Thursday, January 29, 2009

Little Brothers Are So Gosh Darn Annoying

A film like Basket Case is hard to see with a fresh eye. I grew up with Part 2 being on active rotation in my VCR, but the sequel--loads of over-the-top, self-aware fun that involved a tender yet anatomically unexplained sex scene, as I recall (ahem) fondly--lacks many of the qualities that made the original such a beloved piece of early 80s cheese. Try as you might, it's difficult to recreate the sweet sleaze of pre-Guilianni NYC, stop-motion animation that reminds you why you should hate modern CGI, and a white boy afro that puts Peter Brady to shame.

Quick Plot: Duane is new to Manhattan, but instead of standing on line for a Magnolia Bakery cupcake and getting orchestra tickets to Mama Mia, he checks into a seedy motel in Hell’s Kitchen and chaperones his basket-dwelling, formerly conjoined twin brother Belial on a mini murder spree of the doctors who separated them years back. (I guess having a giant wad of chewing gum that roars like Sloth attached to your side was a tad taboo in the 80s.) A few obstacles pop up along the way, namely Duane’s whirlwind romance with a doctor’s assistant/aggressive tourist trap pusher who sports a blond Farrah wig that calls to mind a poor man’s Miss Piggy. 

See, Beliall hasn’t had much contact with women. Nor has Duane, although he seems to have no problem attracting a few. Friendly, flirty neighbors include a sassy prostitute whose idea of heavy boozing is a six pack of Budweiser and a talkative New Yawkah with Bette Davis makeup. It’s easy to laugh at the hammy acting of Basket Case, but having spent a good year plus walking around Manhattan and often finding myself trapped in random conversations with overeager strangers, I don’t doubt that these characters were based in reality.

What I love about Basket Case (other than Belial, bless his blob-like heart) is that every person involved in this film commits. Okay, I could do without the opening death scene that kind of reminded me what my high school Physics teacher would sound like if ‘Help. No. Oh God. No’ ever came out of his mouth, but from the twin vet assistants decked out in full nursing gear to the joyous full frontal streaking of Kevin Van Hentenryck, a good time was clearly had by all.  Thankfully, NYC auteur Frank Henenlotter had enough talent and good humor to let the audience in on the fun.

High Points:
Belial going all George Michael on the Hotel Broslin in a stop motion animated rampage that is somehow hysterical, cheesy, and oddly creepy at the same time

The shot of the twins’ dad being fittingly split in two following the operation that, well, split his sons in two

Every facial expression made by Beverly Bonner

Low Points:
Belial is scary and shocking to see. We get that. By the fifth “character about to die faces camera and lets out a scream” scene, the reaction is kinda annoying

Hey, did you know that this takes place in and around the Hotel Broslin? Really, you didn’t? Let me show you again. Oh! And did you know this scene is inside the Hotel Broslin. Let me--Okay, I get that the budget was small, but you don’t have to be so proud of having burning neon sound effects that you use them about 27 times in the course of a 90 minute movie. 

Lessons Learned:
It's very possible to rape a woman to death without external genitalia

Never trust a doctor that looks like a cross between Steve Buscemi and Dr. Nick, particularly if he eats pizza during a consultation

42nd St. was a lot cooler before the Disney Invasion

Scuzzy Times Square hotel walls come decorated with framed portraits of Irving Berlin

*(Further proof of a previous theory) Nothing good comes out of upstate NY

 Best line:
“I like you drunk. You’re cute when you slobber.” as said by a horny veterinarian that vaguely resembles one of the deformed Sigourney Weaver clones in Alien: Resurrection

Buy: The only thing that would make me recommend this movie more is if a Belial Beanie Baby was included with the purchase. The new 20th Anniversary DVD release is loaded with special features, including lots of tidbits about how money was saved (one word: streaking). The light-heartedness makes it an appropriate party movie filled with gleeful gore that should, for the most part, amuse rather than disturb.  Plus, I’m all for supporting a film that --while it may involve mutant rape, infanticide, patricide, and a total abuse of the Hippocratic oath--has a genuine innocence that seems to power every reel. Brotherly love, a first kiss, and wicker. What’s not to love? 

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