I remember - vaguely, to be honest - seeing the original Basket Case on video in the mid-80's as a kid; my older cousin told me about it and that I had to see it. I did, and my main memory is that it was one wacky, bloody flick. I never saw either of the sequels that writer/director Frank Henenlotter made in the early nineties - although I did check out his earlier flick Brain Damage and thought it was pretty cool, if more than a little fucked up. So recently I got the chance to see Basket Case 2, and am pleased to report that it's yet another installment of craziness and humor made just for the freak inside all of us.
Picking up directly where the original left off, Duane (Kevin Van Hentenryck) Bradley and his deformed Siamese twin brother Belial - the two had gone on a rampage of revenge against the doctors that separated them - have fallen from a hotel window, seemingly to their doom. But no; they're alive and brought to a nearby hospital, where upon awakening, Belial starts in again with the clawing of faces. As Duane and Belial escape the building, they're met outside by Granny Ruth (Annie Ross) and her granddaughter Susan (Heather Rattray), who help them get away and take them to a mansion on Staten Island. The Bradleys soon find that Granny Ruth is hiding other freaks, allowing them to live in peace and seclusion. But even with a tabloid reporter hot on their trail, Duane still holds out hope for living a "normal life", while Belial may have found a love (seriously) of his own. When the family's existence is threatened, Duane and Belial stand together with those that took them in, and, well - madness ensues.
Man, this is one nutty movie, one that's hard not to love if you dig this kind of insanity. For this sequel, we don't just get Belial, no - we get an entire attic full of freaks (makeup courtesy of Gabe Bartalos) and this shit gives deformity a whole new meaning. I can't describe all of them, not only cause I lack the powers of description necessary to do them justice, but that would ruin some of the surprise for the viewers. I'll just say that a couple of my favorites are a guy who looks like the man in the moon on acid and another dude has got the most wicked set of teeth I've ever seen. Some of the makeup doesn't work but most of it does, especially when you take what must have been a fairly low budget into account. The level of gore isn't as high as I remember the original having, but there's still a good helping of the wet stuff. That wacky-ass sense of humor Henenlotter loves has been ported over as well, with plenty of deadpan one-liners and goofy sight gags. Plus, there's also (I think) a sex scene between Belial and his beloved. I say "I think" because I have no fucking idea what it is I saw; I mean, I've seen my fair share of specials on the Discovery Channel but they never had anything like THAT on there - but it sure seems like the little dude's gettin' his freak on, literally.
The story - well, hey, it's a horror comedy about a dude who keeps his twin brother in a wicker basket, and the crazy little bastard occasionally gets out and eats somebody's face. That's about all you need know, and Henenlotter's script is exactly what you'd think, with a little extra helping of nuts. The acting is as good/bad as it needs to be; Van Hentenryck, encoring from part one, is again awkward, nerdy, and kinda not right in the head. But Annie Ross, the esteemed jazz vocalist, she's truly something. The only thing I think I've ever seen her in was Altman's Short Cuts, in a dramatic role, and you'd think she's in another prestige project (as it kind of is, really - for US!) by the way she approaches the role here. I'll just say that she plays batshit crazy like a champ.
The DVD package from Synapse has got some decent stuff on here; presented in 1.78:1 widescreen and Dolby Stereo, this is probably the best the flick's ever looked and sounded in the home format. There's a couple featurettes: "The Man In The Moon Mask", an interview with actor David Emge (Flyboy from Romero's Dawn of the Dead, who plays Half-Moon here), as well as a fun behind the scenes look, "Beyond The Wicker".
If you dug the original Basket Case, there's no reason not to assume you'll love this sequel as well. Basket Case 2 is more patented Henenlotter insanity that makes me want to run out right now and pick up Basket Case 3: The Progeny. In fact, I think I'll do just that; after seeing this, you might be tempted to do the same.