One year after Basket Case 2 released, Frank Henenlotter returned to his horror comedy series about a deformed basket-dwelling man and his relatively normal, if maladjusted, brother. This time, Basket Case 3: The Progeny progresses naturally from its predecessor, a positive result thanks to the quick turnaround time of Henenlotter and his crew – he shot the film in 27 days, and with most of the freakish character designs already created, the film is able to quickly enter into the most logical new plot territory: with Belial and Eve welcoming a litter of children into the world.
Henenlotter doesn’t expect the viewer to remember from Basket Case 2, however; he introduces the uninitiated by reusing footage from the previous film’s finale, a lengthy synopsis of Belial and Eve’s copulation and Duane’s (Kevin Van Hentenryck) mental breakdown after finding out about his lover’s deformity. Basket Case 3: The Progeny picks up directly from there, with Duane and Belial heading out on a bus trip with the rest of Granny Ruth’s (Annie Ross) goof troupe into the south to find a place where Eve can safely give birth to her children.
Basket Case 2 expanded on the zaniness of an already strange premise, but Basket Case 3 has no issue in taking things even further. Henenlotter recycles all of the freak characters from the previous film, except this time he’s using them to full advantage. Whereas Basket Case 2 alternated between Granny Ruth’s home and a love story between Duane and Susan, Basket Case 3 is mostly centered on the freak show itself, and Henenlotter spends a lot more time with the lovable grotesques that Granny Ruth has adopted. And in truth, the idea works better when Henenlotter allows the story room to get as wacky as possible; the original Basket Case suffered from an inability to pin down its tone between the horror and comedy genres, but this film is about as campy as can be expected, and that makes it a lot more fun to watch as Henenlotter embraces the ridiculous subject matter.
The film is full of inane nonsensical sequences, and it’s probably the best film in the trilogy because of this. Viewers will eventually see Eve give birth to not one, not five, not seven deformed little Belials, but a total of twelve – Henenlotter, dragging this scene out to its maximum potential, frames the whole birthing scene around an overly excited on-looker filming the whole thing, prompting such fantastic expressions as “An ovarian ovation of the highest honor!” and multiple poetic rhymes based on the number of children pulled out of Eve’s womb. Here, Henenlotter and co-writer Robert Martin’s jokes hit the hardest, and they’re the most pointedly humorous moments that the trilogy offers.
Henenlotter keeps some of those repeating themes about human judgment intact despite the outlandish comedy, too. Basket Case 3 introduces a new freak named Little Hal (Jim O’Doherty), a smart inventor who has been shunned into hiding because of his multiple arms; the sheriff (Gil Roper) has promised to protect him from any unsavory peepers. But when the freaks become too much for the town, when the sheriff and his police force can’t allow a dozen little Belials to be borne unto the world without retribution, the freaks are forced to strike back against an antagonistic force full of judgment. This is Henenlotter making his clearest statement yet about how the audience is supposed to feel towards these violent individuals; we’re supposed to at least relate to their feelings of oppression, and Basket Case 3 makes the best case for this. Its plot isn’t as muddled, and even its subplot about Duane falling for yet another woman who becomes his downfall (Tina Louise Hilbert) relates back to this theme – Duane too, though suffering no deformity, has been ostracized from the “normal” world.
The third time’s the charm for the Basket Case series, and I’ve got to admit that Basket Case 3: The Progeny is probably the silliest and most effective film of the trio. Henenlotter sheds some of the self-seriousness of the prior films and stuffs Basket Case 3 full of humor and gore – and a lot more nudity than the other installments. Again, there’s certainly an audience who won’t appreciate this type of cinema and Henenlotter’s borderline offensive storyline in Basket Case 3 won’t win over anyone who didn’t enjoy the first two. But the film opts to go big or go home, and strangely, it succeeds despite some unnecessary recycled footage. While Duane and Belial’s journey ended here, it’s good to see that Henenlotter closed the basket on a strong note.
No special features on this disc besides a trailer and reversible cover art, unfortunately. Video quality is on par with Synapse Films’ release of Basket Case 2 – it looks very good, though flashback scenes (and curiously, the opening scenes taken from Basket Case 2) have some significant grain. Audio is presented in 2.0 track and sounds very good; however, it seems like there’s a bit of drop-out present during Granny Ruth’s rendition of “Personality” during the bus ride. No subtitles. Otherwise, a nice package that simply lacks any extras.
Basket Case 3: The Progeny is the best yet in Henenlotter's trilogy
Basket Case 3: The Progeny certainly feels like an extension of Basket Case 2 that has been taken even further, and in this case that's really what this series needed. The gore, the nudity, and the fun has all been amped up for this final film in the series, and viewers should appreciate the humor.
Though Synapse's Blu-Ray lacks special features, it's still a good-looking disc that you'll want to pick up if you're a fan of Henenlotter's work.
Probably the best of Henenlotter's Basket Case series