Today’s Monster Sketch is actually a suggestion from my brother Jeff. I got hit with a migraine today and was having trouble even thinking of something I’d be able to finish. Jeff asked if I’d done Basket Case yet, and while I HAD done Belial as part of a joke illo earlier this year (I’ll drop it in the comments), I realized I hadn’t actually done a real sketch of the malevolent muppet.
As always, click on the image for a larger version.
For way too long I mixed up Frank Henenlotter’s Basket Case with Larry Cohen’s It’s Alive. Belial doesn’t really look much like the Davis baby, but for some reason they were conflated in my head and I THOUGHT I’d actually seen the movie. It was only a few years ago that I managed to get around to watching it “again” and discovered that I’d never seen it!
So let’s get this out of the way: Basket Case is not a good movie. It looks and feels like an extremely cheap 70’s exploitation film, and I mean really cheap. The entire budget actually makes an appearance on-screen as a wad of cash flashed by the main character. It’s not an exceptionally big wad, either.
And yet… there’s something about it. Something endearing and likeable. That’s a pretty weird thing to say about a movie in which a separated mutant twin goes on a killing rampage.
Now, Belial is a pretty crappy special effect muppet, a latex monster with very little in the way of mobility, expression or realism in any way. And yet this stupid thing, this lump of not-flesh, is also weirdly effective. He can be terrifying, all teeth, black eyes and horrific screech, and he can be tender or pathetic. I dunno – he shouldn’t work at all, you should laugh every time you see him (and some of the stop motion bits ARE laughable), but again there’s a certain, ephemeral something about the design that just works. I think it’s down to Henenlotter and his love for his subjects, as damaged, broken and just play awful as they may be. See my review of Brain Damage for another Henenlotter film that manages to round that horn of terrible and become something with real emotion that’s actually worth watching. I should really get around to watching the rest of the Basket Case movies.
So what do you think of Basket Case? Or any Frank Henenlotter movie, for that matter? (I mean, I didn’t even mention Frankenhooker! Well, I mean, I JUST did…)