BASKET CASE 3 (1992)
Director: Frank Hennenlotter
Synapse Films

Duane’s (Kevin Van Hentenryck) mind snaps when he accidentally kills his cousin Susan (Heather Rattray, MOUNTAIN FAMILY ROBINSON) and her six year old son Bernard (who only comes up out of her womb for air) – in recycled footage from BASKET CASE 2 – and he tries to reattach his formerly-conjoined deformed twin Belial (a prosthetic puppet voiced by Hentenryck) back onto his side. After spending a few months strait-jacketed in a padded cell in the basement, Duane is let out by Granny Ruth (Annie Ross, SUPERMAN III) in order to accompany her family of “unique individuals” on a road trip to visit Uncle Hal (Dan Biggers, PARIS TROUT) in Georgia since Belial’s girlfriend Eve (Denise Coop) is pregnant and “We’re not really sure what will come out of her.”

Duane is desperate to see Belial, who has cut off psychic communication with him, but Belial does not want to see him and Granny does not want anything to upset the expecting mother. While Uncle Hal and his multi-limbed inventor son Little Hal (sitcom writer Jim O'Doherty) oversee the birth or twelve mini-Belials, Duane escapes Uncle Hal’s house and makes the mistake of confiding in the sheriff’s daughter Opal (Tina Louise Hilbert) about his need to get his brother back. While the sheriff (Gil Roper, BLOOD SALVAGE) is away, two of his deputies find out about the million dollar reward for the Bradley Twins after their New York massacre. They head over to Uncle Hal’s hoping to capture Belial and discover his “puppies” instead and decide to use them as bait. When they kill Eve in the process of taking he babies, Belial comes out of his basket for another rampage.

Although I haven’t seen BASKET CASE 2, I’m guessing that the third film was rushed into production as the script seems half-formed (or perhaps scenes were dropped during shooting). Belial having a traumatic flashback to his separation from Duane – in recycled footage from the original BASKET CASE – and then attacking to Uncle Hal seems to have no real bearing on the plot as one has no sense how any intervention from him would have resulted in a different turnout, and the sheriff is the usual caricature. The “unique individuals” are more decorative and make little impression as individuals, and the other actors are given thinly written roles (one would think at least Uncle Hal and the sheriff would have been a bit more dimensionally-sketched). Surprisingly, gore is kept to a minimum with the outrageous deaths of the already cartoonish human casualties comically exaggerated with prosthetics (just as well considering one severed head that shows up in the climax).

The editing seems to cut away from some potentially gory moments while others seem to have been composed for humor rather than grue (unfortunately, this means we do not get to see a Geraldo-clone get the comeuppance we would like to see the real one receive). What’s left is an amusing but hardly memorable showcase for effects artists Gabe Bartalos (who had previously worked with Hennenlotter on BRAIN DAMAGE and BASKET CASE 2) and David Kindlon (who later worked with Bartalos on LEPRECHAUN). Van Hentenryck is sympathetic if a little awkward stuck between straight-man and someone possibly nuttier than the “unique individuals” but Ross steals the show with some nice comic timing and a boisterous rendition of Lloyd Prince’s “Personality” as a sing-along during the bus trip. Besides BASKET CASE 2 which introduced Granny Ruth, Ross also tangled with the horror genre in Fabrizio Laurenti’s WITCHERY (produced by Joe D’Amato) as well as the earlier, much more subtle Hammer thriller STRAIGHT ON TILL MORNING. Joe Renzetti (DEAD & BURIED) – who also scored Henenlotter’s FRANKENHOOKER and BASKET CASE 2 – provides a nice synth main theme but the rest of the score goes by almost unnoticed (the end titles reprise Ross’ rendition of “Personality” minus the contributions from the “unique” cast).

BASKET CASE 3 (as well as part two) was released on VHS and Dolby Surround laserdisc stateside by MCA/Universal (who took over home entertainment distribution of Shapiro-Glickenhaus in 1991), but its 2004 Region 1 NTSC DVD release was through 20th Century Fox in an open-matte transfer with absolutely no extras. Synapse’s new dual-layer DVD offers a theatrical trailer (1:51) that spoils all of the highlights as its sole extra – Image’s second DVD (and Blu-Ray) edition of the first film was fairly stacked and Synapse’s disc of the sequel had two informative featurettes – but the progressive anamorphic widescreen (1.78:1) transfer is a first anywhere. Some darker scenes evince grain, but the film certainly looks slicker than Henenlotter’s original (I haven’t seen the second film, but I’m assuming it looks more like the third one than the first) with some nice moonlight blues and rare splashes of blood that are a little darker than the title card. The recycled footage from BASKET CASE looks rougher and grainier as expected since it’s been blown-up to 35mm. The Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo track is in excellent condition. BASKET CASE 3 is DVD-only stateside, but Second Sight in the UK has announced a Blu-Ray set of the trilogy (technical specs or region coding information have yet to be confirmed). (Eric Cotenas)