We here at Horror Bound are big fans of horror. Duh. We are also big believers that any fun loving cinephile ought to be. Some people find it hard to get past their fears and some are overwhelmed at the sheer volume of horror out there. Including indie horror, which is wonderful, dozens of genre flicks come out every month. So, where does one start?
Well, we got you covered. This recurring article will be dolling out the 100 essential flicks from horror and will give you a heaping tablespoon of the various eras and sub genres. It also just so happens that this list was created by the great minds behind the Shock Waves podcast, including Charlotte’s adoptive mother, Rebekah McKendry, so it’s basically a family list.
These are not ranked, but, rather, in alphabetical order. Today we finally reach the ‘b’s with Basket Case.
I’m going to be upfront with you. I loved Basket Case as a kid, but it’s one that doesn’t really hold up for me. Maybe I watched it too many times as a kid or maybe the terrible special effects just burst me out of my dream state too much. Either way, I’m not the biggest Basket Case fan. I know Ryan Turek, one of the creators of this list, is a huuuuuuuuge fan of this movie, so it’s no surprise it’s on the list. I’ll do my best to do this classic justice.
The late 70’s and early 80’s were a powerful wind in the sails of horror. Several innovative filmmakers brought approaches to storytelling and filmmaking that pushed the genre forward and started various trends and traditions in the genre. Basket Case was certainly part of the move within horror towards independent and underground films.
There is a whole subsection of the genre dedicated to gritty guerilla filmmakers who made unique stories on a shoestring budget. Every day movies are released straight to digital or even just passed around via screeners and conventions that were made in the same way Basket Case was made. Filmmakers with little experience and less money who have a passion for telling spooky tales simply pick up a camera and go.
Here, Frank Henenlotter was just that sort of filmmaker. When he set out, though, he was just a New Yorker who was a super fan of exploitation and grindhouse movies of the 70’s. As he put it, he wanted movies that were rude and raunchy, movies that gave a big ‘fuck you’ to mainstream culture. The success of Basket Case ushered in the age of studios like Mondo and Troma.
Henenlotter believed feel and attitude were more important than taking one’s time to develop a rich story or characters. So, he took an idea and a camera and headed to Times Square. He wrote the script as he shot it. He got no permits, no licensing, no union assistance and used not one professional in the production.
He made the villain small so he could manipulate it himself like a puppet. He shot it, directed it, wrote it, edited it, you name it. I’m shocked he didn’t act in it. In fact, there were so few people involved that the vast majority of the credits at the end are fake names. He just didn’t want people to think the crew was pretty much him. I mean, he even did the foley work. “I hate to admit this, but any time you heard a woman walking, that was me in high heels.”
This weird little flick was a hit and spawned several sequels. It also inspired a generation of people to put their fears and self-doubt aside, pick up that camera and just get shooting! To this day, the horror genre is fertile ground for this approach to building a filmography. It may not be my cup of tea, but I truly appreciate this movie for the impact it had on the genre. This independent, get up and go spirit is one of the reasons my love for horror rests comfortably among the b-movies. Long live the mavericks!
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