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The Brain That Wouldn’t Die, Plan 9 From Outer Space, The Killer Shrews, Manos: The Hand of Fate, Basket Case, and The Ape
Weekly Horror Bulletin Newsletter 241
August is always the year’s slow spot with new horror, as the film companies are saving the good stuff for October. In support of that, we’ve decided to review the all-time “bottom of the barrel” horror movies. At least the ones that are still fun to watch— there are many, many far worse films than these out there, but these have acquired “legendary” status over the decades since their release.
We’ll first get a head of things with “The Brain That Wouldn’t Die” from 1962. We’ll then watch the infamous “Plan 9 from Outer Space” from 1957. We’ll then hide from 1959’s “The Killer Shrews” and clap for “Manos: The Hand of Fate” from 1966.
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For our newsletter-exclusive bonus films this week, we’ll also watch:
“The Ape” (1940) - Boris Karloff monkeys around.
“Basket Case” (1982) - What’s in that basket?
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The Brain That Wouldn't Die (1962)
Directed by Joseph Green
Written by Doris Brent, Joseph Green
Stars Jason Evers, Virginia Leith, Anthony La Penna, Adele Lamont
Run Time: 1 Hour, 22 Minutes
Spoiler-Free Judgment Zone
It’s a pretty awful movie at its core, with lots to pick apart. On the other hand, it does have a story, they are trying hard, and it’s a fun watch. So you may be reluctantly entertained if you watch it.
We open on a pair of father and son surgeons. The operation is a failure, and the patient dies. “Now Dad, do I have permission to do things my way? He’s dead, I can’t do any harm.” They cut open the dead man’s brain and heart to massage them. The man’s heart restarts. It’s not clear why he was being operated on to begin with, but he’s going to survive now.
Older doctor Dan Cortner asks, “What about side effects?” He warns about experimenting on people. Bill, the younger doctor, says he’s getting really advanced with transplanting body parts. Nurse Jan comes in, and she’s Bill’s fiance. They’re going up to Bill’s cabin lab in the woods. They get a call from Kurt up at the cabin; something has gone wrong up there.
They rush up to the country home, but Bill drives like a maniac and crashes. He’s thrown clear, but Jan is burned alive in the wreckage. He only takes one piece of her home with him– her head. He runs the rest of the way to the cabin. The “Cabin” turns out to be a huge mansion, and Kurt lets him in.
Kurt wants Bill to look in the closet, but Bill insists they get ready for emergency surgery. Before long, we see Jan’s head on a plate in the lab, still alive. She mumbles in her sleep, “Let me die.” Bill has been working on transplants, so he says he can find her another body, even better than before. Kurt thinks he’s a madman; “What about her soul?” Bill thinks they can keep the head alive for forty or fifty hours until they get her a body.
Kurt complains about his withered arm, an early experiment that failed. Bill finally looks in the closet, where something is locked inside and makes inhuman noises. He’s horrified at the sight of it and insists that Kurt keep the door locked.
Bill goes to town and visits a strip club. One of the strippers does a slow dance for Bill. As he flirts with the blonde stripper, Jan wakes up in the lab. “Let me die!” A brunette stripper comes in and interrupts Bill’s action. He ends up leaving both of them since one mentions that he’s so “memorable.” The two strippers then have a catfight after he leaves.
Jan talks to the thing inside the closet. It communicates by knocking on the door, and she finds out that she’s not the first. She asks if it wants to get back at them; it does. “Together, we’ll wreak our revenge!” They work together to scare Kurt, who explains all of Bill’s work on transplants. Kurt only helps Bill because he hopes he can get a new arm out of the deal. Jan demonstrates that she can control the creature behind the door, and Kurt runs out.
The next morning, Bill goes on the prowl for more women. He finds an old friend, Donna, on the side of the road. She invites him to a “bathing beauty” contest that he can help judge. Still, she gets in the car with him. Donna’s friend Jeannie horns in and wants a ride too; Bill knows he can’t take either of them since there’d be a witness. They go to the beauty contest; there are five finalists. He likes what he sees, but then he remembers Doris, another old friend who does jobs as a figure model.
Jan can read Bill’s mind and knows his plan. She tells the monster in the closet. Bill goes to Doris’s house, and she’s got a bunch of photographers there, taking photos of her in the nude. She hates men now, ever since her “accident.” She’s got a badly-burned face, but her body is perfect from the neck down. He says he can help her be beautiful again– he has new procedures that could fix her right up.
She agrees to go with him. She wants to call a friend and talk about her good news, but he says she should wait until she sees how it works out. She goes with him…
Meanwhile, Jan convinces the closet-creature to start working on beating down the door. “Can your horror match mine?” The creature knocks once for “yes.” Kurt comes in and talks about piecing the monster together from random limbs. It’s mutated since then of course, and it’s much worse than before.
The monster reaches through the hole in the door and literally pulls off Kurt's good arm. Kurt then staggers upstairs, but he can’t open the door with his bad hand, so he dies as Jan cackles in maniacal glee.
Bill and Doris arrive at the house. Bill goes into the lab and finds what’s left of Kurt. Janet doesn’t say a word, playing dumb. He lets the body lie there as he fixes a drugged drink for Doris. She starts getting woozy and knows what he’s done.
“I told you I’d bring you a body,” he tells Jan. Jan doesn’t want to hurt innocent Doris– she’s not that evil. She just wants to make the guys pay for their work.
Bill gets prepped for surgery. “You must be stopped,” Jan grunts. He tapes her mouth shut, but she can still communicate with her friend in the closet. The creature knocks at the door, so Bill opens the little window. It grabs him, and the door comes off its hinges. The huge mutant comes out and starts a fire in the lab. It bites out a fatal chunk of Bill’s neck. The monster grabs Doris’s unconscious body and carries it out to safety. Jan says, “I told you to let me die,” as the flames consume her.
We watched “The Rare Uncensored Version,” available on Amazon Prime. It added some previously-censored gore and an extended stripper cat-fight. The nudity in Doris’s photo shoot had to have been added for a more recent edition as well.
There’s a scene where Jan and Kurt talk about things that feels like it takes an hour– it’s very poorly paced. Kurt takes forever to die, staggering around from room to room.
No one ever found Bill’s burned-up car with the fried headless skeleton inside? The “porno” music that plays whenever Bill is out on the prowl for women is hilariously bad.
“Jan in the pan” has become a horror icon herself. It’s an awful movie with a ridiculous plot, but she’s so over-the-top evil that it’s hard to resist. How does her makeup look so good when she’s only a head?
Plan 9 from Outer Space (1957)
AKA “Grave Robbers from Outer Space”
Directed by Edward D. Wood Jr.
Written by Edward D. Wood Jr.
Stars Bela Lugosi, Maila Nurmi, Tor Johnson
Run Time: 1 Hour, 19 Minutes
Spoiler-Free Judgment Zone
The effects are bad, the story is bad, the acting is bad, the editing is bad. Yet you can’t look away from watching it. Ed Wood did it all himself as a rush job, and it shows. It’s a fun watch, but it started feeling a little long after a while.
We open with “Criswell” doing a prediction. He predicts, “Future events such as these will affect you in the future.” He’s dramatic, that’s for sure. Credits roll.
We cut to a funeral. An old woman has died, and we see Bela Lugosi there, crying as the gravediggers wait. Meanwhile, Danny and Jeff are flying their passenger plane but something strange happens– there’s a flying saucer out their window.
We see the cooking-pot-lid-looking saucer descend over the cemetery as the gravediggers fill in the hole. The two men encounter a creepy looking woman who doesn’t speak. They scream.
The dead woman’s husband leaves his house and looks sad. He picks one of his wife’s flowers. He then gets hit by a car offscreen and dies. His dead wife, the woman from the cemetery, watches him die.
The police come to the cemetery to investigate the mess. The gravediggers have been torn apart.
At Jeff’s house, he talks about the flying saucer to his wife. He’s been sworn to secrecy about it. Then it comes back and flies right over their house toward the cemetery. All the police fall down for a minute, but the sad old dead man from earlier rises from the grave as a cloaked “ghoul man” and follows Inspector Clay. The ghoul man and vampire woman attack Clay.
The police have an immediate funeral for Clay. The vampire woman stands there watching. Not long after, more saucers appear over Hollywood, and everyone sees them. The military shoots at them, and although they can’t hit them, the saucers do fly away. The colonel wonders who they are and what they want.
Meanwhile, on the mothership, the alien captain reports. They haven’t had much luck with the Earth creatures, so they want to use Plan 9, resurrection of the dead. “We have risen two so far; we’ll be just as successful with more.” The commander approves the use of Plan 9.
Jeff and his wife try some dramatic acting, but then the saucer flies over again. That night, after Jeff leaves for work, the ghoul man chases after his wife Paula. She runs outside to the cemetery just as Inspector Clay climbs out of his grave.
The saucers land, and the dead people come to the ship for orders. The police are still wandering in the cemetery, and they notice that Clay’s grave is now empty as well.
The general talks to the colonel about their previous attempts to contact the aliens. The general plays the translated audio recordings from Eros, one of the spacemen. They don’t want to conquer Earth; they want to save it. Still, humans are dangerous and stupid, and they might change their minds. Colonel Edwards is ordered to contact the aliens and find out what they want.
Up on the mothership, the commander tells off Eros. The plan is not going well; so far, there are only three resurrected dead. Clay comes in, something goes wrong, and the dead Clay almost kills Eros. The commander insists that they deactivate the oldest dead man.
The colonel goes to see Jeff and Paula. They all hear something out there as the old man walks past the cop outside. He approaches the group, and Lieutenant Harper shoots him. Just then, the aliens turn off their beam and the old man becomes a skeleton.
Eros opens the spaceship door and lets Jeff, the colonel, and the police lieutenant inside. Tanna asks Eros, ”Do we have to kill them?” Jeff talks to Eros, “You fiend!” Eros explains that they came with friendly intentions, but the governments of Earth won’t even acknowledge that they exist. Earthmen have minds that always develop bigger and bigger weapons. Eros just calls him “Stupid!” repeatedly. There’s a whole monologue about making sunlight explode, which is much worse than the nuclear bombs. It’s something that humans will eventually discover. Since sunlight goes everywhere, they can destroy every world in the universe.
Jeff attacks Eros, and things get crazy aboard the ship. The ship is on fire, and the Earthmen get out. The flaming ship takes off and explodes with Eros and Tanna on board. Clay turns to a skeleton, and they all assume the vampire woman has died as well.
Criswell reappears and asks “Can you prove it didn’t happen?”
There’s no blood, no gore, and very little acting here. It’s obviously just a bunch of scenes stitched together to make a loose story. Bela Lugosi died after filming maybe two minutes of stuff, but since he was their big star, they used the footage anyway, then they substituted a man hiding his face with a cloak for some scenes.
The narration by Criswell is just atrocious and over-melodramatic. He wrote it himself because he found Ed Wood’s script too boring. It’s just so over the top as to be cringeworthy. The rest of the dialogue really is just as bad.
If this were released today, it’d be a fun, straight-to-streaming, low-budget movie. The only reason this is really considered so awful is in comparison to the studio-based films of that age. There are a lot of recent streaming films that are far worse.
Still, it’s hilariously cringey in places.
Short Film: Brink (2023)
Directed by Jonathan Blagrove
Written by Jonathan Blagrove
Stars Lisa Dwyer-Hogg, Tim Plester
Run Time: 4:11
We open in a quiet suburban neighborhood, but there appears to be a burglar outside one of the houses. The man ties up the woman inside after a brief struggle. She says “You’re making a huge mistake. I know people. People who will fuck you up.” We hear police sirens outside.
Not everything is as it seems.
It’s really hard to have a story in four minutes. This one does it and manages to be really good in the process. This was surprisingly well done!
The Killer Shrews (1959)
Directed by Ray Kellog
Written by Jay Simms
Stars James Best, Ingrid Goude, Ken Curtis
Run Time: 1 Hour, 9 Minutes
Spoiler-Free Judgment Zone
They try to make a harmless animal seem deadly and dangerous here. But hand puppets and dogs in poor disguises don’t quite cut it. It’s got a story, and things happen. There’s action and people to root for and people to dislike. But it’s far, far from a great movie - it’s quite the opposite.
We are told that there have been reports of a new invasive species, “The Killer Shrews,” as credits roll.
Thorne Sherman takes his boat to a safe cove to ride out a storm along with his pilot, Rook. They anchor off the coast and take a dinghy in. They meet Dr. Craigis and deliver the supplies he wanted. The doctor wants his daughter, Ann, to go back to the mainland with Sherman. No one is happy to hear that they can’t leave today because of the coming storm. Rook decides to stay on the boat to make sure things are okay overnight.
Sherman and the rest go back to the doctor’s fenced-in compound. The doctor’s assistant Jerry says the radio has been out of commission for a week. Sherman meets the nerdy Dr. Baines, another of Sherman’s assistants. No one knew that a hurricane was on the way.
Craigis explains that he’s trying to extend the lifespan of creatures to control eventual overpopulation by making them smaller. “If we were half our size, we could live on half the resources.” They use shrews as experimental animals. “Sometimes they’re called bone-eaters,” he jokes. When Sherman asks how big they get, Craigis gives an evasive answer.
Ann yells at Jerry about drunkenly leaving a cage door open, which he doesn’t appreciate. Jerry is jealous of Sherman.
Meanwhile, Rook is out tying up and securing the boat, but he sees creatures in the woods, so he runs to the house. He climbs a tree, but the pack of animals following him is relentless. Before long, the branch breaks, and the creatures eat him.
Sherman wants to go back to his boat, but Ann begs him to stay; it’s not safe out there. She’s serious enough that she pulls a gun on him. She tells him about the two or three hundred giant shrews outside weighing up to two hundred pounds.
Craigis comes in and explains the abnormal growth on one pair. “They were mutants. Somehow, they managed to escape.” Then they bred out in the woods. They’re out there starving right now, so all they have to do is wait inside until they eat each other.
The power goes out, and the generator is outside the fence. The shrews dig in under the barn wall and eat the horse. They all decide to sleep on it and then make a run for the boat in the morning. When it’s Jerry’s turn to take the watch, he’s drunk again, so Mario the servant does another pass. Mario finds that a shrew has gotten into the cellar, so he wakes up Sherman for help.
They open the door and go downstairs. Mario gets bitten, but he shoots the shrew. It’s only a leg bite, but Mario dies quickly. Could their bite be poisonous? They used poison to kill the shrews, but instead they adapted to use it themselves. Meanwhile, outside, the shrews are digging through the soft adobe.
Morning comes. Sherman and Jerry check out the path to the boat. Jerky-Jerry points his gun at Sherman and threatens him, but Sherman’s no wimp and easily turns the tables on the drunken assistant. They find the boat abandoned and decide that Rook must’ve been eaten. Jerry panics and runs, and then won’t open the gate for Sherman, who climbs over. Sherman then beats the crap out of Jerry, who totally has it coming. He’s about to throw Jerry over the fence, but changes his mind when he sees Ann watching him.
A shrew runs in and nips Baines, who quickly collapses and dies. Jerry, in the meantime, wastes all their ammunition by shooting the wall. The shrews get inside, so everyone moves out to the courtyard and barricades the walls. They find big metal water tanks that Sherman thinks they can use as individual “tanks.” He welds four of them together so they can leave as a group.
Jerry refuses to go and climbs up on the roof. Dr. Craigis, Ann, and Sherman get into the “tank” and open the gates. The shrews cannot get them inside the metal tanks. After the tanks have gone, Jerry climbs down, thinking the coast is clear. It isn’t.
Ann whines about not being able to make it, but they eventually hit the beach. The shrews don’t follow them into the water. The three swim to the boat, which is in good shape. They leave. Dr. Craigis says that within a day or two all the shrews will have starved to death.
How did an invasive species from Alaska show up on an isolated island first? The voiceover in the very beginning says they’re from Alaska, but the rest of the film says otherwise.
The shrews here are all hand puppets or dogs in costume. It’s not a ridiculous plot; the funny part is the atrocious creature effects and the fact that they’re basically just mutated mice. Of all the killer animals they could have chosen for this, why… shrews?
Manos: The Hand of Fate (1966)
Directed by Harold P Warren
Written by Harold P Warren
Stars Tom Neyman, John Reynolds, Diane Adelson
Run Time: 1 Hour, 10 Minutes
Spoiler-free Judgment Zone
It’s a choppy low-budget romp with mediocre acting and minimal effects. But it’s got a story, and it was watchable in a sometimes-cringing way. If you’re a fan of movies you can make fun of, this one’s for you.
A couple and their child are on vacation, but they may be lost. They sing and drive on as credits roll. The police pull them over for a broken tail light, but they get off with a warning. They drive to the lodge, and we get lots of shots of… driving.
We cut to two teenagers in a car drinking and making out. The police stop them, break up their action, and send them home.
Mike, Margaret, and Debbie are still driving, and they’re clearly lost. They stop and ask a creepy-looking man for directions. “I am Torgo. I take care of the place while the Master is away. The Master doesn’t like children.” He says there’s no way to the lodge, so Mike asks if the family can spend the night there. Torgo seems to struggle walking and moving and has weird legs, but for some reason, Mike makes him carry all the luggage inside.
Torgo says the Master has left this world, but he’ll be coming back soon. “He is with us always.” They look at a scary painting of the Master and his evil-looking dog. Not long after, Mike’s own little dog gets out, and something in the desert kills it. Margaret screams, “What kind of place is this?!?” (It’s the desert, little dogs get eaten there). Mike tells Torgo to load their luggage back into the car, “Fast!” The car doesn’t start. Torgo tells Margaret that the Master wants her as his wife. Torgo then limps all the bags back to their room again.
Debbie suddenly goes missing as the three adults talk. All the doors are bolted, but she has to be outside. She comes back with the Master’s doberman in tow, but she’s fine. She says she found the dog in a “big, dark place.” She leads them to a place with a bunch of women against pillars standing around an altar with a body on it.
Torgo comes by and yells at the comatose women about them being the Master’s wives, and plays with the first wife’s hair. Torgo then comes back to the house and watches Margaret undress until he knocks Mike out and drags him through the woods.
Back at the altar, the Master awakens and sits up. We cut to the two teenagers getting run off by the cops yet again. The Master prays to Manos over the fire; it’s a whole ritual. He wakes his wives, and they’re a talky bunch. The women complain about the presence of a female child, Debbie. They want to sacrifice Mike, but not the child. The Master insists that the child die, but the six women argue and disagree. There’s a whole slapstick catfight-wrestling match.
Meanwhile, the Master wakes Torgo up back at the house and confronts him about playing with his wives. Torgo wants Margaret, and the Master says Torgo must die. He then stares intently at Torgo.
One of the Master’s wives kisses unconscious-Mike in the woods but doesn’t untie him. The fighting between the women is still going on, so Torgo and the Master arrive to break it up. He orders the sacrifice of the lead troublemaker. Oh, and he wants to sacrifice Torgo as well. The girls apparently slap him to death.
Mike finally wakes up and gets out of his bonds. He tells Margaret they can hide in the desert. The Master makes Torgo get up, put his hand in the fire, and it falls off. Torgo runs off, his arm on fire as the Master keeps Torgo’s hand. After this, he beats one of his wives.
Mike, Margaret, and Debbie run through the desert and fall down a lot. The Master and his wives go looking for the missing family. Out of nowhere, Mike shoots the Master repeatedly, but he just stares at them.
We cut to a pair of women heading to the lodge as well, and we see it’s the same route Mike’s family took. There’s a great deal more shots of them driving. They stop at the same house and are greeted by Mike, the new caretaker. We see Debbie and Margaret up against pedestals– they’re both new wives for the Master.
The entire film was shot silently, and all the voices and sounds were dubbed later. The camera used could only record 32-second segments at a time, so there aren’t any shots longer than that. The music is loud, screechy, and incredibly annoying; it’s almost painful to endure at some points. The Master has a cool cape with hands on it, but otherwise, the costumes and sets are all pretty lame.
Debbie, the little girl, was given a bicycle for her participation in the movie, while all the adults took a share in the profits. Who knew a child could outsmart everyone? The actor playing Torgo is said to have been on LSD throughout, which is why he’s so twitchy in every scene. He shot himself in the head and died a month before the premiere of this film.
It’s pretty bad, but what really puts this at the over-the-top point is the godawful screeching music. If they hadn’t had to dub everything and if they had used more appropriate music, it might have been tolerable. Or maybe not.
It’s still better than “Skinamarink.”
The Ape (1940)
Directed by William Nigh
Written by Adam Shirk, Curt Siodmak, Richard Carroll
Stars Boris Karloff, Maris Wrixon, Gene O’Donnell, Dorothy Vaughan
Run Time: 1 Hour, 2 Minutes
Spoiler-free Judgment Zone
True to the title there is an ape who is just a guy in a suit, but it’s a pretty realistic looking job. Boris Karloff elevates what would be a pretty tame mad scientist tale into something worth seeing. It’s also a little peek into what the world was like before the polio vaccine was available.
There’s a circus. The kids talk about going to see the sideshow. They have to go past Doc Adrian’s house and they throw rocks at his house and break a window. He rides his bicycle up behind them and catches Willy in the act.
Later, Doc Adrian checks out his dogs’ eyes and his servant Jane brings him tea. Mason complains about the old doctor, who’s destroying the values in the town. Little Willy lies and says the doctor hurt him for no reason. The people in the town don’t much care for Adrian.
The pharmacist warns Adrian that the villagers might soon be noticing the missing animals– then they’ll be after him for sure. He takes a jewelry box for Frances, a young woman in a wheelchair, whom he calls his “make-believe daughter.” His real daughter would have been eighteen today, but Adrian couldn’t save her or her mother from Polio. He’s since developed a cure for that disease. He promises Frances that she will walk again.
Frances and Danny talk about “those stories” about Adrian; she doesn’t believe any of them and tells him not to either.
Danny and Frances go to the circus that evening. Mason is there with his “other woman.” The sheriff is there as well. After the show, we hear the animal trainer complaining about their killer ape. The killer ape then attacks the trainer and accidentally starts a fire. The ape breaks from his cage and runs off in the confusion.
They bring the animal trainer to Dr. Adrian. “Am I gonna die?” “We all die sometime.” Great bedside manner there, doc. The doctor ominously says he’s going to fulfill a promise.
The sheriff sets up hunting parties to get the ape, but Mason doesn’t want to help other people. He’d prefer the sheriff serve his eviction notices.
Adrian comes to Frances and says he’s found the serum he needs. He’s brought his spinal injections. Afterward, she can’t lift her legs, but at least she can feel them now. He breaks the bottle with the serum in it. Where’s he going to get more of that?
The ape breaks into Adrian’s place and the old man injects and kills it. Could he use the ape to make more serum?
We see the ape out and about. Mason argues with his wife about his mistress, but he’s a jerk. The ape kills Mason and then goes back to Adrian’s place. No one seems to care that Mason’s been killed.
Adrian makes more of his serum. Where did he get the ingredients for that? Danny and Frances’s mother talk about Frances’s condition. Danny refuses to let the doctor in because he’s afraid of science.
Frances says she has more sensation than yesterday. She moves her foot. Yes it’s going to work!
The coroners talk about the animal trainer and Mason’s bodies. Dr. McNulty goes to see Adrian about the spinal injections on both bodies. McNulty knows that he was expelled from an organization years ago for being too daring with his experiments. McNulty threatens to turn Adrian in to the authorities, so Adrien offers to show him proof. They go see Frances, but she can’t move her leg this time. McNulty is impressed nevertheless and invites Adrian back to the foundation.
Some boys see the ape out in the woods and shoot him.
The sheriff says they probably shot a cow, but goes to see Doc Adrian, who is patching a wound in his side. Adrian gives the sheriff the animal trainer’s coat and says that may be why the ape keeps hanging around his place.
Frances tries to move her leg again– both this time. She tries to stand up but just can’t do it. “She needs more,” Adrian complains. “One more.”
The sheriff and all his men are outside Adrian’s house, where the ape has been seen more than anywhere else. One of the men is attacked by the ape, but he stabs it.
Frances sees the wounded ape heading to Adrian’s place and calls for help. The sheriff shoots the ape again. Then the sheriff pulls off the mask and it’s Dr. Adrian inside. Frances sees the dying doctor and walks to him. The cure works, it just took longer than expected. Adrian dies a happy man.
I love how they load Frances, wheelchair and all in the back of the pickup truck. They couldn’t have put in the front seat and just haul the chair along? I hope she was strapped on tight!
The ape is clearly a man in a suit in every scene. Still, it’s not a bad-looking suit; there are a lot worse movie apes. Boris Karloff is perfect here as a true “mad scientist.” He has the best of intentions but has no compunctions about killing people to achieve his goals.
It’s a by-the-numbers mad scientists story that’s pretty basic, but Karloff really does well here and makes the mediocre idea into a decent film.
Basket Case (1982)
Directed by Frank Henenlotter
Written by Frank Henenlotter
Stars Kevin VanHentenryck, Terri Susan Smith, Beverly Bonner
Run Time: 1 Hour, 31 Minutes
Spoiler-free Judgment Zone
This is hit and miss on the quality of the acting and effects, but overall it’s a weird and entertaining horror tale. Very weird. And tragic. We both saw it long ago, and liked it a lot this time around.
A man walks out of his house and hears something in the bushes. “Who’s there?” he asks. He goes back inside and calls the police department– suddenly, he hears something on the roof. And his phone line is torn off. We see someone shadowy break in and turn off the power as Dr. Lifflander gets his gun. We see a deformed hand kill the doctor messily.
We cut to Duane Bradley, walking in New York City, carrying a big basket. He goes to the cheapest hotel ever at $20 per night, and you can see it’s a classy place. Duane flashes a large amount of money, and everyone in the lobby sees it. Josephine leads Duane up to his room, and she’s weird.
When he gets to the room, he tells the basket, “We’re here.” He then goes out for food, and when he returns, he takes the padlock off the basket and offers burger to something inside that’s really eager for more. We see that he has the blood-spattered notes of Dr. Lifflander, and he looks up an address for someone listed inside. He talks to the little basket person, but we never hear an answer– is he telepathic, or is Duane insane?
The next day, one of the men who was in the lobby looks into Duane’s room’s keyhole, but Casey, the party girl next door, runs him off. Duane takes his basket to Dr. Needleman’s office. The doctor’s receptionist is very chatty, and she offers to show him around town. Duane goes in to see the doctor, and takes his shirt off; he's got a huge scar on one side. The receptionist, Sharon, asks if the doctor was surprised. “Oh, yeah,” Duane smiles on the way out.
Duane goes to see a karate movie and dozes off. When he wakes up, someone has stolen his basket. Duane runs downstairs and takes the basket away from the now one-eyed thief.
Dr. Needleman looks at his messages and tries to call Dr. Lifflander back. He also calls Dr. Kutter and tells her about the boy from Glens Falls and his scar. He’s very upset. Kutter simply says neither of them know anything about what happened back then, so shut up.
Eventually, Sharon leaves for the night, leaving Dr. Needleman alone in his office. Duane drops off the little person from the basket just outside the door. Needleman hears something and barricades all the doors. Needleman finally sees the creature, and so do we. It’s a blob with a face and arms and not much else. It tears the doctor apart and steals the doctor’s address book which says where Dr. Kutter lives.
Duane leaves the little man alone and goes to see Sharon. The little creature gets enraged and tears up the room. Nosy Josephine hears him roaring, and soon the whole hotel is aware of it. When the manager arrives, he hides back in the basket, and they all think the room is deserted. While in there, Greedy O’Donovan sees money on the table and sneaks back a little while later and searches the place, including the basket. As the little man attacks O’Donovan, Duane has a little seizure– the two are connected. When the manager comes into O’Donovan’s room, he finds the body, but no attacker.
Duane and Sharon come to the hotel, but Duane makes Sharon leave. “I don’t want him to kill you!” The police interrogate Duane about his messed-up room, but when the detective looks, there’s nothing in the basket. The little guy has been hiding in the toilet, and they argue about Duane wanting to be with Sharon. He says the murders have all been the little guy’s idea– they deserve what they get. “We’ll always be together.”
Duane goes to a nearby bar and gets drunk. Casey comes over and offers to spend some time with him. Naturally, she asks him what’s in the basket, and he’s so drunk he says “My twin brother. We’re Siamese twins. He’s deformed; he looks like a squashed octopus. He was attached to my right side. He talks to me without words.” Casey thinks it’s weird, but Duane continues, explaining that after they were separated, brother Belial simply continued to get stronger.
We get a flashback to their father screaming about how they murdered their mother. Their aunt took great care of them. We see young Duane with Belial hanging off the right side of his torso. Their father brings in Drs. Kutter, Needleman, and Lifflander to do the separation. They grab the boy(s) and drag them into the operating room by force. They sedate them, and when they wake up, they’re separate– one normal boy and one hideous lump. Duane wakes up and hears Belial calling to him from a trash bag on the curb– their father really doesn’t like Belial. Later, the father hears construction noises in the basement and goes down to investigate. That goes badly for him.
Duane’s aunt returns home, and she knows exactly what happened, and she loves both boys. They all lived happily for many years, until she died. Now, here we are as the two boys work to get vengeance on the three doctors. Only one to go!
After all the drinking and talking, Casey leads Duane back home. Casey doesn’t really believe Duane’s story, but when he passes out, she peeks in the -empty- basket. She then goes down the hall to her own apartment, and we see that Belial’s inside waiting for her. She sees him, screams, and runs outside. This time, the manager investigates alone, but the window is open and nothing is there. Casey has no idea that the creature was Belial, who stole her underwear.
The next morning, the two brothers go to see Dr. Kutter, who turns out to be a veterinarian. Kutter catches on pretty quickly as to who Duane is. “What’s in the basket?” She finds out. By the time the nurses open the door, she’s been stuck full of scalpels.
When Duane gets home, Sharon is there waiting for him. She tells him Dr. Needleman, her boss, has been murdered. “I need to be with someone. I need to be with you, Duane.” They kiss and soon wind up in bed. Suddenly, Belial jumps out of his basket, screaming. Duane throws Sharon out the door, screaming.
Duane yells at Belial; he’ll never have a romance or a normal life because of his brother. That night, Belial crawls out the window and leaves. Duane dreams of running down the street naked, until he gets to Sharon’s house, where he enters her bedroom and has sex with her. Duane then wakes up, and notices Belial is gone. That wasn’t a dream; Belial is in Sarah’s bed right now and it was a telepathic link going on. Baliel kills her and is humping her dead body as Duane drags him away.
Duane goes back to his hotel, screaming and yelling at Belial, and this time everyone sees the little monster as they both fall out the window. The two hang from the hotel signage, way up high. They both fall to their deaths.
Belial really needs to learn to kill more quietly; there’s just so much screaming in this.
I saw this when it came out and remember it being a lot lower quality than it was. Yes, it’s clearly low budget, but the sets are awesome and creepy, the acting is mediocre, but the plot is a lot of fun. The stop-motion scenes of Belial moving around are both awful and hilarious at the same time. The surgical scenes actually look really good. Belial’s face is very effective in some scenes, but ridiculous in others.
It’s really weird and fun!
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