Monday, June 7, 2010

Three Heads: Basket Case 2

Things change over the years and so do people.  Such is this case with today's film: Basket Case 2.   In the time between the two films- 8 or 9 years, depending on your source- I'm convinced that the film's director- Frank Henenlotter- went insane.  Why do I say that?  Because this film is such a direct, polar shift away from the tone of the last film.  That one was about brotherly love and featured one mutant among the arguably-weirder humans.  A natural escalation of the series for the sequel would be to introduce a second mutant with a similar mutation, perhaps even a second human brother for them.  The film does just that, but decides to throw in a shit-ton (a real measure, by the way) more crazy things too!  Why?  This feels like 'I had six or seven ideas that couldn't become their own films, so I'll just put them in here.'  Does this craziness ruin the movie?  Find out in my review of...
The film begins right where the last one ended- with our heroes dead in the street.  As it turns out, they're actually alive and have made quite a stir.  The pair end up at the hospital and the news covers the event, something that gets the attention of an old woman and her young companion.  At the hospital, the 'normal' brother is covered in bandages, but is pulled awake by unheard voices.  He retrieves his half-sized, but full-brother Belial and they kill the guard.  The pair casually walk down the hallway as guards and nurses look just far enough away to not see them in their peripheral vision.  This is either good satire or shitty writing.  The pair wander into a station wagon that pulls up and leave.  Some time has apparently passed as our hero wakes up, only to see a cadre of deformed people in front of him.  Naturally, he decides to pretend that didn't happen and go back to sleep.  When he wakes up again, the old lady and girl from before are there.  They explain that the woman houses those that we would call 'freaks' and treats them like normal people.  No offense, but one of them looks like Mac The Night from the old McDonalds' toy line- that's not normal!  We are introduced to the players of the B-Plot, which are a newspaper editor and his newest hire.  He tells her that she needs to get the story on the 'freak brothers' for the paper.  She calls up a weirdo who owns a freak show & he claims to have Belial.  Hmm...
Things get interesting back at the house as we learn that one of the 'freaks' is another torso with arms...but this one is female.  Well, to be fair, it has a female face- who's to say whether it has any lady parts at all!  In the meantime, the old lady goes to see the freak show owner and sees his collection of dolls and figurines posting as real freaks.  She leaves, but forgets to take a big basket with her.  Yeah, Belial kills the guy.  A bit later, the reporter shows up and finds the body.  This drives her to get her cameraman and look more into the story, but also consider hiring a private detective she knows.  Eventually, they discover that there was an old woman who wrote about praising 'freaks' for their differences and that she used to house them.  The woman goes to see her, finding out that the house is well-fortified.  In a complete Big-Lipped Alligator Moment, she hears a noise, sees only a gargoyle and walks off.  As we learn, however, this was actually another 'freak' who just looks like a gargoyle.  Thanks- that added nothing and that character only shows up once more in a crowd shot.  In his time at the house, apparently a few months, the brothers have not been as friendly towards each other as before.  Yes, I realize how relative that statement is.  Our hero pulls Belial away from his new lady friend for a talk and heads back inside, inadvertently running into the reporter.  Time to kill the bitch, I guess.
Despite the lackadaisical efforts made, the woman figures out that the brothers are there and sends her photographer to get pictures.  He breaks in, only to find himself in a trap and killed.  This scares her into talking to the detective, whose first plan is to threaten the brothers and call for a meeting.  They end up in a bar together and our hero appears to wanting to leave the house.  This, however, is a trap and the bar is actually full of the house's residents...just wearing various sizes of masks.  After they kill him and before they can explain how they possibly pull this off, they show up at the reporter's house and threaten her a bit.  After taunting her with the mystery of Belial's presence, they finally let the half-person twist up her face (see above) and leave.  Wow, Mr. Henenlotter also saw everyone else.  The whole clan goes home and celebrates this murder spree by throwing a party at home.  During this, we get one of the most disturbing scenes ever: two muscly-torsos having what they claim to be sex.  Eww, eww and double eww!  On the human side of things, our hero finally gets intimate with the young woman, only to learn that she has a weird snake baby living in her chest.  He freaks out and accidentally knocks her out a window.  Panicking, he grabs Belial and sews him to the side of the chest where he was originally removed as the other 'freaks' arrive and the film ends.
What the hell was that?!?  How do you go from 0 to 600 like that?!?  Seriously, a little low-budget rip-off of Dr. Phibes with a killer torso turns into a film about 'freaks' lashing out at those that hate them.  Why?  The movie escalates in a really ridiculous way by adding so many mutants in giant, latex masks.  To be fair, they look interesting.  Although, as one outside observer (my brother) noted, the things can barely move.  Geez, that reminds me of 'Zombie Dad' in Amityville Dollhouse!  These things are just freaky and distracting in every scene that they are in.  The story involving the two brothers is pretty interesting.  However, the producers clearly put some much of the budget into the other freaks that they are constantly hogging the spotlight.  There are a couple of things I have to note as well here.  The time gap could easily have been addressed by having the characters be in comas or something, but they chose to make the film take place mere months later instead.  Incidentally, they also re-designed the Belial outfit for this movie.  How exactly did that fall change the thing's DNA, guys?  Aside from all these gripes, the movie is an interesting bit of eccentric film-making.  I can't recommend it as much as the original film though- it's just too damn strange!
Up next, I close out the Basket Case trilogy with a film that manages to out-weird the last one.  One word: robot.  Stay tuned...

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