I'm 'flixing this mother, like, now.

brian said...

If you don't feel sympathy, love, and revulsion for Belial (all at the same time) then you just don't have a heart.

brian said...

Also Elmo, I own this thing. I'll bring it in next time I work.