When Frank Henenlotter got the nod to make Frankenhooker, his past success with Basket Case was directly involved: production company Shapiro Glickenhaus requested a sequel to Basket Case, to be shot back-to-back with Frankenhooker. Henenlotter was amenable to complying but there was one problem. Simply put, he’d told all the story he wanted to tell in the first Basket Case and killed off its two anti-heroes, to boot. However, a little bit of retconning and a shift of focus was applied to Basket Case‘s core elements and, sure enough, that sequel popped out right on schedule.
Basket Case 2 opens right where the first film ended, albeit with slight modifications: Duane (Kevin Van Hentenryck) and his misshapen brother Belial survive their tenement window fall and end up in a hospital. They’re trying to escape when they are rescued by Granny Ruth (Annie Ross) and her granddaughter Susan (Heather Rattray), who whisk them away to a secret enclave of freaks that Granny Ruth protects. Kevin wants to leave Belial there but both brothers find love, which complicates things… as does a snooping tabloid reporter (Kathryn Meisle) and a cop (Ted Sorel) who wants to nab the brothers.
Basket Case 2 is a sequel in the technical sense but Henenlotter follows his muse down different paths. With its expanded cast of latex-encrusted misfits, it pays a heavy amount of homage to Freaks and is more interested in a John Waters-ish battle of misfits against the “normal” world. The story isn’t as ingenious or inspired as the first film but Henenlotter gives the proceedings plenty of humor and oddball color: for example, there’s a comic/gross sex scene between Belial and his similarly freakish love interest. Henenlotter also goes for a surprisingly dark and nasty ending that evokes a Tales From The Crypt-style ironic stinger.
The results are tonally uncertain in places but they’re also much slicker technically: there’s really good photography by Robert Baldwin that uses primary-colored lighting to nice effect and suitably outlandish monster creations by FX designer Gabe Bartalos. As for the acting, Van Hentenryck is still rough around the edges but admirably committed to his work. However, the real thespian fun comes from Ross, who dives into her role as a mama bear-type with comic vigor, and there are colorful turns from From Beyond vet Sorel as a deadpan grizzled cop and The Brain That Wouldn’t Die star Jason Evers as an appropriately sleazy tabloid editor (Henenlotter pays homage to Evers’ most famous credit by a having a freak who resembles the mutant from that film).
In short, Basket Case 2 never climbs the heights of its predecessor but it’s still more interesting than you’d expect from a contractually obligated sequel. It dishes up enough twisted latex and equally twisted laughs for fans of Henenlotter’s other films.
Blu-Ray Notes: Synapse has revisted this title for a blu-ray release. It boasts an excellent transfer that is rich with detail and eye-popping colors. The lossless 2.0 stereo soundtrack offers a robust presentation of this vintage mix.
This disc also carries over the featurettes from Synapse’s old blu-ray. The first is a quick chat with David Emge (6:19), “Flyboy” from Dawn Of The Dead, who is unrecognizable in this film as the moon-faced freak. He talks about how he got the job and offers a little info on the challenges of acting with a massive latex headpiece. Behind The Screams (22:34) is a making-of piece from Bartalos that includes some behind-the-scenes footage from both Basket Case 2 and Frankenhooker that focuses on special effects. It also brings in Henenlotter and producer James Glickenhaus to discuss various topics in its second half, including some interesting stuff about battling the MPAA.