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Basket Case III

Posted by JoshSamford On July - 30 - 2008
The Plot: Dwayne and his brother Belial are back once again in a direct continuation of their last film, which took place in the home of Granny Ruth. A woman who has made it her life’s goal to look after the supposed “freaks” of society. After Dwayne freaked out in the last film, he has been put in a straightjacket and is treated like the crazy person of the house – which he is, I might add. If you saw the previous film you might also remember the dirty Belial sex that was going on between Belial and his girlfriend who shares his same abnormality. If you haven’t seen it… it’s totally hot. Anyway, I reckon Belial wasn’t wearing proetction because now his girlfriend is pregnant and everyone can barely wait! So Granny Ruth packs up the van and the whole group (with Duane being dragged along) takes a trip to visit one of Granny Ruth’s old friends; who looked after her son as a young woman. Ruth and her son are soon re-united (he’s a giant with eleven or so arms) and the baby is on its way! Well, 12 babies to be exact!




The Review: Since my very first viewing of the original Basket Case I have been putting off seeing the sequels. I just never could find the time or mood to sit back and enjoy all the silly craziness of it all; don’t ask me why because I don’t know. I had also read a few terrible reviews here and there for both films and figured I wasn’t missing much. Then, earlier this month I decided to just give it a go. What can it hurt? The second film, which you can find my review for on this site of course, was a surprise and took the series in a far different direction than I was initially expecting. It had its ups and downs, much less violence than the first film and a more comedically driven focus. It did work for the film, but how much more of the same would you really like? Having seen the first and second, by the time you come to the third film unfortunately it feels as if the series has (and forgive me for using the overused term) jumped the shark. The final sequence in the film picks up from where the second film left off – but also seems to repeat the same exact formula. Duane is the freak of the house, he’s trying to get out, he finds a normal girl who he thinks he loves (though this time, since he’s crazy, she barely knows him and certainly has no feelings towards him) and in the end he will do something that jeapordizes everything then he and his brother have to clean up the mess. The only new arch is Granny Ruth’s decision to go publice with her group, and to force the “normal” citizens into hiding like they have been. None of this means that the film doesn’t have its better qualities – but at the end of the experience you have to ask: was this entry in the series really neccesary? I suppose if you’re watching it solely for the fun that a Henenlotter film provides then maybe the answer is yes but for me I know how great he can be; but this script seems a little too forced.

Basket Case 3 has a bit more violence than the previous film in the series, maybe there was a public outcry due to the missing gore back when the film was originally made – or maybe Henlotter just came up with a few very cool ideas for death sequences this time around. The body count for the film ends up around 6, with only four of them being shown on-screen (and only three of those being gory and human beings dying) – but the three very gruesome death scenes I mention are worth the price of a rental. There are other fairly graphic bits in the film – such as birth section of the film. The birth sequence may be one of the most disturbing in memory. Although I think the one from Knocked Up was only slightly more disturbing – because just imagining a baby coming from that special place of Katherine Heigl’s makes me all sad. The birth scene is one of the moments in the film that really stands out. A giant Baleil type creature having a dozen bloody and disgusting miniature Beliel’s – you can imagine why. Also Aunt Ruth’s son chews up the scenery in this scene as the camera operator who is nearly having a heart attack from excitement. Giving us lines of dialogue as the babies continue to pop out; such as “Seven! She’s had seven, straight to heaven! Eight!? Lay ’em Straight!” and of course “Name one of them… bob!”. All of this is obviously improv and only gets laughs due to the fact that it’s so over the top in a bad way that the goofiness becomes contagious. Besides, how often do you see little monster babies that look like giant human hearts with arms strung together like Christmas Tree lights on an umbilical chord? Not very often would probably be my guess. Other sequences include Belial having his fingers licked and his bod massaged by two gigantically breasted beautiful topless women during a very odd sequence. As awesome as it was to see such magnificent breasts; the sequence simply shows how far the series has come from it’s tongue-in-cheek horror roots – and by this film makes its way into the slapstick.

I suppose its an appropriate way to end the series and certainly not a terrible film – but with the promise of the very solid second film and the fantastic original – it still yet another step down. Once you see the first film in the series though, no matter how long it takes, you’re going to want to see the rest of the movies – but just go in with as limited of expectations as you can and you will have a good time here. It won’t be an epic good time; but dumb fun can serve the same purpose from time to time. Three out of five, it’s a good flick but very obviously flawed.





Basket Case II

Posted by JoshSamford On July - 30 - 2008
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!



Basket Case

Posted by JoshSamford On June - 28 - 2008
Originally written in 2003, this review was one of my (Josh) first stabs at writing. There has only been some slight editing and revisions done here in 2010. If you think the review is bad as of now, I’m just glad you didn’t read it before the edits.

Plot Outline: Basket Case is the tale of a young man named Duane and his little brother Belial… who happens to be a psychotic Siamese twin mutant murderer. You see, when the brothers were young the decision was made by their parents to remove the disgusting blob of flesh known as Belial. Separated like they were, no one expected Belial to survive. After a very painful upbringing, the two are finally stretching out and looking to do something about the travesty of their separation. They travel to New York city looking for revenge on the doctors who separated the two when they were young. Somewhere along the way Dwayne falls in love and the deformed twin begins his rampage through the doctors who did them wrong.




The Review: As cliche as it may very well be to say, Basket Case is a true ‘so bad it’s good‘ kind of movie. For all the bad acting, directing, lighting, writing, etc. it’s still an extremely entertaining flick. The first classic that Frank Henenlotter would deliver to the world, it has that quaint feeling to it that so much of his work would go on to further establish. Perhaps I’m too forgiving but I can’t help but love the film. The star Kevin VanHentenryck has zero acting abilities, and can come off as a little whiny at times (especially when he’s drunk), but I still think he actually somehow comes off with some sort of charm. A charisma that defies any kind of true acting experience. His performance as Duane strikes me like the kid who is always giving away his toys so the rest of the kids in the neighborhood will hang out with him. The rest of the cast are all amateurs and deliver cringe worthy performances. Not on par with the original Sleepaway Camp but pretty bad none the less.

The special effects in the film are actually pretty terrible, as surprising as that may be. The claymation is just plain horrific, stuff that would make Ray Harryhausen shed tears. The scenes featuring the abomination of claymation also go on too long and are shown in far too great of detail. There are two ways you can look at this I suppose. The first instinct is to think: I can’t believe the people making the film didn’t realize how ridiculous it looked and try something else. When you’ve got no budget you’ll take what you can get I guess. The other way is that perhaps Henenlotter simply wanted to make a statement that “yes, this is ridiculous and yes it is perfectly fine to have fun”. The gore effects aren’t quite as bad as the clay, but they’re still not that great. The film doesn’t really suffer from the poor FX however. It is all so purposely campy that the effects just add to it.

Man, I miss the 80’s. Bad movies like this were a dime a dozen. Now the only place you can find flicks like this is Troma, everything else is either taking itself too serious or is shot on 8mm in some kid’s backyard. The days of a quality exploitation film being released in theaters seems to be over, and all we get is politically correct scream rip-offs. Oh well, there’s no use crying over it. We’ve still got Troma to deliver the occasional bad movie fix, and if there’s nothing in the present we can always look to the past.

The Conclusion
If you like eighties horror films, bad movies or campy movies then you can’t go wrong with a night of Basket Case. Everyone else, people with taste that is, you might want to stay far away.

Audition

Posted by JoshSamford On June - 28 - 2008
Plot Outline: Ryo Ishibashi plays Shigeharu Aoyama a man going through somewhat of a mid-life crisis. After many years of being loyal to his deceased wife, he feels (after some encouragement from his son) it’s the right time to begin dating again. So after hearing this, Aoyama’s friend Yasuhisa who happens to be in showbuisness, decides to set up a fake casting audition in hopes that his friend can choose who he wants to pursue as his new wife. Aoyama then goes through countless portfolio’s looking for women to audition, but as soon as he sees the beautiful Asami’s picture he knows that she’s the one. After the audition Aoyama makes his move on Asami and the two then begin dating. Everything seems perfect at first, but is Asami all that she seems?




The Review
If you’ve never experienced the insanity of a film directed by the mad genius Takashi Miike, this may or may not be a good start for you. Of all his films I’ve seen, this is the most atmospheric, artistic, and even subdued. Yet in some ways, it’s also his wildest. The violence in the film isn’t as abrasive as in something like Ichi the Killer, but the fact that it’s more relaxed and less in your face gives it a much harsher delivery. How anyone could ever be disturbed by something as outrageous as Fudoh or Full Metal Yakuza I can’t imagine, but I can definitely understand how Audition could get under the nerves of some. When I first watched the ending it was an actual emotional experience, and anytime a movie can provoke a reaction like that from me I know it’s truly something special.

I’ve heard Miike compared to David Cronenberg or David Lynch for this film, but to my knowledge, as fantastic as both those directors are neither have ever done anything quite as drastic as this. For the first 60% of the film’s running time it seems as if we’re in a somewhat dark romantic film with a pinch of black comedy. Then somewhere along the way Miike starts to let things unravel, giving us glimpses at just how dark and seedy things can get.

The ending, while disturbing and graphic, is also extremely confusing. I still don’t understand it completely. Even so, I don’t really care all that much. What matters more than all that though is the emotional ride the film takes you on. I’ve probably already said a bit too much about the ending, likely some who read this won’t be too shocked when the finale comes. If you can though, try and disavow all I’ve said and watch the film with no expectations and see where it leads you.

Takashi Miike has slowly turned into one of my personal favorite directors. With this, Visitor Q, Dead or Alive 1, 2, Ichi the Killer and Fudoh he’s proven to be one of the most imaginative and prolific directors of all time. Miike has taken violent cinema to a completely different level. He isn’t afraid to show anything, but this isn’t the only reason to love his work. The style, ambiance and energy in his films are unmatched in my eyes. His style variations are as prolific as his pace of filmmaking, he can move from the fast paced editing of Giy Ritchie to the dark and moody atmospheres of David Lynch. If you haven’t seen any of his work then you really owe it to yourself to see this film at least. If only to check the waters.

The Conclusion
So, if you’re open to avant garde cinema and wanting to jump into the Japanese film scene, then Audition may be a good place to start. Just don’t expect a fast paced story or a gore fest, that isn’t what this film is about. There is some gore yes, but if that’s all your interested in then please stick to dead-alive, versus, premutos, or something else because this isn’t the film your looking for.

Beast of the Yellow Night

Posted by JoshSamford On November - 7 - 2007

Originally written by Prof. Aglaophotis


Plot Outline: Joseph Langdon was a very mean SOB who killed, raped, tortured, and betrayed his way through various situations in his regiment… until he was found escaping from his crimes in the Philippines and was shot at upon discovery. Before dying however, he ran across a native fellow surrounded by an odd yellow fog who promised him everlasting life so long as he remained under his servitude. Well, as it turns out the native was actually Satan himself and being under Big S’ servitude for Langdon means bringing out the worst in the people around him by being his usual bad-ass self. He accomplishes this task by taking over the body of Philip Rogers who has recovered from some serious factory injuries only to walk away in a handsome skin with a bad heart. But Langdon isn’t as bad as Satan discovers so in order to keep Langdon in line, Satan has Philip transform into a blood thirsty creature of the night once Langdon tries to find his humanity. Between doing good and bad for the people around him (and being immortal), Langdon finds himself torn and without hope until he runs into a blind old man who might know how to help him.

The Review: Sometimes I feel that regardless of the passing of time and the changing of cinema, there will always be a glimmering spark of classical movies that will ignite our gas-soaked attention and have us sink in awe at what’s on the screen. Though I wasn’t completely ‘sinking in awe’, I was somewhat pleased to watch Beast of the Yellow Night because it retained a classical feeling (emitted by the favorite theme of personal struggle) that almost felt similar to elements from earlier horror movies. This classical feeling can of course feel like a cliché at many moments while watching the film, but clichés can be avoided by originality and the Yellow Night feels a lot like a little cliché and an original plot altogether due to the aforementioned classic monster movie feeling. Some of this feeling also comes from the creature make-up as the beast that Langdon transforms in to highly resemble Lon Cheney Jr. in The Werewolf due to the concept of a loony flesh eating monster in a button up shirt and slacks on the run. I have heard much criticism about the gore in the movie, saying that it’s too cheap to be forgivable, but I’ll admit that for what little it had, it still offered fairly decent blood and gore effects for a low budget.

The cinematography isn’t a lot to brag about; though it does show most of the scenes in great lucidity, the original 35mm footage tends to make various scenes seem unconnected as they continually change from tint to tint for ever shot and day-for-night shots are rather questionable. With this in mind, the opening scene appeared somewhat inebriated as it traveled between two points with different tints for each cut. This however does not last forever as the editing of scenes at first seems rather confusing, but throughout the rest of the movie, the scenes fit in nicely and raise few continuity errors. The real cohesiveness for the opening scene to the movie was one expositive scene that occurred later in the movie and the beginning dialogue between Langdon and Satan that basically sets up the beginning plot device which really demands your full attention if you hope to understand what’s transpiring. The sound had an even amount of fairness to its merit as it offers great ambience and well applied average noises such as canes knocking around, doors closing, bones snapping and gunshots, but other noises were just far too Foley to be recognizable, like the slapping meat-slammer noise for slashes and punches, flamethrowers making gunshot noises instead of a streams of flaming gas being sprayed out. There were also a few missing noises as well, particularly the bending of iron bars that the demonic Langdon does in order to get out of one room (not only is he more powerful than the average man, but he’s also whisper quiet when it comes to getting out of a room in usually noisy ways, apparently). The music certainly contributed to its classical feeling of evident struggles, the old-timey location, re-establishing romances, and a killer beast on the prowl as a rather well orchestrated tune hits our ears with a soft yet chaotic violin stringing for the opening drama, and a touching flute tune for the personal struggles. Though the soundtrack hit a few repetitive notes such as the climactic opening for the romance theme, the music matched the content pretty well for the most part. The acting was a little mixed as various actors brought differing levels of charisma in the film. It’s a given that late rockabilly actor John Ashley would bring a smooth and cool air to the screen, with his easy flowing dialogue, greased up pompadour, and angular looks and Diaz was pretty good as a sly, chubby, smooth and cruel talking version of Satan. Many of the native Filipino actors like Garcia and Salcedo presented their characters believably (and with good dialogue, too! I love it when no dubbing is required) as they investigated the Langdon case, while other actors almost treated the film like it was an Anthony Cardoza rip off simply with their dialogue or appearances (wait, did I really type Cardoza? Dammit, I did it again). The use of most of the props in the movie are pretty fitting, though the bag full of limbs and flesh that Satan brings to Langdon is a little too modern of a design that contrasts with his starting native costume.

I’ve heard some negative remarks regarding the gore in the movie, but personally, I thought that the gore in Yellow Night wasn’t all that bad. True, there is one gut eating scene in which we see some silicone rolled bright pink bits of gut that contrasts with what real intestinal tracks may look like, but it was convincing for the scene because the bits of intestine shown were being munched/chewed up by a supposedly stronger than human monster-man. The rest of the gore mostly consisted of one broken arm, quick throat slashing and gnawing effects that fit in pretty well. Speaking of effects, the ‘creature’ himself was fair in design in the sense that John Ashley got his hands and face covered with a beyond charred layer of skin, fangs and a wig, but you could spot a few parts of Ashley that wasn’t covered by the make up as some brief flesh tones would appear above his shirt collar. Something I thought was interesting in the line of effects was the implication of the color yellow. Now seeing that the movie was filmed in the Philippines, I’m not sure whether yellow is the social sign of danger as red is to Latin America and black is here in the US, but I feel that the yellow fog that constantly rolls in whenever Satan has a scene to talk in, it works on different levels, especially for a movie of this caliber. This is partly due to the fact that when someone thinks of a color to represent Hell, chances are he’s are going to use the color red because of the idea that Hell is a big ol’ inferno. The problem is obvious that if Hell is a place of hot, constant fires, then why are there never RED FLAMES? See? By using yellow fog, the scene is warmed up in a thick, hazy atmosphere that comes closer to representing a Hellish presence because fires are always yellow and orange (depending on the fire of course, you could end up with a hint of blue or white, but never red. The only kind of red fire you’ll see is from a colored flare or stars that are really far away from Earth). Aside from those previously listed, there were very few other notable effects, aside from a seemingly half a minute long all red copulation/love making scene in the fore ground with a groovy red close up of Langdon & Julia kissing in the background (I say groovy because it’s VERY sixties [and I feel the need to add at this point that actress Mary Wilcox might not be much to look at, but she fills-in a number of sixties style tunics very nicely in the film, so that’s a plus).

There was some drama involved in the movie as well, almost more so than violence, though the contrast is evened out between each scene. However, there seems to be a something missing in the deliverance of the dramatic scenes; I don’t mean to say that they were badly acted, especially not when Langdon starts to PHYSICALLY thank Julia for being so faithful to him while he’s acting odd (at that point I was sure that the film was going to take a brief turn into soft-core porn style cinematography, but it didn’t), but for the most part, I think there was a part of me that slightly cared about what the characters were going through between each other. Looking back on it now though, I realize that I ended up setting most of my focus on how Ashley’s character was going to treat his life, the people he interacted with and how their words would influence/possibly help him (or if the cops were figuring things out on their own, then I’d focus my attention on that), but once it shifted to a different character that Langdon talked to, I slowly began losing interest. The one scene that pops into my mind regarding this issue is when Earl and Julia are talking about Philip’s recently weird behavior that made him try and push Julia onto Earl and how these two characters suddenly started developing something between each other. For Philip’s only known brother, Earl really doesn’t seem like a good bro when it comes to insuring that your wigged out brother/pal ends up okay and being more worried about his brother’s wife’s mental stability; disconnected, vague, dumb sounding and biologically inaccurate in comparison to his damned brother… yeah, the one character that brought the movie down with his appearance, lines and infidelity was Phil’s brother Earl who right from the start I knew he had something for Phil’s wife. Geez, what a worm. I will admit that given the pros and cons, Beast of the Yellow Night is an interesting low-budget killer monster on the run film that might not be recognized for anything other than John Ashley, but it’s a unique popcorn Drive-In style movie that works as a kick-back/relaxing visual treat. With the given details plus its own, Beast of the Yellow Night has also got a little bit of classic material to its structure while still being somewhat original; if you like the gory results of a man turned flesh eating wombat monster from Hell trying to find his faith and solidity, then this is a pretty good selection.



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Varied Celluloid is a film website intent on delivering views on movies from all genres. Started in 2003, the website has been steadfast in its goal and features a database of over 500 lengthy reviews. If you would like to contact us about writing for the website or sending screeners, please visit the about page located here.

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