NEPA Scene Staff

‘Basket Case’ creator and actors will meet fans at NEPA Horror Film Festival on Oct. 13

‘Basket Case’ creator and actors will meet fans at NEPA Horror Film Festival on Oct. 13
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In addition to showing dozens of films that will be brand new to most attendees, the NEPA Horror Film Festival will bring in the creative team behind one of the strangest cult classics of the 1980s.

As announced exclusively on NEPA Scene back in May, “Basket Case” writer/director Frank Henenlotter and the star of the entire twisted trilogy of “Basket Case” 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.

Beverly Bonner, who played Casey in the original 1982 movie and its 1990 sequel, was also recently added to the event. Fans can meet all three celebrities and purchase autographs and photos with the team that brought this crazy midnight movie to life. For those who missed it on home video, “Basket Case” is about a man and his deformed conjoined twin brother seeking vengeance on the doctors who separated them against their will.

“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.

Beverly Bonner is an actress and comedian best known for her roles in horror films, including Henenlotter’s “Basket Case” series, “Brain Damage,” “Frankenhooker,” and “Bad Biology.” She has also acted on stage, appearing in Tom Eyen’s play “Women Behind Bars” with the late Divine.

In 2007, Bonner quit her job as a legal assistant for VH1 to pursue stand-up and acting full-time. She produced the live taped talk/comedy/variety show “The Beverly Bonner Show” and appeared in the indie film “See You Next Tuesday” by director Drew Tobia in 2013.

In 2014, Bonner produced “Casey 30 Years Later,” which was based on her original “Basket Case” character. The show debuted at the Broadway Comedy Club in New York City, and the Latin Post called it “interactive, fun, funny, jaw-dropping, and scandalous.”

The fifth annual NEPA Horror Film Festival begins with a pre-party at The Keys in downtown Scranton on Saturday, Oct. 12, the night before the festival. The 21+ show will feature a mix of live heavy metal, punk, alternative rock, and hip-hop music from local bands Earthmouth, Mercy Gang, Family Animals, The Dismissed, and Burial Fog from Philadelphia.

Doors at The Keys (244 Penn Ave., Scranton) open at 7 p.m., and tickets are $5 at the door. A valid driver’s license or state-issued ID is required for entry, and Halloween costumes are encouraged.

The NEPA Horror Film Festival will then take over the Circle Drive-In (1911 Scranton/Carbondale Hwy., Dickson City) on Sunday, Oct. 13 with the “Basket Case” crew, vendors, 22 short films, and two full-length features, including local productions “Baby Frankenstein,” “The Road Less Traveled,” “The Devil’s Ball,” and “Nocturna.”

Tickets are $10 in advance on Eventbrite or $15 at the door.

The NEPA Horror Film Festival originated 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 (“Sleepaway Camp”) 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 became the permanent home of the NEPA Horror Film Festival after its most successful entry yet last year.

The 2019 installment will expand from the “13 Short Films” format to show 22 shorts – “The Escape Room,” “The Invader,” “Weeji,” “Forever,” “Enoch,” “Five Course Meal,” “Until the Wheels Fall Off,” “Jericho Bridge,” “Wicken,” “Trespassers,” “Easy Way Out,” “Doll Baby,” “Limbus,” “The Inside,” “Blue Blood,” “Dolls of the Void,” “Once Bitten,” “Tlaloc Sacrificium,” “Candystealer,” “The Road Less Traveled,” “The Devil’s Ball,” and “Nocturna” – with two feature-length movies, “Baby Frankenstein” and “Artik.” Movies start at dusk, and a trailer for the sequel to Keller’s own 2012 Scranton horror comedy “Deatherman” will also premiere that night.

Listen to Bobby Keller talk about the festival, making indie horror films on a shoestring budget, and other topics in Episode 30 of the NEPA Scene Podcast: