DECEMBER 5, 2010
Since my Frank Henenlotter reviews tend to inspire the most comments, I was pretty set to be underwhelmed by Basket Case 2, since my reviews for his other movies had numerous claims that it was one of his weaker films. And I agree! It’s a decent film (my second favorite of the four I’ve seen!), but its lacking the NY flavor that made the first so memorable, and the story isn’t nearly as interesting. It seems more like something that would be the 5th or 6th Basket Case movie, when they were reaching for ideas.
Part of the problem is that it tries to pick up right where the first one left off, despite the obvious aging of Kevin Van Hentenryck. There are a few vague lines that suggest some time has passed (in between Belial meeting the other freaks and the reporter being asked to find the “mutant twins”), but they needed to clarify this, and how much time to boot. So it feels like one of those sequels where they bring back a character years later (like Kristy in one of the Hellraiser sequels), instead of a direct followup. And it’s baffling – since they were so badly injured that they were assumed dead in the last film, wouldn’t they be in a coma for a while? Having the movie start years later, with the brothers waking up (a la Halloween 4) and then kicking off the mutant plot would have made a lot more sense.
The freak plot isn’t as interesting as their revenge tale in the first film, either. While I’m all for mutants being accepted and not being treated like the hideous freaks that they are, the film lacks any real reason for Dwayne to care (that the whole thing seems ripped from Nightbreed doesn’t help), and thus neither do I. From the start he seems to want something besides living with them, and falling for the only normal looking girl around isn’t exactly a “pro-freak” course of action. Plus he kills her when he finds out she’s a freak too (accidentally, but still). Having him fall for a female with a messed up face or corn dogs for hands or whatever the hell would have given him both a reason to care about their plight as well as making him seem like less of an opportunistic asshole.
Because instead, he uses the freaks to help him get “revenge” on the reporters and cops who are looking to bring him out in the open, something they never really seem to mind (I’d be like “Fuck you dude, solve your own problems.”). To be fair, these scenes are surprisingly creepy and effective, particularly the bar when the cop realizes that he’s the only “normal” one in the place. But tonally they just don’t gel with the first film.
This plot does allow for the freaks to have a lot of screentime, which is fine since the makeup is pretty impressive for a low budget. Some of the freaks don’t really make any sense and seem like leftover Garbage Pail Kid designs (like the guy who has a frog head, or the human gargoyle), but most are legit deformed monstrosities, with teeth the size of arms or heads shaped like crescent moons. None of them are allowed much of a personality, so maybe cutting their number in half and spending that time giving them a bit of dimension would have been a better option, but oh well – cool looking freaks are cool looking freaks (I missed the stop-motion work though; Belial is a full on puppet this time around).
It also pales to its predecessor in terms of quantity of extras, though at least what’s there is worth watching (no random rap promos here). One is a retrospective hosted by makeup FX man Gabe Vartalos, who seems to be conducting his parts from a crematorium for some reason. Henenlotter and one of the producers talk a bit about how the film came about, and that he wasn’t really interested in doing it at first, which is pretty funny. He also speaks about his troubles with the MPAA on Frankenhooker, claiming that they were so sick of him from that experience that they gave Basket Case 2 an R without any complaints just to get rid of him. Awesome. The other extra is an interview with Dawn of the Dead’s David Emge, who ended his 11 year absence from film to play the moon-headed freak (though he doesn’t say much about WHY he chose this particular role over what I assume were several others, being that he was one of the heroes in one of the most beloved horror movies of all time).
The ending of Basket Case 2 seems to suggest a potentially interesting 3rd film, but it seems that one sucks. I have to give that one back to my friends this week too, so look for the review in a couple of days. And now I turn this review over to the comments!
What say you?