It happened like this, at least to the best of my recollection, for much has happened since then, many mind altering substances have been consumed, and the passage of over a decade has fuzzied the mind. But this night I am about to describe to you changed me into the movie watching obsessive I am today. I would like to remember it just as I do, fondly, nostalgically, and given my tendency for hyperbole, with a bit of dramatic exaggeration.
I was over at my friend Rachel's dorm room, getting ready to go to our weekly Goth dance night. Although it would take nearly forty-five minutes for me to pack Rachel into her corset, we'd be ready long before it was fashionable to enter the club. We liked to get a head start, looking as fabulous as possible for as long as possible. Eyeliner applied and boots firmly laced up, I suggested we go get a coffee and maybe watch a bit of a movie before we walked through campus to the bar.
Rachel then told me there was a new shop that opened up right down the road from her dorm - it was called Diabolik - and it seemed like it specialized in something we'd be into, given the sign. Maybe horror movies? Maybe spooky decor? Hard to tell from the nondescript store front. Just a dark sign with white jagged lettering. So cool. How could this have opened and I was not informed, I wondered. I ordered Rachey to stop primping so we could go check it out.
A few blocks later, we were pushing our way into the store. It was a video rental place! All VHS (well, this was the mid-nineties) and all horror! I felt like I had died and gone to hell, in the best way possible. )And this was before I was the absolute supreme horror geek I am today. I mean, I was into horror movies back then, but over a decade has passed, so I'm even geekier today.) We didn't know what to do with ourselves. The place was all gothed out, too, skulls and spiderwebs and a red velvet couch. Tattered drapes. A lecherous creepy proprietor that swore he knew Rob Zombie. Oh, I wish it was still there! (But alas, Richmond wasn't ready for something so cool, and it still isn't some thirteen odd years later).
But anyway, to cut to the chase and to quit waxing sentimental, I rented BASKET CASE that night and got to Goth night way to late to hear all my favorite Apop and Iris songs because I was too enraptured with the movie that unfolded before my budding horror geek eyeballs. BASKET CASE was my first foray into the seedy early eighties 42nd Street universe of director/writer/editor Frank Henenlotter and it wouldn't be my last. Just last night, I watched BASKET CASE and BRAIN DAMAGE, both for about the one-hundredth time and they've only gotten better.
BASKET CASE is truly a wonderful cult classic and a shining example of how low-budget movies should feel. It's ingeniously twisted in every regard and establishes itself firmly as unpredictable and hilarious throughout. Duane arrives in grimy Times Square carrying his former conjoined twin, Belial, in a wicker basket. Belial is truly a sight to behold and why he hasn't been canonized as one of the classic movies monsters of all time is really unbeknownst to me. With some clever practical effects and stop motion animation, special effects guys Kevin Haney and John Caglione, really outdo themselves. Belial is not only believably grotesque, he almost managed to exhibit deep emotion, in the fact that he has been separated from his brother. I've never seen a puppet emit so much pathos ;)
Without going into too laborious of detail since this should be your favorite movie as well, Duane and Belial are on a mission to right what has been wronged, with some hilarious and outrageous moments along the way. The amateur cast handles the bizarre subject matter masterfully and manage to help the film achieve an incredible weirdness that is usually unattainable. Although it was followed by two unfortunate sequels, BC is and always will be one of my favorite films. Its regard for sex, suburban dysfunctionality, and even drug use give the film a slimy, if not even tangible atmosphere. I'm right there in Times Square with Duane and Belial and a host of other weirdos. It's the perfect cinematic slice of that era.
BRAIN DAMAGE, Henelotter's second flick, one of the most violently anti-drug films this side of BLOOD FREAK, is the story of Brian and his pet monster, Alymer. You see, Alymer is this ages old disgusting sentient parasite that feeds on brains, the more human the better, and is capable of injecting whoever is in possession of him with a strong hallucinogen. When Brian comes into possession of Alymer, the parasite begins to take control and Brian descends into a very drug-like addled state. People die and things get bloody, as well as trippy, but the violence isn't so much as realistic or horrific as it is outlandish and comic. There's plenty here reminiscent of BC, the setting, a strong underlying sexual element, the weak protagonist. But as mentioned earlier, this movie has a great deal to say about what addiction can do to a person and his or her loved ones and how drugs change people. It's a great study, over-the-top, but with a message. And I love it!
Frankie also directed another Cavalcade fave, FRANKENHOOKER, which is exactly what it sounds like, and I'm sure it's at least in your top 20, so I won't keep you. I just wanted to give a shout out to two of my favorite movies of all time - smart and silly, but definitely still horror movies. Although I'm not a huge fan of the overt horror-comedy, Henenlotter did it well, if not the best, and he did it almost thirty years ago.
And these better not get remade! I'm warning you! And by you, I don't know who I am specifically addressing, but the sentiment is there!