EXCLUSIVE: ‘Basket Case’ director and star will meet fans at NEPA Horror Film Festival on Oct. 13
“Basket Case” writer/director Frank Henenlotter and the star of this twisted trilogy of cult classic films, Kevin Van Hentenryck, will both appear at the festival when it returns to the Circle Drive-In in Dickson City on Sunday, Oct. 13.
“I have deep admiration for Frank Henenlotter. He’s probably tied for my favorite exploitation filmmaker with Herschell Gordon Lewis. He is the king of horror/comedy, hands down. ‘Basket Case’ is, no joke, in my Top 5 favorite horror movies. I can’t think of a better guest to have at a drive-in that I haven’t brought to Scranton in the past,” festival founder Bobby Keller told NEPA Scene.
“When I got a hold of his manager, he also told me he manages Kevin Van Hentenryck, so I figured why the hell not have them both? So if my event is a complete flop, at least he’ll have a friend to sit with!”
Henenlotter is a director, screenwriter, and film historian known for his horror comedies, though he would prefer to be classified as an exploitation filmmaker because his movies are “a little ruder, a little raunchier” than typical Hollywood productions. “They deal with material people don’t usually touch on, whether it’s sex or drugs or rock and roll,” he said in a 2009 interview.
Henenlotter’s low-budget, gore-filled films were inspired by the exploitation and sexploitation films he loved, the kind that played on 42nd Street in New York City in the 1960s and ’70s. They are considered by many to be B-movies, but they also turn the conventions of those films upon themselves. His freaky filmography includes “Basket Case” (1982), “Brain Damage” (1988), “Basket Case 2” (1990), “Frankenhooker” (1990), “Basket Case 3: The Progeny” (1991), “Bad Biology” (2008), and “Chasing Banksy” (2015).
Kevin Van Hentenryck achieved instant cult status as the engagingly guileless and nerdy Duane Bradley in Henenlotter’s marvelously gory and sleazy splatter gem “Basket Case.” Hailing from Oak Park, Michigan, he initially began acting in 10th grade. He first met Henenlotter while attending the American Academy of Dramatic Art in New York City and eventually wound up playing his first substantial lead role in “Basket Case.” The slender, curly-haired, and boyishly affable Van Hentenryck brought a winning blend of sweet wide-eyed innocence and charming awkwardness to the part of Duane, a normal-looking person who seeks vengeance for the unwanted surgery that separated him from his deformed conjoined twin brother. The film gained an audience in the ’80s due to the advent of home video and has been considered a cult classic.
He had an amusing cameo as Duane in Henenlotter’s follow-up, “Brain Damage.” In addition, Van Hentenryck reprised the role of Duane in the two hugely enjoyable “Basket Case” sequels. In 2004, he gave a hilarious performance as a deranged psycho in the uproarious horror comic short “The Catskill Chainsaw Redemption.” Outside of acting, he has had a successful career as a self-taught sculptor and fronts a rock band in the Catskill Mountains in New York.
Last year, the festival found its permanent home at the Circle Drive-In (1911 Scranton/Carbondale Hwy., Dickson City) and focused on film screenings in the nostalgic drive-in format, but this year, Keller plans to feature both movies on the big screen and a mini horror convention with some celebrity guests and vendors.
The NEPA Horror Film Festival began in October of 2015 with an event called “13 Short Films” at the River Street Jazz Cafe in Plains. It was free and screened horror shorts from all around the world, including three locally-made films. The project was a successful endeavor with over 100 attendees.
Since then, the festival has held a handful of screenings at Ale Mary’s in Scranton, including a “Spooky Christmas” and another “13 Short Films” series hosted by Joe Bob Briggs (TNT’s “MonsterVision”) with special guests Felissa Rose and Lisa Gaye (“The Toxic Avenger Part II” and “Part III”), vendor tables, stand-up comedy, and Q&A panels. The third annual “13 Short Films” was hosted by the Iron Horse Movie Bistro in Scranton in 2017 and quickly sold out, turning patrons away at the door, so in 2018, the festival upgraded to the Circle Drive-In, which opened in 1949 and continues to be one of the longest-running drive-ins in America.
With its seasonal haunted attraction Circle of Screams running through September and October, the Circle Drive-In is the perfect home for the NEPA Horror Film Festival after its most successful entry yet last year. The 2019 installment will feature another “13 Short Films” series with a horror expo and meet and greet earlier in the day and movies at dusk. Films announced so far include “The Escape Room,” “The Invader,” “Weeji,” “Forever,” “Enoch,” “Five Course Meal,” “Until the Wheels Fall Off,” and local productions “Baby Frankenstein” and “The Road Less Traveled.”
The NEPA Horror Film Festival is still accepting film submissions via FilmFreeway and is currently looking for local vendors and sponsors; find applications and details at nepahorrorfilmfest.com. Expect more guest announcements, contests, and other news on NEPA Scene in the coming months as Halloween approaches.
Learn more about Bobby Keller, the festival, making indie horror films on a shoestring budget, and other topics in Episode 30 of the NEPA Scene Podcast: