Basket Case

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Ultra low budget gore fest concerning socially awkward Duane Bradley who checks into a New York Hotel carrying a large mysterious basket. He has to take care of some unfinished business. The run-down seedy hotel is rather depressing and the mood is spare and desolate. There’s a feeling of hopelessness in the décor from the shoddy furniture, to the front desk manager to the guests staying within. What’s in the basket and why Duane is there are questions best answered by watching the picture. The story is of the utmost simplicity, but what it lacks in narrative complexity, it more than makes up for in B movie entertainment.

The technical qualities are at once delightfully crude and hilariously imaginative. The script is wise about not playing its cards too quickly. For the first half hour the audience is completely in the dark regarding the basket‘s contents. I won’t spoil the reveal with a detailed description, but the entity is a combination of puppetry when close up and stop motion animation when it is moving across the floor. Let’s just say the effects are less than stellar. I mean I’ve seen better stop motion in a Rankin/Bass Christmas special. Even for 1982 these illusions are pretty inferior. Yet there is distinct charm in the meager production values.

And let’s not forget the sound effects which are equally primitive as the visual style. At one point, Duane dangles hot dogs over the basket, dropping them in one after the other to ostensibly feed his companion. We still haven’t seen the fellow at this point, but boy do we hear him! Gurgling and growling with lip smacking satisfaction. The creature gobbling them up with ravenous hunger. Notable sounds are significant later on in a surgery scene as well. As doctors cut through the skin dividing two separate masses, the nauseating sounds of the surgeons pulling the bone and tissue is amplified like giant stalks of celery being pulled apart. It’s outrageous in the extreme. Additionally the background synthesizer music is suitably creepy and the spareness of the notes benefits the menacing atmosphere. It sounds like the low rent version of music from a Doctor Who episode.

A decent plot with light comedy elements separates this from other cheapo horror of this ilk. There’s a surprisingly amount of back-story as the narrative unfolds. Inexperienced Duane manages to captivate an attractive receptionist at the doctor’s office to go out on a date. It’s strictly amateur night in terms of acting, but there is some character development as the two hit it off arousing the ire of Duane’s counterpart, who is apparently jealous. The production is the antithesis of sophistication. It can be kind of sleazy. A trashy tour de force where bright red blood is plentiful and thick like corn syrup. At times it’s so abundant, it splashes over the actors in an unrestrained splatterfest. However there’s a hilarity in those tacky effects. Although not particularly frightening, it manages to be disturbingly weird. In the end, Basket Case is a horror film with enough creativity and bits of campy humor to make it fascinating.

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6 Responses to “Basket Case”

  1. I love the review. I actually laughed out loud after reading various reminders of the film. It was fun to watch this “scary” movie.

    • This was funny, but almost in spite of itself. The humor may have been intentional, but it wasn’t obvious. That’s always better than a horror film that tries hard for the laughs.

      • Yes it was unintentional comedy, and in 1981, it probably was scary. Horror and special effects have come a long way.

  2. This sounds pretty much like what I expected. I’ve yet to watch this, but it’s been on my list for a while. Kudos for not spoiling what’s in the basket.

    • Yeah I try not to spoil things which are best discovered by watching the film. If you like movies like The Evil Dead, I’d say you should enjoy this as well.

  3. Markus Robinson Says:

    haha sounds like a fun movie. I have to check it out.

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