Frank Henenlotter’s Basket Case trilogy is a longstanding favourite of many a genre fan. Sure, the films themselves are certainly an acquired taste, but Basket Case is one of those franchises that if you like it then you love it, if you aren’t keen then you’ll hate it. So, this latest release of the entire Basket Case trilogy is, in a way, a tricky number to review.
The first in the Basket Case trilogy arrived in 1982, best described as a twisted horror-comedy from the mind of the always-unique Henenlotter. Centering on Duane Bradley (Kevin Van Hentenryck) as he arrives in New York City, the big question that’s on everybody’s lips is “what’s in the basket?”, and it’s a question that’s soon answered. As the film progresses, we find out that the deformed body of Duane’s surgically-separated Siamese twin, Belial, resides in the basket that he carries everywhere with him. With Bilial ever the spiteful, jealous sort, Duane getting a girlfriend in the form of Sharon (Terri Susan Smith) only adds fuel to the already existing fire and leads to chaos and carnage.
After a pavement-splattering ending to the first film, Basket Case 2 would follow in 1990, this time seeing an old lady named Granny Ruth (Annie Ross) rescuing Duane and Belial from hospital and giving them a home amongst her household of freaks and oddities. Similarly, the final part of the trilogy, Basket Case: The Progeny, would continue with Ruth’s freak-filled funhouse, this time seeing them embark on a road trip in order to have Belial’s children born. And yes, they’re just as messed-up as their old man.
As a whole, the trilogy is a low-budget effort that is filled with some so-so performances and some totally ‘out there’ ideas. But still, there’s a certain charm and warmth to all three of Henenlotter’s Basket Case movies, giving them a special place in the heart of many a horror hound. Annie Ross is great as Granny Ruth once she’s introduced in Basket Case 2, and Kevin Van Hentenryck gets noticeably better with each movie, but the biggest star at times is the progression of the SFX work on show. In the first film, Belial himself often appears using stop-motion animation of a stationary puppet, but by the third film he’s a far more advanced beast in terms of his physical appearance and in terms of what Henenlotter and his crew could do with the technology at their fingertips. By the time Basket Case: The Progeny rolls around, Henenlotter is having a ball when it comes to the special effects used, and the film really is a case of just balls-out excess, marking it as arguably the definitive example of a Frank Henenlotter movie (and that says a lot, coming from a huge Frankenhooker fan such as this particular writer!).
Much like the recent re-release of Re-Animator, however, itself also a cult classic, the only thing new to this release of the Basket Case trilogy is that it has a slightly swankier case from Second Sight Films. The bonus content is all the same on this release as it was on the 2012 trilogy release, and the picture and sound quality is also exactly the same as that particular release. That's not to say that the extras aren’t worth your time – the making-of is great fun, Henenlotter and his passion shines on the commentary track, and the interview with longstanding poster king Graham Humphreys is a must-see – but if you’ve got the 2012 release of the Basket Case movies then there’s no real point in picking up this release. If, though, you’ve yet to add these cult classics to your collection, now is the perfect time.
Special Feature: “What’s in the Basket?” making-of the trilogy / Basket Case audio commentary with Frank Henenlotter, Beverly Bonner, and producer Ivan Ievins / Introduction to Basket Case by Frank Henenlotter / Interview with Graham Humphreys / 2001 short “The Hotel Broslin” / Outtakes / Radio spots / Trailers / Photo Galleries
BASKET CASE – THE TRILOGY / CERT: 18 / DIRECTOR: FRANK HENENLOTTER / SCREENPLAY: FRANK HENENLOTTER, ROBERT MARTIN / STARRING: KEVIN VAN HENTENRYCK, ANNIE ROSS, TERRI SUSAN SMITH, HEATHER RATTRAY, BEVERLY BONNER / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW