Wednesday, October 03, 2012

31 DAYS OF FRIGHT: She's Popping 'Em Out Like Pez Candy!

Don't make me turn in my Horrordad Membership Card, but I wasn't aware that BASKET CASE 3: THE PROGENY even existed until I received a press release about the new Synapse DVD. I've never been what you would call a "huge" fan of the BASKET CASE series, though I have fond memories of sitting in the kitchen having breakfast while radio ads encouraged me to come see the original at the Budco Millside - though my coupon-clipping, bargain-hunting Mom was unimpressed that I could get a free surgical mask to keep the blood off my face.

But renting BASKET CASE was a right of passage back in those early days of video store memberships. Seems like every high schooler would rent the tape - along with BLOODSUCKING FREAKS, THE EVIL DEAD and THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE -and then come to school or swim team practice babbling about the craziness they'd witnessed.

And BASKET CASE was pretty crazy. Duane (Kevin Van Hentenryck) and his mutant twin Belial (surely one of horror's oddest icons) are surgically separated as teens but maintain a powerful psychic bond. The pair travel from their small-town home to NYC where they exact revenge on the doctors who separated them, with Belial emerging from his basket every now and then to kill other folks.

In an era where HALLOWEEN and FRIDAY THE 13th dominated the horror scene, a gory, sleazy, batshit crazy, shoe-string-budgeted flick like BASKET CASE was a revelation, and writer/director Frank Henenlotter's projects quickly became must-see for sleaze film fans. BASKET CASE 2 followed a few years later, with the twins reuniting with the aunt who raised them (Annie Ross) in an effort to escape their newfound - and unwanted - celebrity. I recall that flick featuring less of Henenlotter's black humor with more emphasis placed on the horror and gore; a natural, if not altogether welcome, progression.

BASKET CASE 3: THE PROGENY picks up where the second film ended with Duane and Belial still in the care of Granny Ruth, though her daughter Susan has been accidentally killed in a fall from a window. Belial's tryst with mutant Eve (Denise Coop) has resulted in a pregnancy that forces Granny (Ross again) to pack up her busload of mutants and head south so that sympathetic doc Uncle Hal (Dan Biggers) can perform the delivery. A run-in with the local sheriff (Gil Roper), his sexy daughter Opal (Tina Louise Hilbert) and some dimwitted, money-hungry deputies results in bloody mayhem as Belial attacks the police station to rescue his babies and faces off against the sheriff mano-a-mutant.

If anything, BASKET CASE 3 takes the craziness of the first two installments and amps it up, creating an offbeat alternate reality filled with mutants of all shapes and sizes and the "normals" who love or fear them (or, in Duane's case, a bit of both). Van Hentenryck pulls off a particularly fun performance, delivering many of the film's funniest lines during rambling, schizophrenic asides. The best scene, though, belongs to Little Hal (Jim O'Doherty), a giant, multi-limbed mutant genius who emits hysterical rapid-fire running commentary during Eve's gooey, bloody birth scene.

While watching the flick I couldn't help but think of THE TOXIC AVENGER, CLASS OF NUKE 'EM HIGH and STREET TRASH, all of which were surely influenced by Henenlotter's particular brand of black-comedy-meets-horror-sleaze. Though BASKET CASE 3 isn't among my favorite Henenlotter efforts, its 90-minute running time delivers plenty of cheap laughs, slimy pre-CGI gore and the most mutants this side of NIGHTBREED.

BASKET CASE 3: THE PROGENY will be released on video October 9. You can pre-order the title at Amazon.

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