“What’s in the basket, Easter eggs?”
The Oxford English Dictionary defines the term horror thusly: “an intense feeling of fear, shock, or disgust” – as opposed to the term terror, which is defined simply as: “extreme fear”. Consequently, a film that horrifies its audience should work in a different way from a film that terrifies its audience.
Basket Case (1982) is a horror film. A seriously messed-up, nasty, gruesome, campy, disturbing horror film. And I think one of the reasons it works so well on this base level is that somewhere buried deep within the unpleasantness is a heart.
Yes, you read that right.
The back-story for the characters in this film involves intolerance, revulsion of those who are different, and nonacceptance – along with the themes of brotherly love and family bonds.
An interesting mix.
In some ways, the film is a throw-back to the old Universal horror classics, in which the “monster” was never fully bad. Recall that even in Dracula (1931), Bela Lugosi comments, “To die, to be really dead, that must be glorious!” – showing that even the Prince of Darkness can feel inner pain and torment. A similar inner pain and torment haunt the “monster” in Basket Case. And, also like the old films, this movie keeps its cards close – not revealing its hand until we’re well into the storyline. A nice touch that I find enhances the edge-of-your-seat anticipation of what will happen next.
Is it a good film? The short answer is: No. The acting is beyond bad, some of the special effects are ludicrous (although others work quite well), and the whole thing looks like it was made on a budget of about $1.50 (although in some ways, this seems to add a layer of filth to what’s shown throughout the film).
Yet as a horror film, it works. And the fact that the “monster” is sympathetic seems to make the things he does and thinks just that much more messed-up and disturbing.