Basket Case (film)

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Basket Case
Theatrical release poster
Directed byFrank Henenlotter
Screenplay byFrank Henenlotter
Produced byArnold H. Bruck
Edgar Ievins
Tom Kaye
StarringKevin Van Hentenryck
Terri Susan Smith
Beverly Bonner
CinematographyBruce Torbet
Edited byFrank Henenlotter
Music byGus Russo
Basket Case Productions
Distributed byAnalysis Film Releasing Corporation
Rugged Films
Creswin Distribution (Canada)
Euro Space (Japan)
Sinfonia Films (France)
Release date
  • April 7, 1982 (1982-04-07)
Running time
91 minutes
CountryUnited States

Basket Case is a 1982 American horror film written and directed by Frank Henenlotter, and produced by Edgar Ievins. Kevin Van Hentenryck stars as a normal-looking person who seeks vengeance for the unwanted surgery that separated him from his deformed conjoined twin brother, who he now hides in a basket.

The film gained an audience in the 1980s due to the advent of home video and has been considered a cult film.[2] The film spawned two sequels, Basket Case 2 (1990) and Basket Case 3: The Progeny (1991), which were also directed by Henenlotter.


Dr. Julius Lifflander arrives at his forest home only to get scared inside, a shadowed creature then cuts his phone line and power before killing Lifflander by tearing at his face.

Duane Bradley arrives in New York City with a locked wicker basket. He gets a room at a cheap hotel right down the hall from a sex worker named Casey, he takes some hamburgers and feeds them to a creature in his basket which talks to him telepathically. When Duane is out the next day a man named Brian O'Donovan looks through Duane's keyhole in order to steal Duane's wad of money. Casey scares him off and informs Duane about it. Duane takes his basket to see Dr. Harold Needleman and befriends his assistant Sharon. Needleman contacts Dr. Judith Kutter and tells her about Duane's visit and Lifflander's death but she ignores him. Duane goes back to Neddleman's that night and empties the creature (who is revealed to be his twin brother Belial) onto the floor who goes and kills Needleman by gutting him with his claws.

The next day, Duane goes to meet Sharon at the Statue of Liberty and they kiss. Belial senses this and trashes the hotel room in a temper tantrum before hiding when the hotel manager opens the door to see what the commotion is. O'Donovan sneaks back inside to steal Duane's money but is killed by Belial when he opens the basket. Duane senses the attack telepathically and hurries back and tells Belial that he deserves some time for himself. Duane and his basket run into Casey at a bar and drunkenly tells her that Belial is his twin brother. They were conjoined at birth and their Aunt was the only one who would take care of them, However the twins were surgically separated at an early age by Dr. Lifflander, Dr. Needleman and Dr. Kutter explaining their hatred for the Doctors. They then murdered their father which was ruled an accident and they lived with their Aunt before she died. They had then gone out to murder the doctors that had separated them. Belial deeply resents being cut off from his normal-looking brother, & Duane equally resents how heartless everyone acts towards his loving brother.

That night Belial sneaks into Casey's bedroom and scares her out before stealing her panties. The next day, Duane and Belial go to Dr. Kutter's office. She tries to dismiss them, but Duane reveals who he is before Belial kills Kutter by shoving her face into a drawer of sharp objects. Sharon goes to Duane's apartment seeking safety after Needleman's death and they start to make love before a jealous Belial starts screaming and Duane is forced to toss Sharon outside.

That night Belial goes out to find Sharon while Duane has a dream that tells him about it. Belial sneaks into Sharon's apartment and tries to sleep-rape her and attacks and kills her when she wakes up and screams. Enraged at his brother for his actions, Duane takes Belial back to the apartment in a scene that attracts several people to his apartment which exposes the existence of Belial. Belial attacks Duane which results in the two brothers falling from a hotel window getting knocked out as everyone surrounds their unconscious bodies.


  • Kevin Van Hentenryck as Duane Bradley
  • Terri Susan Smith as Sharon
  • Beverly Bonner as Casey
  • Robert Vogel as Hotel manager
  • Joe Clarke as Brian 'Mickey' O'Donovan
  • Lloyd Pace as Dr. Harold Needleman
  • Bill Freeman as Dr. Julius Lifflander
  • Diana Browne as Dr. Judith Kutter
  • Tom Tolan as Belial Bradley (uncredited)
  • Jerry Butler as Casey Greeter #1 (uncredited)


The movie was shot on 16 mm film. Basket Case had a budget of only about $35,000,[1] financed by a small production team largely with its own rental money to enable the film to be realized.[3] Director Henenlotter did not have control over the post-production, and the result was dark, murky, and converted to a different aspect ratio. The film was shot in part on Manhattan's 42nd Street.[4] Henenlotter wrote the film as he walked around Times Square, which he called a "seedy, wonderful atmosphere."[5]

The special effects for Belial consist largely of a puppet in some scenes and stop motion in others. When Belial's hand is seen attacking his victims, it is really a glove worn by Henenlotter. The puppet is used in scenes with an actor and where the eyes glow red. The sequence for Belial's rampage used stop motion animation.[6] The word Belial is a Hebrew word which means "wicked" or "worthless".


The film was released theatrically in the United States by Analysis Film Releasing Corporation beginning in April 1982. It played as a midnight movie for several years after this.[7]

Critical response[edit]

On the review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, Basket Case holds a 76% approval rating based on 25 critic reviews, with an average rating of 6.53/10. The consensus reads: "While Basket Case definitely delivers all the gonzo gore promised by its cracked premise, it's really set apart by its rich vein of genuine pathos.”[8]

Variety called it "an ultra-cheap monster film" with fine acting but criticized the blowup from 16 mm.[9] David Harley of Bloody Disgusting wrote that "it's exactly the kind of movie it sets out to be."[10] Heather Wixson of Dread Central rated it 3.5/5 stars and called it an "insane masterpiece that lovingly celebrates the sometimes schlocky and sleazy side of cinema".[11] G. Noel Gross of DVD Talk rated it 5/5 stars and called it "an undeniable, unavoidable and unforgettable clasSICK".[12] Patrick Naugle of DVD Verdict wrote, "The movie is just pure shock value" but "a heck of a lot of fun."[13] John Kenneth Muir wrote that it is "a fine, competent low-budget effort that generates thrills and discomfort not only from its tale of symbiotic (and separated) Siamese twins, but from its authentic sense of place. New York City has never felt more delightfully and dangerously squalid." Muir goes on to call it "oddly compelling, deeply disturbing and inexplicably touching".[14]

Rex Reed's quotation ("This is the sickest movie ever made!") used in promotion was not from any printed review. Reed had sought out the film after hearing negative reviews and was asked his opinion after emerging from the cinema. Unknown to Reed, the person who asked him was director Frank Henenlotter. Initially furious that his comment was used to promote the film, Reed eventually relented and granted permission.[15]

Home media[edit]

The film was first released on DVD in the United States by Image Entertainment in 1998.[16] This version is currently out of print. The film was re-released on special edition DVD by Something Weird Video in 2001.[17] It was released on Blu-ray September 27, 2011.[18] Henenlotter supervised the Blu-ray release himself and fixed many of the issues he had with previous releases. This restoration was taken from a 35mm interpositive, with the original 16mm negative, which had initially been thought lost, used as a reference.[4][19]


In popular culture[edit]

Belial attacking while Colin Mochrie acts as a news reporter

Several scenes of Belial attacking people were featured in the Whose Line Is It Anyway? episode "Willie Robertson" during a segment called "Newsflash" where one of the comedians stands in front of a green screen and pretends to be a breaking news reporter reporting live. Everyone else can see what's happening behind him/her and the comedian has to guess what's happening based on clues from the other comedians who portray news anchors.[20]


  1. ^ a b Towlson, Jon (2014). Subversive Horror Cinema: Countercultural Messages of Films from Frankenstein to the Present. McFarland & Company. p. 185. ISBN 9781476615332.
  2. ^ Tierney, John (January 14, 1991). "Era Ends as Times Square Drops Slashers for Shakespeare". The New York Times. Retrieved January 29, 2014.
  3. ^ Basket Case Trilogy – This Is Horror
  4. ^ a b Galluzzo, Rob (November 3, 2011). "FRIGHT INTERVIEW – Frank Henenlotter (Writer/Director of BASKET CASE)!". Retrieved January 29, 2014.
  5. ^ Sorrento, Matthew (December 22, 2008). "THE "BASKET CASE" RETURNS(?): INTERVIEW WITH FRANK HENENLOTTER". Film Threat. Retrieved January 29, 2014.
  6. ^ "In Search of Hotel Broslin". Basket Case DVD special features.
  7. ^ Duvoli, John (July 30, 1983). "'Basket Case' one cut above usual". The Evening News. Newburgh, New York. Retrieved January 29, 2014.
  8. ^ "Basket Case (1982)". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango Media. Retrieved July 8, 2019.
  9. ^ "Review: 'Basket Case'". Variety. 1982. Retrieved January 29, 2014.
  10. ^ Harley, David (October 19, 2011). "Basket Case". Bloody Disgusting. Retrieved January 29, 2014.
  11. ^ Wixson, Heather (September 19, 2011). "Basket Case (Blu-ray)". Dread Central. Retrieved January 29, 2014.
  12. ^ Gross, G. Noel (September 28, 2001). "Basket Case: SE". DVD Talk. Retrieved January 29, 2014.
  13. ^ Naugle, Patrick (September 23, 2011). "Basket Case (Blu-ray)". DVD Verdict. Archived from the original on December 31, 2013. Retrieved January 29, 2014.
  14. ^ Muir, John Kenneth (2007). Horror Films of the 1980s. McFarland Publishing. pp. 217–219. ISBN 978-0-7864-2821-2.
  15. ^ Walentis, Al (March 13, 1983). "Rex Reed on 'Basket Case'; 'Plan 9' sequel among undead". Reading Eagle. Retrieved January 30, 2014.
  16. ^ "Basket Case". Retrieved March 31, 2011.
  17. ^ "Basket Case". Archived from the original on February 16, 2007. Retrieved April 1, 2011.
  18. ^ Barton, Steve (July 11, 2011). "Basket Case Hits Blu-ray! All is Right in the World!". Dread Central. Retrieved January 29, 2014.
  19. ^ Wixson, Heather (September 21, 2011). "Exclusive: Frank Henenlotter Talks Basket Case Blu-ray; Possible Basket Case 4?". Dread Central. Retrieved January 29, 2014.
  20. ^ "Whose Line is it Anyway? Episode 11-06". Retrieved August 21, 2019.

Further reading[edit]

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