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Basket Case 3: The Progeny (1991)

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Score: 6/10

Genre: Horror Comedy Running Time: 1 hr. 30 min.

Release Date: December 27th, 1991 MPAA Rating: R

Director: Frank Henenlotter Actors: Kevin Van Hentenryck, Annie Ross, Gil Roper, Dan Biggers, Tina Louise Hilbert, Carla Morrell, Carmen Morrell, Jim O’Doherty

I

t helps to have seen (and enjoyed) “Basket Case” and “Basket Case 2” before viewing the final entry of the trilogy, but it’s definitely not necessary. As with most of these incredibly silly, monstrously cheesy ‘90s B-movies, the plot is of negligible importance. The inventive and bizarre character designs are at their most appealing in this third chapter, the script is at its most ridiculous, and the ideas are crazier and make much less sense. The acting is expectedly pitiful and the plot is pointless at best, but the increasingly self-aware, accidental humor is generous enough to warrant seeing this utter schlock. It’s difficult not to laugh at filmmaking this absurd.

Susan and her alien-like hand-puppet child Bernard are dead (in the second film she is the daughter of long-lost Aunt Ruth), while Duane (Kevin Van Hentenryck) is bound in a straitjacket and locked in a padded cell by freak caretaker Granny Ruth (Annie Ross). Despite her literal busload of deformed underlings, she remains one of the most abnormal of the bunch. Duane plots an escape to reunite with his once-conjoined twin Belial, a disfigured fleshy blob that communicates telepathically. Belial’s equally deformed girlfriend Eve is now pregnant (it happens during the opening scene and their coupling is a cinematic horror that must be seen to be believed), causing Ruth to pack up the crew and leave New York for the pleasantly rural Peachtree Valley to meet her husband Uncle Hal Rockwell (Dan Biggers), a doctor who can help with the delivery.

When Belial witnesses the birth of his twelve mutant babies, a dredged-up recurring vision of his original surgical separation from Duane maddens him to the point of murder. Meanwhile, Duane gets himself imprisoned in the local jail, where the cops get wind of a comically sizable reward for capturing the “Times Square” killers. They journey to the Rockwell mansion to kill Belial, but once there, the sight of so many freaks turns them hysterical, and they instead make off with the basket of one dozen growling, ghastly babies – leading to an all-out war between the police and the army of miscreations.

The off-the-wall fiends are the highlights of the film, showcasing a creative knack for visual oddities and outlandish blood effects. Belial always ends up being little more than a puppet with occasional animatronic expressions, but Eve and every other monster adorns massive and elaborate prosthetics and makeup, reminiscent of grotesquely metamorphosed “Star Wars” inhabitants. “That’s not a pet, goddammit! That’s my nephew!” screams Duane, who was thankfully portrayed in all three films by the same actor (in an appropriately demented, unchanging performance).

In the same way that Sam Raimi embraced a comedic approach by the time he reached his third “Evil Dead” film, returning director Frank Henenlotter seems to have fully accepted conceptualizing Belial and his family of grotesqueries with only a grain of seriousness. There are still gruesome makeup effects, violent bloodshed, and gratuitous nudity, but all of it is over-the-top and humorous. The character of Opal (Tina Louise Hilbert) adopts some disturbingly erotic fetishes as she toys with Duane in jail; Belial dreams of being fondled by busty naked girls (Playboy’s Morrell Twins, in one of their only feature film roles); and Eve’s malformed children are tossed around like jelly-filled donuts. At least everything in “Basket Case 3” goes beyond the first two in extremes, even if it’s all nonsensical; hilarity proceeds every line of dialogue, the plot becomes exponentially weirder by the minute, and no signs of a fourth film are anywhere on the horizon.

– Mike Massie

 



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