A Few Thoughts on “Basket Case 2”

My favorite TV and movie genres are pro wrestling and horror. They have been since I can remember. I identify as a fan of these things and I’m not ashamed to admit it. I know they have flaws and are thought of in a bad light by most people. I really don’t care. I love them for what they are, and probably a little more because they’re unpopular. If there’s one thing I’ve noticed from watching both my whole life, it’s that pro wrestling and horror do have some overlap, which might explain why I liked both to begin with. It pains me to say it, but one of their most obvious parallels is crap continuity and lack of follow-through (see figure 1a).

Figure 1a.

Stop and think and you’ll be amazed by how many inconsistencies fans of pro wrestling and horror like myself will forgive when we’re entertained. WWE’s storylines in particular are notorious for not making sense and just fizzling out without resolution. Since at least the mid-1990s, characters have been heel-turning for unlikely reasons (What was it Randy said in Scream? “It’s the millennium. Motives are incidental.”), wrestlers conveniently forget to invoke rematch clauses, and things like the identity of the anonymous Raw general manager and why Vince McMahon was alive again when his limo blew up are too often left unexplained. But every week, here I am, tuning in with a smile on my face.

The same goes for horror. Take Jason Voorhees. Jason never looks the same twice. His face and mask appear different each film. In the first four Fridays alone, three of which take place over a weekend, he’s revealed to be a hydrocephalic handicapped boy, a bearded wildman, a clean-shaven guy with a cleft lip and upturned Michael Jackson nose, and a wrinkly gray corpse. In Parts 5, 6, 7, 9, and 10, his signature hockey mask is missing a set of red stripes, and in Freddy vs Jason, it’s missing the big gash at the top from the axe wound he suffered to close out Part 3.

And then there’s Part 5. The entire point of Part 5 was to set up protagonist Tommy Jarvis as Jason’s replacement. The title of the next entry, Jason Lives, tells you which direction the writers went.

These kinds of hiccups, oversights, whatever you want to call them, are common in long-running studio franchises. That’s because new teams are usually brought in for each sequel. With so many hands stirring the pot, it’s easy to see why comparatively small details like whether or not Jason’s mask has a gash in it would go overlooked. It doesn’t excuse the mistakes, but I think it explains them.

I’ve learned to accept goofs like these since they’re unavoidable anyway. I do my best not to let them annoy me, and challenge myself to come up with my own whys and wherefores.

Frank Henenlotter’s Basket Case trilogy might be my all-time favorite horror series (runner-ups include Puppet Master, Phantasm, and Sleepaway Camp). It holds a special place in my heart, but that doesn’t mean that I’m blind to its problems. One thing that amuses me about it is that its main baddie Belial always seems to be changing in size and appearance. This is due to there having been several different puppets and a glove used on set to achieve different shots. The first movie hinges on the premise that Belial fits in a large wicker basket, but in some scenes he’s clearly too big for it. In others, where his basket is wide open, we should be able to see the top of his head but we can’t.

At one point, Belial evades an angry mob of Hotel Broslin tenants by hiding inside of a toilet. His brother Duane comes to console him.

Reminds me of the cover of Pledge Night (1990).
Credit: Basket Case, Something Weird Video DVD

Here he is moments later on top of that toilet.

Siblings can be turds.
Credit: Basket Case, Something Weird Video DVD

Do you see what I mean? This has never made sense. There’s no way Belial would have fit in that bowl unless he was crammed down into the pipes.

What I’m getting to is a moment in Basket Case 2 where Belial changes from an animatronic puppet to an actor in prosthetic makeup. His… let’s say “dynamic” appearance in the first film is why this scene never struck me as all that odd before.

Here he is at the start of the scene.

Credit: YouTube
I haven’t figured out how to screenshot Blu-rays yet.

Here he is less than two minutes later.

Credit: YouTube

The back of the Basket Case 2 VHS shows actor-version Belial from an alternate angle with gnarlier teeth.

Basically, here’s what happens: Duane tells his brother he’s cutting ties. Belial changes, then laughs, as if to say “good luck”. I used to believe the murdering, malformed monstrosity’s jump in appearance was down to a technical issue. Like, maybe the special effects people manning the puppet weren’t able to get it to laugh as required and actor-version Belial was their workaround. This explanation satisfied me for years.

Then, the last time I watched Basket Case 2, something clicked. I had a profound, forehead slapping kind of moment. I realized that actor-version Belial is meant to more closely resemble Duane, look “human” like Duane, and I realized that he’s meant to be seen through Duane’s eyes, not ours, to illustrate that he’s going through an identity crisis, that he doesn’t know who he is anymore.

Duane looks down, and when he looks up, he sees himself in his brother, and at that moment knows he will never not be a part of him.

Duane’s dialogue points this way too: “The link between us is gone. I’m not a part of you anymore. I want to be free, and I want to get away. I want to start my life over.”

But he can’t, no matter how hard he tries. His brother is part of his identity.

Thinking back, it’s a pretty powerful scene that does a good job of foreshadowing the film’s final frames. I’m probably the last person to interpret the scene like this, i.e., correctly, but at least I can finally, fully appreciate the superb storytelling here.

If you haven’t seen Basket Case 2, I recommend adding it to your watch list. It expands on the first film, but goes a different direction. It’s well-produced, with bigger and better effects, and in my opinion outshines the original. Its only drawback is that it’s not nearly as grimy.

The best dollar I ever spent.