Basket Case (1982) directed by Frank Henenlotter
The Basket Case blu-ray arrived in the mail and Cinema Wasteland is imminent; I think it's Henenlotter marathon time! Man, I love any movie set in '70s / early '80s New York City, I don't care what it's about. The gritty side of the city that always shows up in movies from this era is a character unto itself. Duane in this film moves into a decrepit hotel and watches a porno movie on 42nd Street, which is coated in sex shops and hustlers as far as the eye can see.
Siamese twins are out for revenge on those who separated them. One of the twins happens to be a hideous and violent mutant who can conveniently fit in a basket. Not a tremendously surprising horror movie plot, but it's the details that elevate this movie above other grindhouse examples. The wacky cast of characters living in Hotel Broslin are fun to watch, especially the barely contained ball of sensuality that is Beverly Bonner. The completely fake-looking Belial puppet has a bizarre charm to him... I think his particularly creepy eyes help. Kevin Van Hentenryck plays Duane perfectly. While he's a wide-eyed, naive kid from upstate, he's also completely on-board with Belial's mission to murder those who cut them apart and goes about this task with a disturbing casualness.
What's in the basket? Good ol' exploitation fun, that's what. (7/10)
Brain Damage (1988) directed by Frank Henenlotter
Completely bugnuts and I dig every second of it. I love the pure creativity of the premise: a centuries-old blue worm-type creature likes to poke a tongue-needle into people's brains to drug them so he can find other people whose brains he will eat. Oh, and the creature is named Aylmer and he speaks in down-home, friendly manner (voiced by famed horror host Zacherle) and he has a penchant for singing. Oh, and he has cute little eyes and tons of teeth:
Brian meets Aylmer and becomes completely addicted to the blue goo Aylmer shoots into his brain. It's something of a super-hallucinogen, causing him to see awesome lights coming from everywhere and to not know what the hell he's doing. He spends about a quarter of the movie high as kite, laughing hysterically at nothing, seeing meatballs turn into pasta, and carrying Aylmer to his next brain dinner. Next thing you know, his girlfriend's dead and he's shot the top of his skull off. Except, he doesn't die. He's so extremely high during his suicide attempt, all that comes out of his brain is bright light. Awesome.
Probably a far better anti-drug film than anything the DARE program puts out. (8/10)