Retro rewind: ‘BASKET CASE’ and other eccentric horror movies from Arrow

Preston Barta // Features Editor

B-movies and the horror genre have inspired many filmmakers out there. Directors like Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez have actively said they draw a lot of their creativity from these kind of films.

Thanks to restoration companies like Arrow Films, we can see some of these movies that were shot on used car budgets, but have all the ideas and passion in the world.

BASKET CASE

Rated R, 91 minutes.
Director: Frank Henenlotter
Cast:  Kevin Van HentenryckTerri Susan Smith and Beverly Bonner

Like RE-ANIMATOR, the 1982 bizarre horror film, BASKET CASE, puts a clever twist on the B-movie formula. It’s got the cheap thrills, dated effects and buckets of blood to make a casual filmgoer squirm and put their hands over the eyes. But to those who have a tolerance for dark, gory and silly material, BASKET CASE will amaze.

The story is simple: Formerly conjoined twins (Kevin Van Hentenryck and the creepiest visual effects prop ever) go on a murderous killing spree to get revenge against the people who separated them against their will. They spend their days hiding out in a seedy Manhattan motel, chowing down on burgers and plotting how their going to do away with the doctors responsible.

What makes BASKET CASE such a joy to watch (as disturbing as that may sound) is the relationship between this young man, Duane (Van Hentenryck), and his monstrously deformed twin brother, Belial, who looks like a ghost with skin and two clawed arms. It’s through their bond that audiences go through so many different emotions.

In one moment, the film is horrifying, as the fantastic beast jump out his basket to eat at whoever opens it; and in another, it’s tragic, as writer-director Frank Henenlotter (BRAIN DAMAGE) takes a tender approach to informing the audience how the twins came to be in the predicament they’re in.

It takes a certain kind of audience member to appreciate a movie like BASKET CASE, but if you’re a horror movie lover looking for something to broaden your horizons, this is a film to snag.

Grade: A

Extras: The now-available release comes with a gorgeously designed casing that has lenticular title text and reversible cover art. There’s an informative booklet inside that contains essays and a fun comic book strip. Let us not forget the many great featurettes that include many, many interviews with the talent and filmmakers (both new and old), an audio commentaries and a rare short made by Henenlotter (featuring many of the same actors from BASKET CASE).

    • Brand-new 4K restoration from the original negative, produced by Arrow Films exclusively for this release
    • High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation
    • Original English mono audio (uncompressed LPCM) soundtracks
    • Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard-of-hearing
    • Audio commentary by Samm Deighan and Kat Ellinger
    • Scene-select commentary by writer-director Robert Altman
    • Interview with Robert Altman
    • Brand new interview with actor Cathryn Harrison
    • An appreciation by musician and author Stephen Thrower
    • Theatrical trailer
    • Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by the Twins of Evil
    • FIRST PRESSING ONLY: Illustrated collector’s booklet featuring new writing on the film by Carmen Gray and an extract from Altman on Altman

IMAGES

Not rated, 101 minutes.
Director: Robert Altman
Cast: Susannah YorkRene Auberjonois and Marcel Bozzuffi

An artful horror movie is one of the last things I thought I would come across in Robert Altman’s filmography. The SHORT CUTS and MASH director is an expert of dramatic and comical material, but with 1972’s IMAGES, Altman wasn’t too far from grasping horror with absolute ease.

Images resembles Roman Polanski’s 1965 horror thriller REPULSION. There’s an intensity and unshakeable feeling of watching somebody confused by what their seeing and killing what they can’t understand in the process. For Cathryn (a terrific Susannah York), she’s terrorized by five apparitions and later decides to kill them, not knowing whether they are mere figments of her imagination or real people.

IMAGES is a completely different horror picture compared to BASKET CASE. Most horror films these days are loaded with shiny things and loud bangs to capture viewers’ attention. Altman’s film is soaked in character development and tension, which can be the most effective horror of all.

Grade: B-

Extras: The now-available Arrow release includes an audio commentary; scene select commentary by Altman; an archival piece with Altman interviews, a new interview with Cathryn Harrison (who plays Susannah in the film – are you noticing the swaps with character and actor names?); a 30-minute appreciation featurette with critic and musician Stephen Thrower, and a theatrical trailer and insert booklet.

  • Brand-new 4K restoration from the original negative, produced by Arrow Films exclusively for this release
  • High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation
  • Original English mono audio (uncompressed LPCM) soundtracks
  • Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard-of-hearing
  • Audio commentary by Samm Deighan and Kat Ellinger
  • Scene-select commentary by writer-director Robert Altman
  • Interview with Robert Altman
  • Brand new interview with actor Cathryn Harrison
  • An appreciation by musician and author Stephen Thrower
  • Theatrical trailer
  • Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by the Twins of Evil
  • FIRST PRESSING ONLY: Illustrated collector’s booklet featuring new writing on the film by Carmen Gray and an extract from Altman on Altman

KILLER KLOWNS FROM OUTER SPACE

Rated PG-13, 88 minutes.
Director: Stephen Chiodo
Cast: Grant CramerSuzanne Snyder and John Allen Nelson

Anything with “outer space” slapped on the end of its title just sounds like stupid fun. Throw “Killer Klowns” (spelled with a “K,” yes) in that same title and you’ve got one of the most ridiculous movies of all time. Like, somebody thought this up one day and decided to make it into a feature film. It’s madness.

When it comes to stupid horror movies, the memorable titles are the ones that don’t take themselves seriously and are willing to poke fun at themselves. This is where the 1988 movie loses points.

The plot is explained in full in the movie’s title. It’s literally about killer clowns from outer space. Their makeup looks like people wearing masks and they waddle around with these guns that put people in cotton-candy cocoons. If that sounds insane, this clown posse chases after a couple (or I think they’re a couple; it’s hard to tell because the young woman also seems to fancy a local cop, too) and put them through some strange obstacles.

In one scene, the young woman (Suzanne Snyder) decides to take a shower at the worst time and all these clown alien things come out of her toilet and put her inside a balloon. This sequence is followed by a car chase scene between a clown car and an ice cream truck.

KILLER KLOWNS deserves a lot of credit for simply going for it. There is a lot of idiotic dialogue and situations the actors have to recite and endure, and their performances come off as poor because of it. The movie would be the perfect disasterpiece if it brought some meta humor to the table. Instead, we get a dumb movie with a killer theme song. (Seriously. I have already listened to that theme song by the Dickes a handful of times.)

So, watch KILLER KLOWNS with the right crowd, and your own commentary will be the source of your entertainment.

Grade: C

Extras: The best thing about this release (available on April 24) is its bonus features. There are a lot of them, and they’re good. It’s almost like watching a bunch of extras that are equivalent to THE DISASTER ARTIST, where you care more for the material because of the heart that was put into making the project.

These supplements include audio commentary, an anatomy of the theme song (my personal favorite), an all-new documentary that highlights the filmmakers’ (brothers Stephen and Charles Chiodo), many interviews with the filmmakers and talent, bloopers, deleted scenes and a Blu-ray case with reversible artwork.

  • Brand new restoration from a 4K scan of the original camera negative
  • High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation
  • Newly remastered stereo 2.0 and 5.1 DTS-HD MA audio options
  • Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
  • Archive audio commentary with the Chiodo Brothers
  • Let the Show Begin! Anatomy of a Killer Theme Song – an all-new interview with the original members of the American punk band, The Dickies
  • The Chiodos Walk Among Us: Adventures in Super 8 Filmmaking – all-new documentary highlighting the making of the Chiodo Brothers childhood films, from the giant monster epics made in their basement to their experiments in college
  • New HD transfers of the complete collection of the Chiodo Brothers 8mm and Super 8 films, including Land of Terror, Free Inside, Beast from the Egg, and more!
  • Tales of Tobacco – an interview with star Grant Cramer
  • Debbie’s Big Night – an interview with star Suzanne Snyder
  • Bringing Life to These Things – a tour of Chiodo Bros. Productions
  • The Making of Killer Klowns – archive production featurette
  • Visual Effects with Gene Warren Jr. – archive interview with co-writer/producer Charles Chiodo and visual effects supervisor Gene Warren Jr.
  • Kreating Klowns – archive interview with Charles Chiodo and creature fabricator Dwight Roberts
  • Komposing Klowns – archive interview with composer John Massari
  • Klown Auditions
  • Deleted Scenes with filmmaker’s audio commentary
  • Bloopers
  • Image galleries
  • Original Theatrical Trailer
  • Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Sara Deck

All movies can be purchased through mvdshop.com or locally at Movie Trading Co.

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