The Plot: Duane and Belial are back in this sequel, taking place immediately after the first film with the two brothers being rushed to the hospital and becoming an overnight news sensation. The whole country goes nuts over the story of the two conjoined twins who were seperated and then decided to get revenge on the doctors who performed the surgery. Duane and Belial, once they have their senses about them both rush out of the hospital as quick as possible, and are promptly rescued by Granny Ruth and her assistant Susan. Turns out this Granny Ruth woman runs a home for the supposed “freaks” of nature, and there she has created almost a cult like following amongst those she has helped. Once there, Belial finds the home he has always wanted, with others like him and with Granny Ruth taking time out to listen to his inaudible grunts. Duane on the other hand feels left out and desperately wants to get out into the world and experience his own life for a change. Things are soon complicated though when a nosey reporter puts a series of incidents together and traces Duane to the Ruth home – now Duane must step up to the plate and save the “freaks” and save himself as well.

The Review: Frank Henenlotter is a director who has certainly done it his own way, there’s no denying that. When I first saw the original Basket Case, I knew I liked it but wasn’t even sure I knew why. When I saw Brain Damage though, I knew Basket Case was no fluke and that Henenlotter was a force. It is unfortunate that he took such a long break away from filmmaking between the third Basket Case film and his most recent feature Bad Biology; but better late than never and I welcome Mr. Henenlotter back to the fold with this review for another classic of his. Basket Case II may not have that same “shoestring budget, punk rock, shoot anywhere do anything” feel to it that the first film had; but it’s apparent that Henenlotter had no intentions of making a film he couldn’t be proud of with the step up in budget. Everything is back in this sequel, the gore, the goofy over the top actors and all the fun camp but most of all it still has the heart that the original had. There’s a love for cinema in these films that I genuinely enjoy, more than in a Troma production where all the over the top goofy dialogue sometimes comes off as phony to me as it seems like everyone has been trying to top The Toxic Avenger since its original release and so far no one has. The Basket Case films feature a similar style to what Troma does, but in a far more conservative manner and dare I say much more tolerable form. The actual acting in this sequel has been stepped up no doubt due to the budget and ability to cast more experienced actors – but there’s still that hint of camp that keeps the film from being a bore when no one is being killed and no strange happenings are going on… which would be like, three minutes of the film?

Placing the character of Duane as the “freak” of the house was a nice decision and an inventive way to keep the series fresh. Henenlotter could have just kept Duane wandering around mad at his psychotic brother forever, but putting Duane at odds with his environment while Belial slowly begins to normalize within the settings creates a completely different atmosphere and actually creates a lot of growth for the Duane character. Duane can be a bit whiney at times, but he’s still as lovable as he was in the first film. The violence level in the film was taken down a bit from the first however, so fans of the grue might be a bit dissapointed to find a lack of plentiful death scenes – but what is here is at least quality. There’s a lot of emphasis on faces, and their being ripped off. What’s not to like about that? As far as visual effects go, the real showstopper would be the creature effects of all the various “freaks” who share their home with Granny Ruth. There are a few times where the effects are pretty obvious, like when looking into the mouth of a character who’s face is about four foot wide and it’s obvious that the interior of the mouth is simply a black cloth rather than a shadow being cast. Takes you out of the scene for a moment, but what can you do? Other than that, the visuals usually range from stunning to simply cool. Some might be disappointed by the direction of the film, being that it takes a slightly more comedic/entertaining approach this time around but after that first film you could either keep beating the same dead horse or approach the material with something new and I’ll congratulate Henenlotter for taking the refreshing approach he did.

I mentioned earlier that the character of Duane goes through a series of motions throughout this film, and I’d say that’s a bit of an understatement. I personally enjoyed his metamorphosis throughout the film. From loving his brother, to hating him, to understanding their cause… he’s all over the place but thanks to Kevin Van Hentenryck and his tackling of the character he keeps it under control. His naive and laidback attitude throughout the film keeps the change steady and subtle. Subtle in a Basket Case film, if you can believe it. So, if you’re a fan of the first and you’re curious about the sequels – whether you like it or not, Basket Case is as much a classic piece of Henenlotter’s work as the original and I think most fans will respect that. Definitely check it out and hopefully you enjoy it as much as I did!