Posts Tagged ‘MoMA’

Basket Case (1982)

October 31, 2019

Body horror has roots in gothic literature, going as far back as Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, HP Lovecraft, and Edgar Allen Poe. The idea of using the transmogrification of flesh in order to horrify people is probably even older than that. Human biology and genetics are incredibly complicated and one little change can make things go far into abnormal territory. I am thinking, of course, of birth defects. I myself was born with a physical defect. I was born with two aortas. My mutation (which is rare but not unknown) is invisible except to medical testing. Others have mutations that are much more visible which unfortunately made them outcasts in society. My mind here is mostly focused on freak shows. Freak shows in carnivals, circuses, and similar situations were ways to monetize the quirks of biology. Of course, those who were the “freaks of nature” were the ones who were exploited. Still, that sort of thing is as frightening as it is fascinating.

Doctors’ offices have always creeped me out. Too much happens there that causes pain or is just plain gross. At best, you get poked and prodded while being asked extremely personal questions. At worst, you get an incompetent or misguided doctor who causes bodily injury and/or psychological damage. Of course, my opinion is colored by my own experiences. Like I said, I was born with a physical defect and doctors were baffled by it for a long time. They misdiagnosed me so many times before the real cause was found. There are two different tests that were horrific to stand out in my mind. The first was a sweat test. The test is administered by attaching electrodes to a person and using them induce sweating at specific spots where the sweat is collected for testing. I remember it burning and being freaked out by it. The other one I have talked about before which was when I was made to take laps around a building and then have blood drawn. It was probably the most exhausted I have ever been.

The first thing I noticed was how gritty and dirty the film looks. The film looks a little grainy and it felt like it enhanced the heavily shadowed, poorly lit sets. This ended up all working well because the movie is largely set in the seedier parts of New York City back in the late seventies and early eighties. A time when New York was dirty and dangerous. I really loved the gritty production design. The monster design looked pretty crazy at first but it definitely grew on me. The practical effects look surprisingly good for an obviously basement low budget horror film. There are also some awesomely creepy stop motion sequences. I love stop motion used in horror as it never fails to be chilling. The movie is really gory and the practical effects and blood spray looked really excessive in the best way. To be clear, I watched the version restored by the Museum of Modern Art two years ago when they added it to their permanent collection.

Kevin Van Hentenryck plays the young protagonist/antagonist, a young naive man who is on a mission but also seems to want a normal life. He is the character we see the most and therefore the movie is arguably about him. He has a kind and innocent side but also a dark and troubled side. He is really good at playing both sides of that particular coin. Beverly Bonner plays a receptionist at a doctor’s office who is immediately sweet on our main character. She is really good at being a street smart but cute young woman. Everybody else is great too. The movie is full of actors acting in a delightfully exaggerated way. Quite a bit of the movie takes place in a fleabag hotel and a bar and the cast of characters inside of both are lovably insane stereotypes.

Overall, I really loved this movie. The movie is gory and weird and unnerving. It was a great way to officially end Halloween with an homage to my birth year of 1982. I already have copies of the two sequels and I am looking forward to watching them. My usual Halloween Hangover will hit in a week with some weird additional bits. I have so many movies still to watch but, at least for now, Halloween is over.

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