With Basket Case 2, writer/director Frank Henenlotter returned to one of his most successful films nearly a decade later. Released in 1982, the original Basket Case found grotesque humor as two brothers, one normal and one basket-ridden thanks to a congenital deformity, attempted to figure out how to adapt to New York City life while, you know, also killing people. The humor was sadled with the shocks and political incorrectness for which Henenlotter has come to be known, and the gory story of those tragically separated Siamese twins carried through despite the gore. Basket Case 2 increases the number of freaks and the complexity of the storyline, again centering on Duane (Kevin Van Hentenryck) and his psychopathic brother Belial as they find themselves new residents of their aunt Granny Ruth’s (Annie Ross) collection of deformed malcontents.
Henenlotter is certainly upping the ante from his previous film, introducing a coterie of new citizens who are similarly deformed like Belial. As Duane and Belial flee from the repercussions of their murderous rampage, they settle into Granny Ruth’s abode in two different ways – Belial feels at home because he feels like he’s in familiar company, and Duane becomes enchanted with Granny Ruth’s daughter Susan (Heather Rattray). The family connection gives Henenlotter a chance to explore new deformities with gruesome aberrations, and the special effects team delivers with creations that feel right at home alongside Belial’s blobby, slimy texturing. In fact, those who enjoyed Basket Case simply because of the effects work will appreciate Henenlotter’s exponential increase of freaky-looking dudes with strange teeth, huge heads, and awkward gaits.
This time around, Henenlotter’s plot has a wider scope than the previous film, and that presents some conflicting results. Duane and Belial are on the run from a tabloid reporter named Marcie (Kathryn Meisle), a woman who wants to get the scoop on the two Siamese twins and who’s willing to risk her safety to do so. This subplot gives Henenlotter room to explore Duane in a bit more detail; he’s sick of having to take care of both himself and Belial, and he’s ready to leave that lifestyle behind in favor of sneaking away with Susan and starting a family without a deformity weighing them down. All of the story involving Marcie is a little sloppy, with the film shifting unnecessarily to cover her search for Duane and Belial. However, it does lead to Basket Case 2′s best thematic ideas: Henenlotter’s plot is ridiculous, for sure, but it does bring up questions about how much Duane should have to devote his life to his brother’s well-being, a fate he never asked for (and the film never hesitates to replay some scenes from the first film).
It’s interesting how Basket Case 2 treats its deformed characters too, because it often has a sort of reverence for them even as they’re murdering people left and right. Like Basket Case, Henenlotter seems to want the audience to feel some affiliation with Belial and the rest of Granny Ruth’s troupe, but at the same time it’s also mocking them to garner some of its comedy. While that tone is uneven, Henenlotter eventually finds a nice resolution in the end. Resigned to live his life with the rest of the deformed after realizing that Susan also has her own debilitating condition (she’s forever pregnant with a belly-bursting fetus), he decides to sew Belial back onto himself. Henenlotter draws a dark connection here, that Duane can never really assimilate into everyday life – he’s always going to be one of them rather than what he considers normal.
Interestingly enough, Basket Case 2 is more enjoyable than its predecessor. Part of that comes from the expanded cast of characters – both human and not so much – and from the film’s more absurdly humorous gags (like its infamous sex scene). But more importantly, it’s due to Henenlotter’s ability to find an interesting human aspect to this story, with a theme that warrants more discussion than Basket Case could deliver. Henenlotter’s films aren’t for everyone, but those that enjoy practical effects gags and splatter pictures will find the humor, and the more human element, packaged within Basket Case 2‘s intentional shock value.
Synapse Films’ Blu-Ray release of Basket Case 2 features a nice high-definition transfer from the original 35mm camera negative, and one can clearly see the increase in quality, especially during scenes taken from the original Basket Case. Those feature a significant drop in video definition, but the rest of Basket Case 2 looks great, with no noticeable flaws. Audio is presented in DTS-HD MA 2.0 Stereo, and it sounds good as well. One unfortunate flaw with this Blu-Ray is that it does not come with any kind of subtitles.
Basket Case 2 doesn’t get many special features, although more than the Basket Case 3 Blu-Ray released alongside this. Primarily, this release gets new artwork commissioned from Joel Robinson; his new piece looks great, and I much prefer it to the original artwork – although this is a reversible cover, so that option is also available. For extras, there’s a short interview with David Emge, the actor who plays Half Moon in the film, which lasts only about six minutes. He talks about his time on-set and what it was like with the makeup. The other extra is a longer behind-the-scenes featurette that I have to confess is somewhat poorly made – however, it does give some good insight into the making of the film.
All told, there are less extras than most people would probably like, but it’s still nice to have Basket Case 2 with a nice Blu-Ray presentation.