Rupert Pupkin Speaks: Synapse Films - BASKET CASE 2 and 3 on Blu-ray ""

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Synapse Films - BASKET CASE 2 and 3 on Blu-ray

BASKET CASE was first introduced to me as a cult movie. I read about the film in Danny Peary's Cult Movies 2 book. Movies I came across in Peary's books had some immediate cache with me as he steered me towards so much great stuff. BASKET CASE is kind of a prototypical cult movie in my mind. It has been the fodder of midnight screenings for years, much like its brethren ERASERHEAD. In fact, the film was initially part of a deal with Libra Films who handled the early midnight screenings. Libra had been been greatly successful on the midnight circuit with ERASERHEAD prior to this. Though the two films are quite different, they have a few similarities and their cult status as well as the fact that I saw them very close together has made me link them a bit in my mind. BASKET CASE is a marvel of low-budget horror filmmaking. That it pulls off what it does in the context of its financials(a $33,000 budget) is quite impressive. Hennenlotter and his producer were able to hire Kevin Haney and John Caglione to do the effects on the film. They had both worked under FX master Dick Smith and they really elevate the film to a whole other level. Certainly the effects were a huge part of its appeal at the time. Like I said though, it's a cult film through and through in that it's the kind of thing you watch late at night on VHS or cable and then quickly spread the word to your genre fanatic friends who haven't had the pleasure. It's a word of mouth wonder. The little horror engine that could. I love to root for filmmakers and films like this especially when they pull if something memorable. In the words of the great Joe Bob Briggs,"We're talking classic cinema here. We're Talking No. 1 on the Joe Bob Briggs Best of '82 Drive-in Movie list. We're talking BASKET CASE."
Regarding BASKET CASE 2 and 3, I'm not sure I'd seen them before this. I may have seen 2 a long while ago on VHS, but I'd ever gotten to 3. In part 2, the main character and his deformed brother are taken in by a home for wayward freaks run by Annie Ross (in a bad wig). Annie Ross may have played plenty of other roles, but I'll always remember her as the evil principal character in PUMP UP THE VOLUME. Actually, scratch that. When I see Annie Ross, I think of SUPERMAN III and her horrifying transformation into a robot (that scene still makes me queasy to this day).When I see Annie Ross onscreen, I immediately begin to sneer. The film plays kind of like an 80s version of FREAKS, complete with the phrase "one of us" uttered a few times. BASKET CASE 2 occasionally feels like a casting call for the Mos Eisley Cantina or something along those lines. The other freaks are designed well and the movie is fun if not nearly as interesting or successful in what it accomplishes as the original. It does kind of just what a sequel should in that it steps things up and has more crazy creatures for us to be grossed out by. 
As for BASKET CASE 3, it's pretty crazy and takes things to an even more outlandish and insane level than the previous two films. The movie opens with a couple back to back sex scenes that are pretty disturbing (Belial getting it on is not necessarily the first thing I want to see when a movie begins).  The rest of the plot basically has to do with Belial having some babies (hence the name BASKET CASE 3 : THE PROGENY) and those babies getting taken away by the cops and Belial going nutzoid (like The Terminator) in a police station. Annie Ross returns in with her bad hair - which is a nice added bonus. It's also interesting to see Henenlotter push the boundaries of crazy storytelling and work with an even slightly higher budget, but I think I kind or prefer the smaller scale, extremely DIY earlier version of this story a bit better (please note, I can't find confirmation that BASKET CASE 2 actually had a higher budget than BASKET CASE, but I assume they are comparable). Something about Henenlotter's style just goes really well with that sort of small scale, cult movie bizarreness of the first movie a little better. Same thing goes for BRAIN DAMAGE - which is also very DIY and maybe my favorite of his films. I feel like there are times when I don't really need to see the extra gore and creature design of the BASKETCASE sequels - as entertaining as they are. I like that there is a bit left to the imagination in the first film (due in part to budgetary constraints) and that brings me into the world of the movie a little bit more. One thing I do like about the BASKET CASE movies is the way they celebrate and embrace weirdos and outsiders - which is very fitting with the cult movie paradigm in general. I think that with characters like Duane and Belial, the more you bring in other people/creatures - the more it gets away from the core of the unique identity of what Hennenlotter originally created. Others will certainly enjoy BASKET CASE 3  more than I did, and it is still recommended for fans of the series for sure.

Special Features -

-THE MAN IN THE MOON MASK – Interview with “Half Moon” actor, David Emge
-BEYOND THE WICKER – Behind-the-Scenes Featurette from Special Effects Makeup Artist, Gabe Bartalos
-Reversible Cover art with newly commissioned front piece by Joel Robinson

-Original Theatrical Trailer
-Reversible Cover art with newly commissioned front piece by Joel Robinson

1 comment:

C Chaka said...

There was a huge tonal shift from the original to part 2, similar (but not as good as) Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2. The sequel lost the uncomfortable grittiness of the original. Belial was undeniably a despicable bastard in the original, but comes off as almost the hero of the sequel, which is hard to reconcile. Still, I admire that it went in such a weird direction and the freaks are nice and surreal. Haven't gotten around to the third one.