Basket Case 2 (US - DVD R1)
Gabe Powers hides out at Granny Ruth's house with the rest of the freaks
Duane Bradley (Kevin Van Hentenryck) and his surgically separated lump of a brother Belial are back. After narrowly surviving a fall from a hospital window, the two brothers become media targets. Duane’s aunt, Granny Ruth (Annie Ross), whisks the duo away to a secluded mansion where other freaks-in-hiding live out their days away from public scrutiny. But when a snooping tabloid reporter finds them, Duane, Belial, and their new family must stand together to keep their freedom a secret.
It took writer/director Frank Henenlotter eight years to make a sequel to his first film, a charming little horror indie called Basket Case. This is most likely because Basket Case was such as singularly odd film, and one that ended with what appeared to be the definitive death of all its lead characters. After shifting about with equally skuzzy yet uncannily affectionate movie called Brain Damage, the 42nd Street graduate made his way back to familiar stomping ground.
Basket Case 2 is a mixed bag. Gone are the filthy, seething streets of Manhattan and their oddly endearing characters, replaced by the clean, pastels of suburbia. The contrast is, I’m sure, intended, but without the grit and grime the characters loose a bit of their bite. On the other hand, there’s something superbly darling about an R-rated horror film that would probably appeal to children. Only the scenes where Belial tears up the ‘guilty’ parties and gets it on would turn the kiddies off.
The original film was a simple and straightforward revenge tale, but this time Henenlotter bogs his script down with a few too many ideas. Equal rights movements, deranged religious cults, and media tabloid frenzies all take turns in the satire, but the strokes are so broad it’s just too obvious. Yet, it’s still charming, and even the dated, ‘grandpa’ humour elicits a few chuckles and a smile. Basically Henenlotter’s films, all the ones I’ve seen, are the kind of fun time trash Troma Studios wishes they could produce.
The family of freaks is the film’s finest quality, and like every movie about sideshow types, Basket Case 2 borrows some details from Tod Browning’s 1932 classic. Gabe Bartalos’ over-the-top and cartoony creations steal the show every time they’re on screen, even if they aren’t exactly convincingly realistic creations.
Synapse has cleaned this once grungy video release rather impressively, bringing out details once obscured by VHS releases. Lighter scenes look damn near perfect, with only minor compression noise and slightly soft edges. Dark scenes, which are often accompanied by bright red lighting, don’t fair quite so well, and suffer some low level noise and macro blocking through out. Still, the attention given to such an obscure and cheap release is to be commended. Too much spit and polish might’ve robbed the original Basket Case of some of its charm (the flashbacks here are still pretty dirty), Basket Case 2’s pastel suburbia handles the digital process with a sort of uncanny grace.
No need for a major overhaul here. Synapse doesn’t remix Basket Case 2 into any sort of super-aggressive 5.1 mix, they simply clean up the original Stereo, and it sounds just fine. Dialogue and sound effects are clear, stereo sound effects are effective, and the musical score (which includes the rather catchy electronic credits tune) doesn’t muddy the track. Some might complain that the soundtrack is rather thin overall, but this would be the fault of the original designers, not this DVD.
Strangely enough director Henenlotter seems to have had nothing to do with this disc. This is suspicious because Henenlotter supplies Synapse competitor Something Weird Video with movies from his own collection. Perhaps I’m reading too much into things, but you never know….
Anyway, the extras included on this disc consist of two featurettes. ‘Beyond the Wicker’ has been put together by make-up effects man Gabe Bartalos, who amusingly chats with us about the film from a crematorium. When the fires start burning he has to be subtitled. It’s funny because he never acknowledges what’s going on. Between Bartolas’ shouting is rough behind the scenes footage. This is followed by ‘The Man in the Moon Mask’, an interview with actor David Emge. Emge is best remembered as Stephen ‘Fly Boy’ from the original Dawn of the Dead, and for good reason, besides this silent performance from beneath a giant mass of prosthetics, Dawn was just about the only thing the actor ever did on film. Emge’s featurette is very short, and not particularly informative, but still good to have around.
Basket Case 2 isn’t as good as the original, but it’s still good fun, and at the least worth a rent. The film has been missing on R1 DVD for some time now, and Synapse’s new disc looks and sounds fantastic, though I could do with a bit more in the way of extras. Maybe this release will coax whoever holds the rights to the first film into releasing an effective special edition.
Review by Gabriel Powers
Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian
Release Date: 30th October 2007
Disc Type: Single side, dual layer
Audio: Dolby Digital 2.0 English
Extras: The Man Behind the Moon Mask, Beyond the Wicker
Easter Egg: No
Director: Frank Henenlotter
Cast: Kevin Van Hentenryck, Alexandra Auder, Beverly Bonner, David Emge, Jason Evers, Ron Fazio
Genre: Comedy and Horror
Length: 90 minutes
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