Basket Case 2 (1990)

Frank Henenlotter will often remind people that he is not strictly a horror director, but an exploitation director.  His success comes largely from the horror genre, but unlike most directors of his type he doesn't take it all too seriously.  Basket Case is probably as close to a serious horror flick as he has made, and even it had a dark, dirty sense of humor to it.  It became a cult classic so, as usual, Henenlotter was often asked when he was going to make a sequel to it.

That answer, for the longest time, was never.  That changed when he was trying to get a movie called Insect City made, and pitched it to James Glickenhouse.  Glickenhouse wasn't impressed, so Henenlotter pretty much pulled Frankenhooker out of thin air and, when asked for more ideas, said he was willing to do a sequel to Basket Case.  Neither of these movies had real scripts or plots behind them at the time, but they ended up being filmed back-to-back and both released in 1990. 

It turns out that Duane (Kevin VanHentenryck) and his brother Belial were in fact not killed after falling from the sign at the end of Basket Case, but instead were seriously wounded.  Both are taken to a local hospital for treatment, but Belial uses his abilities to control Duane in order to make an escape.  As they leave the hospital they are rescued by Granny Ruth (Annie Ross) and her granddaughter Susan (Heather Rattray), who take in the pair and introduce them to their house for of freaks. 

With Belial feeling at home for the first time ever Duane, as he heals, feels the urge to finally go off on his own.  Problem is he wants to also take Susan, who is not too keen on leaving her grandmother and the only family she's known.  His plans are put on hold when a tabloid reporter (Kathryn Meisle) recognizes him while poking around Granny Ruth's place and, in order to protect his brother, Susan and the rest, he joins with them to make sure Granny Ruth's secret commune is kept from the prying eyes of the outside world. 

I expected Basket Case 2 to be a retread of the first movie.  I figured Duane and Belial would somehow survive and go someplace else where they would once again go on a murder spree.  Instead, the movie turned out to be a weird combination of Freaks and NightbreedEven stranger, this came out the same year as the latter, and there was definitely no crossover of one imitating the other.  It just so happened two strange, critically underrated movies involving some neat monsters came out at the same time, although Henenlotter's are purposely a lot more cartoonish. 

Cartoonish or not there is some great creative work going on with the costumes, designed by Gabe Bartalos, even if sometimes the budget constraints are evident through lack of mouth movement or some compromises on the prosthetics so the actors wearing them could see and move about.  Still, it's a great job, and Belial looks even better, no longer having to be rendered in Claymation when he wants to move around.  What isn't cartoonish, though, are the actual horror elements and the ending, which sets the viewer up for a nice gory shock.

While Basket Case 2 doesn't have that scuzzy Times Square vibe the first movie had it is still quite enjoyable.  The plot is predictably a bit thin, the budget forced many of the kills to happen off-screen, but something that could have been just plain silly turns out to be a more than worthwhile sequel to a cult classic.  I may be in the minority, but I enjoyed this much more than I did Frankenhooker.  Why it isn't given more notice is a bit of a mystery to me. 

Basket Case 2 (1990)
Time: 90 minutes
Starring: Kevin VanHentenryck, Annie Ross, Heather Rattray, Kathryn Meisle
Director: Frank Henenlotter



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