Up next: A weird, little franchise we haven’t visited in a while…
June 3, 2014: Basket Case (1982)
Is Belial a sympathetic horror character?
Johnny: DISCLAIMER: When we watched Basket Case as part of our current Franchise Friday project, I totally slept through a ton of it. I was beat. But I’ve seen it enough in the past decades and I did catch good chunks this time around. Though, honestly, I was kinda expecting to answer that yes, Belial is a sympathetic character, which is how I remember him. Maybe that sentiment comes from the sequels? I feel like I remember him being more sympathetic or redeemable in the sequels. Because as far as just the first installment of Henenlotter’s series goes…No. He’s not. Maybe someone could make a case for him, but the little dude straight tries to rape Sharon and then kills her. Some of his actions may be born out of frustration and the fact that he can’t fit into and function in normal society, but I definitely don’t view him as a sympathetic character, so far as the first film goes.
Joanna: Uh oh. Typically, I don’t read Johnny’s replies before writing my own, but this time, I did. And with that being said, I kind of disagree with him. While I do not condone Belial’s horrific, bloody violence toward Sharon (Terri Susan Smith), it’s definitely born out of more than frustration. Duane and Belial were separated many, many years after birth–by terrible doctors (and a veterinarian). There was no intention of saving Belial during the operation; it was all about saving the “normal” child. So, as Belial and Duane set out to take vengeance on those hack docs, they both get a glimpse of the real world (aka NYC) for the first time. New sights, new sounds, new feelings. In a way, Belial is still a child–akin to Frankenstein’s monster and even Lenny from Of Mice and Men. Twin telepathy allows Belial to feel Duane’s feelings and urges. So, as Duane becomes more and more fond of Sharon, Belial is completely aware.
And in the end, it’s jealousy, confusion, excitement and ignorance that propels Belial to do what he does. And let’s not forget, murder and aggression have been a part of the Bradley boys since the beginning. Compassion was a rare occurrence. Had Belial (and Duane) been given a fair chance at life and happiness, it would have been an entirely different ball of weird wax. You gotta have a little sympathy for that.
June 10, 2016: Basket Case 2 (1990)
Made 8 years after the first movie, how does the sequel hold up in tone and, well, everything?
Johnny: Nearly a decade passed between the release of Henenlotter’s original Basket Case and its sequel. A lot changed in that time, both in the world at large and in film. And I don’t even need to check IMDb to tell you the second film had a substantially larger budget (though IMDb does confirm that). Re-watching part 2, it’s hard not to draw comparisons between Evil Dead and Evil Dead 2. Basket Case 2 is so colorful and over-the-top feeling, it feels like a weird comic book kinda movie in a way. So the tone feels a little different to me, though I suspect a lot of that is just production value versus actual content? And of course the introduction of a lot more characters than the first had gives it something bigger too. A bigger picture for the Bradley boys to fit into. At times the first movie felt like it was Duane versus Belial, and that’s made clear by the very end. In the sequel, the brothers are very much back in sync. Yes, Duane gets excited over the thought of living a free life, being able to get where he pleases, but that is only after he feels that Belial now has a secure home with Granny Ruth. Ultimately, I think the tone is definitely different but admittedly, I think I like the sequel better. I’m now excited to check out the third film in the franchise…it’s been a while since I’ve seen it.
Joanna: Had we re-watched Basket Case 2 prior to recording our latest podcast episode—our favorite 90s horror movies–this flick may have found its way onto my list. At least the honorable mentions section, for sure. The original was low-budget, brightly colored yet darkly lit, and, for the most part, had a cast of street actors. But the sequel? Sure, it’s not a crazy budget, but it gets an upgrade and goes full-on freaktastic. After Duane and Belial find themselves on the run, wanted for multiple murders, Granny Ruth seeks out the brothers to offer them a safe haven–her house full of beautifully weird creatures made from the most awesome practical effects. It’s a treasure trove of fantastical prosthetics and weirdness. These characters ARE sympathetic as they are the outcasts from sad stories. But they all have Granny Ruth and her seemingly “normal” granddaughter, Susan, to protect them from the cruel world. So, while the Bradley brothers battle with fitting into this new, accepting world, everyone finds love, friendship, and even more revenge. But just as you think the story wraps up in a tidy bow, we’re thrown the most absurd curveballs–yes, that’s plural.
Basket Case could have been a weird little standalone horror movie, but Henelotter had more stories to tell. He speaks for the weird and pushes the envelope far past what’s considered a little off. Hear, hear.
UP NEXT – June 17, 2016: Basket Case 3: The Progeny (1991)