(1982) dir. Frank Henenlotter
I do take a great deal of pride in the broad range of films that I see. It’s one of the reasons that this diary is so utterly specific. I mean, I have gone to see a couple of the big summer movies and do often rent new releases on DVD, but I will range from seeing silents, foreign films, animation, and total low-brow trash/cult cinema, like Frank Henenlotter’s Basket Case. I mean, I do have a strong affinity for weird cult films, but I also do not purely watch them.
I’ve been into Henenlotter since I saw Frankenhooker (1990) five years ago and was recently reminded about him when seeing him in the documentary, Mau Mau Sex Sex (2001). Henenlotter is like a much less prolific Larry Cohen or something. There is a goofy, mad genius to this film, to everything that he seems to have worked on.
Basket Case, I thought I’d seen this before, but I am pretty sure that I hadn’t. The story, oddly touching, about a boy with a twisted monster Siamese twin, and the revenge they seek for the doctors who detached Belial and left him in a dumpster for dead.
Shot on location in New York City in the early 1980’s, there are many glimpses of a lost era of the city, with a Times Square crawling with pornography, strip clubs, and drugs (really reminds me of the San Francisco’s present-day Tenderloin without all the neon). And a cityscape include the famously demised twin towers. It’s also a film of a very different era, made with humor, camp, but also made to be blood bath. It’s period-ness is absolutely one of its charms.
Heavily peppered with bit characters with wonderfully delivered loopy lines and asides, the film has a sassy, wacky off-kilter charm from the very get-go. And the special effects are pretty wonderful, too. Moving between some rubbery body, face lump, the twin, Belial, is bizarrely but amusingly designed, and when he gets to move into stop-motion animation, you know this movie is the stuff.
I have to hand it to Henenlotter. The man is an unsung genius.