31 Monsters in 31 Days: Basket Case

BASKET CASE, Frank Henenlotter’s 1982 ode to brotherly love, is a film I visit fairly often. It’s not a perfect film by any means, but its combination of dry, black humor, gleefully demented plot, and unabashed use of gore makes it perfect for me. And keeping with our theme, it has an unforgettable monster in Belial, the severed Siamese twin.

Curiously, unlike a lot of cult faves from the ’80s it took a few viewings for me to fully appreciate BASKET CASE. Not that I didn’t like it at first, but Henenlotter’s subversive approach needed some time to get under my skin. Generous amounts of splatter and an imaginatively deformed puppet (complete with gratuitous, unintentionally funny stop-motion animation) are easy to enjoy; it was being able to study Kevin Van Hentenryck’s alternately vulnerable, needy, and just a bit deranged performance that BASKET CASE’s true merit sank in. The film’s human aspect may be a tad cartoonish and over-the-top–it almost has to be–but it helps to ground the story and make it resonant.

One of the grindhouse era’s last gasps, BASKET CASE ranks among my all-time favorites.

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