I’ve been intending to watch Basket Case for over two years now, and only last night did I finally get around to it. Of course, I didn’t exactly watch the movie as I did watch bits of it while waiting for gold to accumulate in Clicker Heroes. Also I sat there with it paused for about 20 minutes at one point while I mulled over whether to go out and get a pizza or not.
I’m really bad at watching movies, is what I’m getting at.
Basket Case was a lot of fun, though. An early 80’s monster movie, it really should have been more engaging for me, as that’s precisely the kind of thing I love. Or, used to, anyway. I haven’t watched such a film since… I don’t know, Pumpkinhead, two Halloweens ago? I used to watch cheesy horror films all the damn time. I don’t know what happened to me…
But that’s besides the point. The first thing you’ll notice about Basket Case is that the acting is all over the place. A lot of it is perfectly competent; not good, really, but not so bad that you’d ding the movie. But then, every once in a while, there is a line (occasionally an entire scene) that is delivered so poorly that you can’t help but chuckle to yourself.
And then there’s Belial. The titular basket case in two ways: he lives in a basket, and he is mentally unstable. Oh and also he’s a deformed clump of flesh and bone with a Bib Fortuna face and a couple of meaty paws. He was once one half of a pair or conjoined twins, and now his only goal in life is to murder the doctors that hacked him off of his brother’s side and left him for dead. Also to murder anyone else that gets too close. Also to steal panties.
The plot of the film revolves mostly around Duane, Belial’s properly-constructed twin brother. Duane hauls his stuff (and Belial) up to New York City, where he’s helping to track down the two remaining doctors (the first was killed in the intro) at Belial’s behest. He meets a colourful bunch of folks at the hotel they set up camp in, and even a pretty girl who serves as the receptionist for Dr. Needleman, the first NYC target.
Duane is not overly happy about his situation, but he goes along with it because Belial is his brother, and the two have lived a pretty sad life with nobody but each other. The backstory has the twins’ mother dying during childbirth, and their father blaming Belial for it. The twins are kept hidden from society, and the only person who treats them both with love and respect is their aunt.
Eventually, the father hires a trio of doctors to separate the two, and the surgery is a success, with Belial believed dead and tossed out with the trash. Obviously, he is not dead, however, and to get revenge, constructs some sort of insane murder contraption to kill his father. Now, this thing has to be seen to be believed. I possibly cannot hope to capture its glory with mere human words.
(However, the Google Image Search gods did not smile on me today, and I could not search up an image of this contraption. Also I am far too lazy to try to get my own screengrab of it. So I suppose you’ll just have to watch the movie!)
The boys’ aunt protects them from the police investigation, and is happy to keep Belial’s survival a secret. Eventually she passes away as well though, and I suppose that’s when the Quest for Vengeance truly began. Which brings us back to New York, where Duane lets loose Belial in Dr. Needleman’s office, where Belial so violently separates the doc’s upper and lower halves, and secures the address of his final target, Dr. Kutter.
I’d like to point out now that Basket Case isn’t as excessively gory as it could be. Lots of faces get sliced up, but really the high point for violence is Needleman’s death, where his two halves are shown apart from each other. Even the father’s death is kept mostly offscreen: you simply see the Death Machine roll towards him, then the shot cuts to his feet as you hear some questionable noises, and then his legs fall over in different directions. To imply that he was sliced in half, you see.
The “blood” in the movie is a thick, bright, paint-looking red. It squirts all over the place is used quite liberally, but I can’t see it passing even back in 1982. Belial attacks are more silly than scary, too. They mostly consist of a Belial glove awkwardly groping the victim’s face as they scream, or the victim dancing around while holding the Belial puppet up to their face. It’s goofy as all heck, and that’s why I love it. Suffice it to say, if you’ve got a weak stomach for violence and gore, Basket Case is probably on the safer side.
Back to the plot, Duane ends up falling for the receptionist girl, and Belial is not overly happy about it. Jealous, even. Apparently, when the boys were still conjoined, they shared a psychic link. Now, Duane has lost his ability, but Belial can still speak to him telepathically, and can also read Duane’s thoughts. I think. It wasn’t terribly clear exactly what he can do. But he knows that Duane has a secret girlfriend, and he throws a world-class hissy fit because of it.
Eventually they track down and kill Dr. Kutter by shoving her face into a drawer full of scalpels (which results in a hilariously stupid death scene), and then things get super weird. Duane gets hammered with another resident of the hotel, and stumbles into bed, completely unaware that Belial is no longer in his basket. As it turns out, Belial is hiding in the woman’s bed, and waits until she has hit the hay before revealing himself and groping at her breasts. This wakes her up and sends her screaming into the hallway while Belial quietly sneaks away with her panties as his prize.
Some nights later, Duane brings his girlfriend back to the hotel to bed her, but before he can even get her top off, Belial pops out and scares the ever-loving crap out of her. Duane then decides that the best course of action is to wrap her up in the bedsheet, shove her out of the room, and lock the door. Once the commotion dies down, he goes to sleep and has the oddest dream.
In the dream, he is running through the streets, buck naked, until he arrives at his girlfriend’s apartment. He sneaks in, finding her sleeping soundly in the nude. He starts fondling her as she slumbers until… he wakes up and realizes that it was not a dream, but a psychic vision of what Belial was up to. The girl wakes up too, and screams bloody murder until Belial kills her. Duane arrives on scene to find Belial just sort of… quivering on top of her crotch, because he’s not, uh, equipped to really do much else.
It is hands-down the weirdest rape scene I’ve ever seen. In the 80’s, it wouldn’t have even been considered rape because, well… You know, let’s not get into that. It was just, like I said, super weird. But arguably necessary to emphasize Belial’s jealously, frustration, and inability to cope with his feelings in a healthy way.
In the end, Duane and Belial freak out on each other back in their hotel room. The hotel manager busts into the room to check out the commotion, only to find Belial somehow lifting Duane off the ground by the crotch. This all culminates with the twins falling out of the window, Belial grabbing a sign in one hand and Duane’s throat in the other. A group of prostitutes gather around and watch as Duane is strangulated and Belial’s grip gives out, sending the boys crashing down to their end on the pavement below.
Of course it’s not actually the end because there are two sequels. Cinema!
All in all, I have to say that I did enjoy Basket Case. It plays a little differently than a lot of slasher movies, and I appreciate that it was not made to take itself too seriously (some may even consider It a horror comedy). I can’t suggest that it’s a must-watch by any measure, but it’s good, silly fun. Take a look if you’re a genre fan.
And because I know it’s been gnawing away at your soul, I opted not to get a pizza.