90 min., 1990
Written by Frank Henenlotter
Directed by Frank Henenlotter
My rating: ★★★★
Basket case… I see what you did there.
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After a near fatal fall from a hotel window, both Duane and his malformed twin brother Belial escape police custody as well as a hospital bed. This is all with the help of a little old lady with a soft spot for the severely deformed and her lovely granddaughter, Susan. Referred to by the tabloids as “Dr. Freak”, but more kindly known as “Granny Ruth”, she stashes the twins in her freak sanctuary conveniently located in her attic.
For those of you unfamiliar with the original story, Duane and his brother were conjoined twins. The problem of their birth, which resulted in the death of their mother and the severe depression of their father, was ultimately rectified by three doctors being hired to remove the malformed twin from Duane’s body. Twenty-one years later, Duane and his brother hunt the doctors down and exact revenge on them one by one. In the process of stalking the second doctor, Duane falls in love with a girl and it drives a wedge between him and his brother, culminating in a Cain and Abel style fight in the end. Even though we’re led to believe they both perished in this dive out the window, we see now for sequel purposes, that this was not the case. The only person who accepted both Duane and his brother was his aunt, who happened to be friends with Granny Ruth. This is how Granny knew of their existence, and why she was compelled to come to their aid.
This story, sadly enough, is mostly a way for the effects artist to showcase some very elaborate (and, I must say, well-done) masks and latex augmentations. They’ve improved on Belial’s makeup dramatically, and ditched the stop-motion effects for his movement this time around. They introduced a second female deformity very similar in size and make-up to Belial. This gives him the opportunity to find love, and Duane the opportunity to pursue Sarah uninterrupted. While Granny Ruth lets them heal from their injuries, some tabloid reporters have been searching for the “Times Square Freak Twins” with no success. Their luck, however, runs out when the female reporter, covering the anniversary of their disappearance, is sent to Granny Ruth’s house to get some theories and give a little
commentary on where she thinks the twins may have disappeared to. As she’s being dismissed she runs right into Duane, and making her exit, knows she’s found her next big scoop.
Discovering Duane has put all of the other characters in danger and threatens to expose their sanctuary to scrutiny if this story is leaked. Bearing this in mind, Granny Ruth rallies the residents and convinces them to strike back rather than hide in the shadows this time. The reporter, her photographer, and even her private investigator friend are all taken out with extreme prejudice. After this threat has been neutralized, Duane gets the impression he is free to pursue Susan since he is no longer a freak, and she seems to be the epitome of normal. His hopes are soon shattered when he finds out she’s been pregnant with a baby for several years that bursts through her stomach for air at random moments in time. Mortified, he knocks her out of a window (what the fuck is with these people and window deaths?!) ruining the house of freak’s celebratory picnic below. Realizing he is no more normal than anyone else, Duane decides to go back to the life of a freak, and using some giant knitting needles, sews his brother back onto his body. His brother does not appreciate this for several reasons, the main one of which is that he’d just lost his virginity to Eve, the female version of Belial, moments before.
Ending the movie on this note leaves room for another sequel (and SPOILER ALERT: there is one). This movie had its funny moments—it was campy, over-the-top, and gave me quite a few chuckles, but is not quite as entertaining as the first. The focus of this movie isn’t really the performance from the character playing Duane. It’s actually Granny Ruth who steals the show. This review gets a solid three stars for comedy and content, and I would suggest, if you can get a hold of it, that you do so. Until next time folks, may all your films bring you fright.Have You Read...?