Sunday, 13 March 2016

basket case 2

basket case 2 picks up immediately after the ending of the first film, with duane and belial escaping from hospital to join a retreat for people with physical deformities run by a psychiatrist, granny ruth. belial feels at home at the retreat almost immediately and forms a relationship with another resident, eve, who bears some similar physical characteristics. duane, meanwhile, begins to feel like he should really be out in the real world living with normal folks. at the same time, the retreat is under threat from a curious reporter, intent on finding belial and duane so she can tell their story to the world.

anyone who watches my youtube channel will know that freaks is my favourite movie ever and basket case 2 shares some similar themes. there is a tension between the idea of the retreat being a good thing for the freaks and the idea that separating a group of people from society can have unexpected consequences. granny ruth isn't as straightforward a character as she first appears either, and makes it clear from the start that she will do anything to protect her community. there is also something about her collecting these outcasts that really reminded me of professor x and you can almost watch basket case 2 as a kind of alternative version of x-men.

while the film looks much more polished than the first where it really excels is with the incredible make-up effects designed by gabriel bartalos (if you ever want to see a very weird and not entirely successful horror film, check out bartalos' directorial debut skinned deep). there are echoes of screaming mad george's work for brian yuzna here, and a similar aesthetic of flesh sharing the same properties as rubber. the stop-motion animation for belial has gone, which is a shame, but in it's place is a creature that feels much more real than it's predecessor. there is a particularly haunting moment in which duane declares his plan to leave the retreat and belial laughs at him. something about this creature laughing at his brother's desperation is genuinely disturbing, and most of that comes from the make-up. there is also a rather graphic sex scene featuring belial and eve, which is both grotesque and absurd at the same time but definitely has to be seen to be believed.

despite a marginally shorter running time basket case 2 does feel a little slower than the first film, perhaps because duane and belial are much less active in this story. there is no mission here, just existential angst and the odd murder in an attempt to cover up the retreat. what does keep it moving is the reporter character played by kathryn meisle who will stop at nothing to expose the brothers' location. something about this character reminded me of the wise-cracking women reporters from old movies, like glenda farrell in the original mystery of the wax museum. it was kind of cool to see that archetype being used in a more modern setting.

while the film feels a bit meandering at times the ending really pulls everything together in an incredibly satisfying way. this is again a story about identity and about how it's connected to physical appearance. ultimately, duane is still a freak even if he doesn't look like one and this is his conflict in the film.

the first film had me thinking henenlotter was horror's version of mike leigh, making grimy street films amidst the underclass. here, i think he's more like a much darker, gorier tim burton. then again, when you get to the ending it's obvious that henenlotter has his own specific brand of genius. it's impossible to imagine anyone pitching this film, let alone making it, so the fact that it exists at all is kind of amazing. it may not be as consistent as the first film, but basket case 2 is definitely worth a watch just to see what's possible when a filmmaker as imaginative as henenlotter pushes his talent to the limits.

second sight will release the basket case trilogy on blu-ray on 14 march 2016.

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