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Basket Case

by Andrew Green

When I was young, there was a show on the The Movie Channel every Saturday night called "Joe Bob Briggs' Drive-In Theater". This guy in a cowboy hat would show B-Movies -- in his words, pictures that have the "Three Bs": Blood, Beasts, and Breasts. They were usually horror films, poorly-made, but fun to watch. Joe Bob would always feature two movies, and deliver a little monologue on whatever issue he considered relevant before, and between, the main presentations. Often, his segments were simply about the films being run; however, he would occasionally talk about other stuff, as well (to me, the most memorable Joe Bob rant was the one about waif-like models -- "These girls ain't anorexic; they're just SKINNY!").

Joe Bob Briggs reveled in trashy cinema. In fact, he was a walking encyclopedia of bad film, and I thought he was great. I first saw his show at the age of about twelve or thirteen, and was immediately drawn in by this guy's enthusiasm for something no one else really seemed to take seriously. It was like Mystery Science Theater 3000 (one of my all-time favorite television programs) without the running commentary. As the weeks went on, I also found some value in the occasional GOOD movies that Joe Bob would feature (I first saw Night of the Living Dead on the Drive-In Theater, which was where my true love of motion pictures really began). Of course, more often, however, I simply got by on the Blood, Beasts, and Breasts, which Joe Bob would summarize for us in detail before each film began. "Evil Toons has eight cartoon monsters, 22 neked breasts, about 2 gallons of blood, one sorority slumber party, and one impaling by a power drill. Three stars!," he'd say before rolling the next feature.

Thanks to Joe Bob, I was also exposed to such gems as Surf Nazis Must DieThe Unborn, and Frankenhooker. Another particularly memorable movie I saw on the Drive-In Theater was Basket Case, which I recently revisited through the magic of Netflix.

Basket Case (1982)

Netflix description:

"Likable Duane Bradley checks into a Times Square flophouse toting a locked wicker basket. Turns out that inside is what remains of Duane's once-conjoined twin, Belial, who was surgically separated from Duane and left for dead on a trash heap. Now the siblings seek murderous vengeance on the doctors responsible, and Belial won't let anything stop him -- least of all Duane's nascent romance with a coy receptionist."

This is one of those shock cinema, ultra-independent productions that actually had some quality to it. A mild-mannered man toting a large basket checks into a hotel, and begins researching area doctors. Why? Well, his mutant brother -- who happens to live in the basket -- wants to kill them, of course. Hilarious interactions between our hero, Duane, and his blob-like twin save this film from being the basic gore fest it might otherwise have been. Although the deformed Belial depends on the relatively-normal Duane for most things, he actually has the psychological upper hand in their relationship...and once Duane starts to assert himself a bit, all heck breaks loose. 

Basket Case is weird enough to draw you in, and disgusting enough to keep you watching. There's a deeper dramatic edge to this film than most horror offerings of the early 80s, and well-shot flashback scenes to the twins' early childhood help to flesh out the story even more. Oh, and just wait until you see Belial once he's allowed out of the basket. He's hilarious -- like a giant tumor with crazy eyes and razor teeth scuttling across the floor.

Still, the movie does drag a bit, and its low production values (bad sound, grainy film, low lighting) can pose a distraction at times. This is a sick, disturbing, yet occasionally funny, picture. I say check it out if you're into this kind of thing (and I know I certainly am).

3 out of 5.