The tenant in room 7 is very small, very twisted and very mad.
Year of Release: 1982
Running Time: 91 minutes (1:31)
Director: Frank Henenlotter
Kevin Van Hentenryck ... Duane Bradley
Terri Susan Smith ... Sharon
Beverly Bonner ... Casey
Robert Vogel ... Hotel manager
Diana Browne ... Dr. Judith Kutter
Lloyd Pace ... Dr. Harold Needleman
Bill Freeman ... Dr. Julius Lifflander
Joe Clarke ... Brian 'Mickey' O'Donovan
Frank Henenlotter ... Theater Patron (uncredited)
Basket Case is the tenth in a series of reviews I've chosen to write as a tribute to Joe Bob Briggs for his lifetime of dedication to B, Drive-In and Exploitation movies. It was his Joe Bob Goes to the Drive-In column and host segments on Joe Bob's Drive-In Theater and Monstervision that inspired me to write with what limited ability I have. Thanks for everything Joe Bob, we all 'preciate what you do.
Regarding the ordering of these 12 tribute reviews, I'll be counting down the first 12 horror movies that Joe Bob reviewed back in '82 and '83. Less the titles I've already done up to this point. By the time I decided to do this, I'd already done some of those first 12 titles, so call that a blunder on my part. Basket Case, technically speaking, was the 5th horror movie Joe Bob reviewed in his Joe Bob Goes to the Drive-In column, and the 10th overall.
In the quiet town of Glens Falls, a very nervous Dr. Lifflander is suddenly attacked by... well... something. Something very small, misshapen, and very mad. Something with a swollen claw-like hand which rips the good doctor's face off.
Basket Case is about a young man who was born with a Siamese twin attached to his side. At an early age, the monstrous twin was surgically removed, but lived to deeply resent his cut-off day. His normal looking brother goes to New York, carrying a large basket wherever he goes. In the basket is the hideous twin. Neither brother can rest until they avenge their surgical separation by killing the doctors responsible.
Basket Case, remindin' us that even though hookers aren't generally judgmental people, even they draw the line when a squashed octopus monster starts grabbin' their tit without settlin' the check first. Can't really blame 'em, I mean, it ain't personal, this is the same response ANY guy would get after goin' for the airbags without handin' over the food stamps first. But anyway, this one's very special in the annals of cinematic history. Basket Case won Joe Bob Briggs' highly coveted Hubbie award for 1982 best picture of the year an in doin' so, cemented it's legacy as one of the single most disgustin' things ever put to celluloid. It's more than just a movie, it's a metaphor for life. It reminds us that even though life can take things from us, cause us irreparable physical and emotional damage an get us royally P.O.'d in general, it's never too late to tear the faces offa the people responsible. It's pretty inspirational if I may say so. Educational too, I'm not sure there's any problem this movie ain't got a solution for, an in lieu of that, we're gonna do a little something different here. Forget who loves the movie an who hates it this time, this sucker's just got too much practical real world knowledge to let it slip by. While it's tough to relegate its philosophical bounty unto just one topic, I've chosen one that I think stands out more than ever in this day an age, an there's one group of borderline humans that need to watch this movie more than any other an I think you know who I'm talkin' about. Obsessive, jealous, controllin' partners. Now I don't wanna make any disparagin' remarks against Belial (the squashed octopus) cause I can completely understand where he's comin' from on this quest to turn the doctors that sliced 'im offa his brother like he was nothin' more than a mole on a model's butt cheek into corned beef hash. But when he busts the tube outta the TV an leaves the hotel room lookin' like a trailer house on parole hearing day just cause it looks like his brother's about to socket the cock pocket we've got a problem. I want everybody not just to watch the movie, but to pay particular attention to this scene, cause every time you go through your partner's cell phone an go ape shit after findin' a cousin you've never met, this is what you look like to the rest of us. That's right, you look like a wad of heavily chewed Bubble Tape that's screamin' like a redneck tryin' to navigate Heathcare.gov. Nobody likes this, an that little trick you can do with your tongue just ain't worth it. You'd think after these people get dumped a couple dozen times an spend the next few weeks postin' those "if you can't handle me at my worst you don't deserve me at my best" jpegs on their Facebook feed so ugly people'll tell 'em how special they are, that just once there might be a moment of realization regardin' what all these failed relationships have in common. But that moment never seems to come, an that's why I'm recommendin' a dose of Basket Case for all these loose screws. It may be the only way to save 'em. You look like an enraged squashed octopus, STOPPIT.
Pretty deep stuff. I don't wanna get too caught up in preachin' the gospel of Basket Case an end up in the town square dirtier than Mike Rowe an havin' missed a week of work, like I did last time, but we've got enough time to run down a few more of its particularly significant revelations. First, it may seem pretty sweet to be able to get in to see a doctor anytime you want in NYC, but God help ya if you need a typewriter repairman. Second, you can leave a bloody file folder in plain sight an nobody'll give a shit. Just don't leave that file folder inside a wicker basket, cause that thing draws more suspicion than a single Dad pickin' up his kid from elementary school. An third, there's really no point in goin' to the emergency room when you can get most anything amputated in the comfort of your own living room. The doctors kinda like it too cause they can wander into the kitchen during the slow parts an cook up some sloppy joes til they're needed again. Those are all pretty important, but I do have one enormous problem with this movie an I think it's about time this situation was brought out into the open. I'm referrin' to suspension of disbelief. You've prolly heard me mention before about how when things become so detached from reality the movie ends up sufferin', an this movie features such an egregious act of implausibility that I just can't let it slide. Now I know dang well that my capacity for belief can be stretched to levels unmatched by anything save maybe the marks left on Octomom after she opened the door to the clown car, but this movie just goes too far. Does Henenlotter really expect us to believe that a man can walk SIX BLOCKS in New York City without bein' mugged? What's this guy tryin' to pull here? The man's either been heavily sheltered all his life, or he's just downright delusional. In the real world, Duane gets rolled five minutes into the movie an the parasitic squashed octopus twin gets hijacked by some gangbanger an the whole thing just ends. How can anybody peddle such nonsense an look at 'imself in the mirror? Cripes, what a joke. Other than that it's pretty well grounded.
The movie begins with some weenie headin' for his car in the middle of the night, only about half way he has a sudden attack of agoraphobia an runs back inside, curls up into a ball, an starts hummin' "It's a Small World After All" til he can calm down. Then he starts hearin' noises in the attic like two squirrels havin' a knife fight an tries to call the cops, only by that time somebody jerks the phone cord outta the wall an he runs upstairs to get his gun. Presumably so he can offer it in trade to the intruder in exchange for not poundin' the tar out of 'im. But then the lights go out an he prematurely unloads his one chance for salvation into the doorway an once he runs outta ammo a big gnarly hand grabs ahold of his face an performs some drastic surgery on it til he looks like a cougar maulin' victim. Cougar like the cat I mean. The other kind claws up places that're easier to conceal. Elsewhere, one of the Brady kids is haulin' a wicker basket down 42nd street in NYC on his way to a hotel. You can tell just how screwed up the kid is when he doesn't even consider goin' inside the theater that's showin' the I Drink Your Blood/I Eat Your Skin double feature. So he (Duane) pulls out a roll of bills about an inch an half thick an gets a room from the desk clerk. Luckily this isn't that great a hotel, so the roll should just about cover it. Then the clerk tells 'im he don't want any riff-raff up in here cause he runs a respectable hotel while this sloshed wino keeps jabberin' in the background an then asks 'im if he's alone. Yes, he's alone. Of course he's alone. I mean, obviously he's the only one here, so he must be alone. What kinda stupid question is that anyway? What's he on trial here?! Yeah, he's alone so back off! Anyway, after he gracefully defuses that situation, he heads up to his room an spots a hooker (Casey) goin' into 'er own room with a business associate an gets real scared when she winks at 'im cause she don't look like her intentions are honorable. So then he goes out an gets about a dozen Big Macs an dumps 'im in the basket an pretty quick the basket starts shakin' like Donald Trump when his limo breaks down in the ghetto an we hear what sounds like food day at a North Korean orphanage comin' from inside the basket. The next morning the wino from downstairs is skulkin' around Duane's door when Casey catches 'im an threatens to stick 'er stiletto heels in his eyeballs if he don't beat it an start showin' some respect. Or pay her to beat it for 'im. Anyway, she knocks on Duane's door an tells 'im about the little creep an warns 'im about leavin' anything valuable or drinkable in plain sight.
Then Duane takes his basket to a clinic an the receptionist (Sharon) starts tellin' 'im about how 'er typewriter won't work an starts makin' noises like a Chihuahua havin' a seizure to try an help 'im diagnose 'er problem. She also makes that noise if you use the pound sign on 'er asterisk. But anyway, once she realizes he's not there to fix the typewriter she makes 'im fill out some forms an starts tellin' 'im what a lousy tourist he is for not seein' all the sights around NYC yet an offers to be his tour guide. Seems like she just wants to guide his Washington Monument towards 'er Grand Canyon to me, but once he finishes the forms he finally gets in to see the doctor (whose office looks like he gets a lot of business from back alley abortions an butt implants) an tells 'im his chest hurts. So the doc (Needleman) tells 'im to take his shirt off an when he does it reveals a nasty surgical scar on his side that looks like about five pounds of Play-doh that got dried out in the sun. On his way out Sharon starts hittin' on 'im again so he goes an sets the basket down by the door an quietly gets 'er phone number so Mac Tonight won't hear what he's doin'. Then Duane an the wicker man go down to 42nd street to check out some kung fu movies, only Duane falls asleep for a minute an when he wakes up the basket's gone. Seems some creep snagged it an ran into the bathroom to see what's inside, only when he opens it something grabs a hold of his face an starts doin' deconstructive surgery til he looks like somebody set his face on fire an beat out the flames with a rake. Duane runs into the guy as he flees the bathroom an gives the thing inside that "oh I can never stay mad at you" look an heads for home. Elsewhere, Needleman's got the heebiest of jeebies an calls up some cougar (Kutter) an tells 'er Lifflander (the guy from the opening sequence) ain't answerin' his phone, presumably because the kid with the huge scar runnin' down his side that came in today that claimed he was dead made 'im that way. So Kutter tells 'im that if the cops ask that they dunno any Lifflander an that if he ever calls 'er again when she's tryin' to sneak roofies into 'er prey's drink it's gonna be him wakin' up with a fractured penis. But while they're yammerin' on the phone Duane has ascended Needleman's building an released the hack in the box which procedes to rip the door off its hinges an sneaks into Needleman's lab. By this point Needleman's shakin' like an illegal immigrant at an NRA convention cause he knows karma's caught up to 'im an when he flicks the light on in his lab he's attacked by a rabid banana slug that ends up carvin' hash tags all over his face an rippin' his guts open quicker'n a trust fund baby opens up daddy's safe deposit box.
Eventually the squashed octopus tires of playin' jump rope with Needleman's intestines an heads back outside where Duane loads 'im up so they can get home in time to catch the highlights on Sports Center. The next morning Duane feeds his lil fren' a package of hot dogs an tells 'im he's gotta go scout out their next victim so he got 'im a a little TV to watch Sesame Street on while he's out. But Duane is tricksy. He's actually out gallivantin' around with his trollop an it don't take long before the little guy's ESP link tells 'im he's been lied to an pretty quick he goes ape shit, busts the TV set an trashes the room so bad it looks like Spinal Tap slept over. Unfortunately, the whole building hears the latex destroyer screamin' like Tarzan gettin' a tattoo on his scrotum an before long the desk clerk kicks the door in an surveys the carnage. Ain't nobody home though, so the clerk herds everybody back to their rooms an goes back downstairs so he can resemble the eldest of the Super Mario Brothers some more. Then the wino picks the lock on Duane's room with a hairpin an starts lookin' around for anything he can trade for an Irish Car Bomb when the lid on the basket flies open an the squashed octopus gloms onto the guy's face an eats most of it before the alcohol fumes get the better of 'im. About that time Duane gets this look on his face like his Mom just walked in on 'im jerkin' off an ditches Sharon like he just felt somethin' unexpected rub against his leg. So Duane hauls butt back to the hotel where a detective starts askin' 'im all kinda questions like; does he keep a Tasmanian Devil in the house an if so, why does it hate daytime TV so much? Eventually the detective leaves an Krang flips the lid up on the toilet an emerges from hidin' so he an Duane can talk about their relationship an how anybody could possibly go that long without flushin' the pot. So Duane has to explain that just cause he was with a girl doesn't mean they aren't still bros an that he shouldn't go around eatin' random people's faces, particularly in this hotel where you've no idea where they've been. Later that night Duane goes down to a bar an ends up gettin' trashed worse than Rob Ford on a work day when Casey shows up an after they've packed away enough booze to kill Dean Martin she asks 'im what's in the basket. So he tells 'er; it's his brother. Which she finds hilarious until she realizes he's way too hammered to come up with anything this detailed on the fly an starts actin' like she left somethin' in Maine that she really aughta go check on. Duane don't notice though, cause he's flashin' back to his childhood an watchin' his Dad freak out about havin' to come up with a second name for the Mr. Potato Head attached to his son's side.
Then he flashes forward a few years to a conversation between his Dad an some doctors an pretty quick they drag 'im into an operatin' room they've set up between the kitchen an the shitter where they proceed to drug the kid an the gigantic pimple growin' out of his kidney area before they cut it off quicker'n Eron Tabor's dong in I Spit on Your Grave. Later that night, the kid wakes up to his severed kidney nipple's ESP an eventually finds 'im in a Hefty bag beside the yard clippins an rescues 'im. By this point Belial (the squashed octopus) is just a little bit P.O.'d, so he an Duane go down into the basement an build a skateboard ramp an set a Radio Flyer loaded with rusty farm implements at the top of it an when their father comes to see who's usin' the power saw they release the wagon an split father dearest from head to head. Then the boys' aunt comes home an tells 'em she'll take care of 'em an that she never liked the bastard anyway, so they all go downstairs an she reads 'em Shakespeare's The Tempest by the fireplace. Unfortunately, she kicked off after a few years which leads us back to the present where Casey's tryin' to haul Duane's inebriated ass upstairs to his room an is eventually able to get 'im onto his bed before he can faceplant onto the floor an end up lookin' like one of Chris Brown's dates. He seems pretty well out of it, but about five seconds later he bolts up an grabs the basket outta the hallway an mutters "almost forgot 'im" before floppin' back onto the bed. By now her curiosity's really gettin' to 'er, so once he's passed out; open wide she flings the basket to find... darkness there, and nothing more. What gives? Fuggin' basket's emptier than Justin Bieber's jock strap.
So after that let down, she heads home an goes to bed, only once she gets good an comfortable a big nasty hand reaches out an grabs 'er boob. She starts to wake up an mutter somethin' about "cash up front first honey" until she sees what's got ahold of 'er an runs like a matador that forgot his muleta in the dressin' room. Course she's also screamin' like a crazy woman whose abusive boyfriend's gettin' arrested so pretty quick the hallway's full of people again an by the time Mario the desk clerk searches 'er room an finds nothin' he's really startin' to regret droppin' out of barber college. The next day, Duane an Belial go to see doctor Kutter... veterinarian? Dad, you cheap son of a... we'd kill you if we hadn't already killed you. So anyway they go inside an when they get to 'er office Duane tells 'er his cat's inside the basket an he's got a real nasty cut on his side. But about that time she remembers Needleman's call an tells 'im to get the fuck outta her office before she gets 'er teenage boyfriend to beat the tar out of 'im. Then Belial pops out an starts rippin' 'er face apart to the chorus of Alice in Chains' Man in the Box an when she opens 'er drawer to find something pointy to stab 'im with he slams 'er face into it. Eventually her staff gets the door open to find 'er screamin' bloody murder with about five or six scalpals stuck in 'er face an... ya know, they tried to warn 'er about that do-it-yourself facelift kit, but no, they're just assistants, what do they know? Meanwhile, Duane an Belial make their escape an head home, only when they get there Sharon shows up blubberin' cause she just found out about Needleman gettin' turned into ground chuck an the only thing that can cure 'er derpression is a lengthy therapy session with Dr. Sausagelog. So Duane sets the basket down an goes for the groceries only to have Belial flip the lid on the basket an start bellowin' like a starvin' wildebeest til Duane has to roll Sharon up in a blanket like a gigantic blonde bimbo burrito an dump 'er in the hallway like... well like a Taco Bell burrito. Even after seein' the beast in the box she still wants to work things out, although I personally think she just likes the idea of the two guys fightin' over 'er, but Duane's too P.O.'d at the little cock blocker to pay 'er much mind as he struggles to stuff the shithead back in the basket. Belial may be boxed, but he ain't beaten, so we'll cut it here to preserve the ending of this heart warming buddy comedy.
Alrighty, well, this is the kinda movie that comes along very rarely and provides the hope that maybe we haven't seen everything after all. It was directed by one of the few guys in the movie industry that're screwed up enough to genuinely keep that hope alive so long as they're still kickin', unfortunately, he's on a pretty short list. Henenlotter's not quite as weird as Cronenberg or Lynch, but he's got a knack for exploitation that those two lack, and thus, is able to make movies with more visceral kick than they they can. This is on par with The Texas Chainsaw Massacre in terms of overall shock value, and these things just don't come along that often anymore. The only recent example I can think of would be The Human Centipede, which I cite only as something produced in the same vein, not as one that you'd say can rival either of those titles. Basket Case is undoubtedly one of the best truly low budget horror movies ever made, in fact, the budget is shown in the movie when Kevin Van Hentenryck checks into the Hotel Broslin. The wad of cash he's holding was the movie's entire budget, according to Henenlotter. Another interesting if poorly thought out fact about the movie was that during its initial release somebody decided to cut out all the gore scenes and turn it into a comedy. I really can't see how that'd do anything to increase the laughs, other than the fact that it may put a bit more emphasis on some of the movie's admittedly terrible special effects. But as you might expect, it went over like a hobo in church and they had to return all the footage that was cut out after the rabid cult following threatened to start eatin' faces much like the squashed octopus in the basket. Additionally, the dream sequence near the end of the movie where Van Hentenryck is runnin' around New York nekkid as the day God made 'im was completely legit. It's crazy to think that not only did the guy agree to do it, but that they got away with it. You can see cars driving around in the background and yet it didn't cause a fuss. I guess it is NYC, maybe everybody'd seen this sorta thing before. That scene is the cherry on the fucked up sundae. Just when you think they can't do anything weirder than what they've been doing for the previous 75 minutes, they pull that outta their asses. And keep in mind it was shot in the winter in the middle of the night. At least they had the courtesy to haul 'im around in a heated vehicle so the shrinkage level wouldn't be completely embarrassing. I'd like to discuss the strangeness revolving around the ending, but that'd be a pretty significant spoiler. But be warned, something that may or may not be a rape scene occurs. Seriously, may or may not, I really don't understand it.
Okay then, lets cut open this squashed octopus an try to figure out where the heck it poops from. The plot is phenomenal. Normally in a horror movie it's the special effects that make or break you, but this movie is all about the story's premise. This was genuinely original, and one of the first titles that comes to mind when amateurs try to tell me that all horror movies are the same. It's nothing short of brilliant, if completely screwed up and not particularly plausible, can't say enough good things about it. The acting, for its budget, is alright. Nobody's unbearably terrible, although Diana Browne as Kutter is probably the worst. Terri Susan Smith isn't so great as Sharon either, still, we're a few notches above Troll 2. There are a couple particularly good performances though. I particularly enjoyed Robert Vogel as the stressed out hotel manager who delivers a few great lines like: "this isn't a hotel, it's a nuthouse!" and "no junkies, this is a reputable establishment." Beverly Bonner is probably the most talented of the cast as Casey, the hooker with the heart of gold and the twat of platinum, although she doesn't get the kind of quality lines that Vogel does. Lloyd Pace is pretty entertaining as the extremely distressed Dr. Needleman as well. Everybody else is adequate but not particularly memorable. Here's who matters and why: Kevin Van Hentenryck (Rapturious, The Absence of Light, Basket Case 2 & 3, Brain Damage), Beverly Bonner (Bad Biology, Basket Case 2 & 3, Frankenhooker, Brain Damage), Frank Henenlotter (Frankenhooker). For you three normal people out there readin' this, Bill Freeman, who played Dr. Lifflander for about two minutes in the opening sequence was a catcher for the Detroit Tigers from 1961 - 1975. This was both his acting debut and curtain call.
The special effects, well, unfortunately this is the area that holds the movie back from breaking into the realm of the truly elite. The gore effects are all pretty well done for the most part. The blood is a little vibrant at times, but nothing terribly egregious. The shredded faces really look good, and the scalpels stuck in Diana Browne's face make for a very memorable scene. So the gore effects range from good to decent, without any really bad ones. Unfortunately, the problem is with the more important creation, that being, of course, the Belial puppet. Occasionally you get a good shot of it here and there where it's fairly convincing, but most of the time it's not. I'd say 10% of the time it looks good, 40% of the time it's decent, 40% of the time it's bad, and 10% of the time it's terrible. The really terrible scenes are the hilariously hokey stop motion sequences. They really could have used Harryhausen on this one. I understand that the budget was pathetic and that this was a crew of first time film makers and actors by and large, but it has to be told the way it is. The Belial puppet is pretty bad, more often than not. That said, the movie has such a great premise and so many other positives that it doesn't do the kind of damage it would to any ordinary monster movie, and that's very unusual. For me, nothing wrecks a movie quicker than bad special effects, but the fantastic plot and the fact that the monster doesn't look laughable in *every* shot keeps it from sinking.
The shooting locations are another high point. These movies shot on the streets of big cities are able to get a gritty, authentic look that other movies can't even begin to compete with. A couple other good examples would be C.H.U.D. and HENRY: Portrait of a Serial Killer. They don't try to dress everything up, they just show it like it is and I respect the hell out of that. It's got a few great shots of 42nd Street and is one of those movies that features what is now a somewhat ominous shot of the NYC skyline that shows a couple particularly impressive structures that no longer stand. Duane's hotel room is pretty authentic as well, it's a real hole, and looks very much like the kinda room you'd get in NYC for $20 a night. Shooting locations for this one were nothing short of great. The soundtrack is pretty fair as well, particularly considering the budget. It's fairly simplistic, but it's creepy and atmospheric, although the bulk of the movie doesn't feature much music, which works on that same Texas Chainsaw Massacre level I mentioned earlier, but the scenes that feature music are enhanced by it and I think they did a really nice job of determining what scenes those should be. Overall, this movie is screwed up enough that even with a tiny little budget it's become rather popular. A 6.0 on the IMDB is tough for a horror movie to get, and is almost unheard of for a low budget horror movie. The number of ratings it has blows my mind, and kinda provides a dim flicker of hope for the genre. It's a classic, don't just watch it, buy it. You'll want to see it more than once.