Basket Case 2 Blu-ray Review
Written by ZigZag
Blu-ray released by Synapse Films
Written and directed by Frank Henenlotter
1990, 90 minutes, Rated R
Blu-ray released on August 9th, 2016
Kevin Van Hentenryck as Duane
Annie Ross as Granny Ruth
Heather Rattray as Susan
Kathryn Meisle as Marcie
Jason Evers as Lou the Editor
Ted Sorel as Phil
Belial as Himself
After surviving a very public attempted murder-suicide, Duane Bradley and his brother Belial become the focus of a media circus. They are at the center of a police investigation surrounding the violent deaths of several local doctors who had performed surgery on the siblings. Facing a string of criminal charges, the Bradley twins escape the hospital with the help of a stranger named Granny Ruth, who transports them to her suburban home. Over the next few months, Duane recovers from his injuries and becomes acquainted with his new idyllic surroundings. Once known to the media as “Dr. Freak” for her efforts to assist “unique individuals”, Granny Ruth has spent the past few years building a sanctuary filled with faces the brothers can identify with and find comforting. Duane is enchanted by Ruth’s daughter Susan and begins dreaming of a fresh start, a “normal” life, but Belial is reluctant to forgive Duane for his earlier actions. Any hopes of romance are put on hold when a nosy tabloid reporter discovers their hiding place and threatens to expose the entire community. Granny Ruth’s “family” must band together and fight for their survival or risk the cruel treatment of the general public.
Writer/ director Frank Henenlotter (Frankenhooker) returns to the territory that launched his career with a surprisingly well-funded and fast-moving story that picks up at the exact moment Basket Case (1982) ends. Over the ensuing eight years, Henenlotter has grown as a filmmaker and dives into the subversive material with an infectious glee. The story is familiar, but fans of the original may find the shift in setting and tone a bit jarring. The original film revels in urban squalor and the threat of violence, whereas the sequel in contrast embraces the cleanliness of all that is “good” in modern society. Danger returns in the form of tabloid journalists, but rarely do we get a taste of the gritty environment that the brothers once thrived in. Cinematographer Robert Baldwin (Let’s Scare Jessica to Death) opts for a more traditional lighting design that highlights the satirical subtext, but generally plays it safe with the exception of a few nicely-staged kill scenes. Further enhancing the mainstream feel of this movie is the score by Joe Renzetti (Child’s Play) that is occasionally too big for this film, leaving the impression that the over-the-top tone is also a subversive swipe at contemporary horror movies.
Kevin Van Hentenryck (Dry Bones) reprises his role as Duane, but has not improved as an actor. He has nice comic timing, but is overshadowed by the supporting cast of “freaks”. He shines in his moments of self-discovery and the introduction of sibling rivalry with Belial is an interesting extension to their relationship. His desire to start fresh with Susan (Heather Rattray, The Sea Gypsies) is a logical progression that is unfortunately abandoned once the threat of outsiders takes over the latter half of the picture. Legendary musician Annie Ross (Superman III) is clearly having fun as Granny Ruth, the no-nonsense lady playing up the sugar-sweet persona in public, but whom I suspect is more than capable of defending herself in a fight. There are a few familiar faces rounding out the supporting cast of “normal” individuals, particularly Ted Sorel (From Beyond), who does a fine job as Phil the investigator. The monsters are the main attraction in a film like Basket Case 2 and luckily there are plenty of them. Special make-up effects artist Gabe Bartolis is given the freedom to run wild with the character designs and his work is impressive, and I would love to see what he could do with a bigger budget.
In making this sequel more of a black comedy, Henenlotter’s movie is reminiscent of the path of fellow cult filmmaker Tobe Hooper’s irreverent Texas Chainsaw Massacre Part II (1986). Both directors made names for themselves with gritty 16mm horrors, and were later granted the opportunity to revisit the material on a larger scale, but opted to expand the mythos with laughs rather than screams. Henenlotter never loses his ability to surprise, but it feels like he is pulling his punches in hopes of appealing to a broader audience, where Hooper in contrast threw caution to the wind with his gonzo effort. Basket Case 2 is a fun ride brimming with ideas, but it fails to follow through on several key possibilities. The door is left wide open for a part 3 that hopefully brings back the chills and thrills missing from this installment. Those wanting to follow the further exploits of the Bradley twins will likely find much to enjoy here, but even the biggest supporters will be hard-pressed to recommend this title over the original cult classic.
Video and Audio:
Presented in the original 1.85:1 aspect ratio and featuring an all new Hi-definition transfer from the original camera negative, the film looks terrific. The DTS-HD MA 2.0 track preserves the original audio recording with an unexpected level of energy. Dialogue remains clear and free of distortion even during the exciting finale. Music cues and sound effects are well-balanced and never intrusive.
English subtitles are provided for anyone in need.
Synapse Films has opted not to include any new supplemental material for this release, but does carry over two previously available interviews.
Dawn of the Dead (1978) star David Emge appears in this film as the heavily disfigured character “Half Moon”, a non-speaking role that completely disguises the actor’s identity. In the vintage interview The Man in the Moon Mask (6 minutes), Emge reflects on his experiences working on this low-budget feature. He’s a likeable guy, but really offers nothing to the film or this disc.
Gabe Bartolos appears in Beyond the Wicker (23 minutes), a highly entertaining segment in which the make-up artist shares behind-the-scenes stories and videos of his creations for the film. The piece is fast-moving and a lot of fun and fans will definitely want to check it out.