Tuesday, 13 October 2009

Basket Case (1982, Frank Henenlotter)

Basket Case (1982, directed by Frank Henenlotter)

Ask anyone who knows me if I love Frank Henenlotter and they all know the answer is yes. "Who's Frank Henenlotter?", they say. "Stop going on about Frank Henenlotter," I'll hear. "No, I don't want my wedding video in the style of Frank Henenlotter."

Frank Henenlotter is a very modest b-movie auteur from New York City who, since being warped by the theatres on 42nd Street as a young man, sought to create glorious trash with his own name on it. Unlike most of the films that influenced Frank, his films attempt (and succeed) at being funny intentionally. Almost all of his films take place in New York City ("Basket Case 3" is the exception) and Henenlotter's vision of New York ranks up there with Scorcese, Abel Ferrara and Woody Allen in terms of unique interpretation of the Big Apple.

In Henenlotter's New York, the most interesting people in the city only come out at night, to ride the subway cars, to drink in late night weirdo bars, to dance in surreal rock clubs with ominous and symbolic names like "Hell", the 'straights' are boring and the inmates rule the asylum. In Henenlotter's New York, small rubber monsters torment psycho-sexually confused men and weird coloured fluid pretty much drips from the walls.

Stylistically, what makes this work is that in Henenlotter's films (especially "Basket Case") the films are explicitly gritty as well as ludicrous. The combination of a recognisable reality coupled with the truly ludicrous creates a unique comic mood.

The plot can be read elsewhere and...do you really care? If you're reading this, trust me - the plot to "Basket Case" does not matter. The characters basically amount to around TWO that matter - Duane, the more "normal" of our two lead brother, and Casey, the local prostitute.

Frank only recently got back in the directing game so his total output since 1982 is still only six cult splatter comedy masterpieces.

As a 16mm gritty grindhouse debut, ranks pretty high. It doesn't have great special effects like "The Deadly Spawn", or a genuinely horrifying atmosphere like "Texas Chain Saw Massacre" or "Maniac", but it does have a totally ludicrous and goofy sense of humour.

It's all very rough around the edges, but the "Something Weird" DVD release makes the film look a lot better.

Frank would make better films, for sure, but "Basket Case" is where he got his start.

No comments:

Post a Comment