St John Karp

Ramblings of an Ornamental Hermit

“Basket Case 3: The Progeny” (1991)

Basket Case 3 title.

We close out 2020 with Basket Case 3: The Progeny, and I can’t think of a better way to end a monstrous year than with more monstrous shenanigans in the Basket Case universe. When we last saw Duane Bradley he had accidentally pushed his girlfriend and her unborn six-year-old baby out the window and onto a picnic table, then interrupted his blob brother Belial in the middle of having sex and stitched him back onto his side with a giant needle. Surely we can’t top that, right? Right??

Granny Ruth being a creeper.

We open with Duane in a straitjacket and a padded cell. Granny Ruth, who takes care of a house full of deformed outcasts, is keeping him under lock and key until he’s a bit less insane. Belial has managed to get his girlfriend knocked up and she’ll soon need medical attention.

Duane and Granny Ruth are our returning regular actors and this is again written and directed by Frank Henenlotter. Can I say how great it is to have this level of consistency between the movies? They all feel like they are made in the same universe instead of just lazily tacking on one sequel after another like some other franchises. I don’t know who the hell plays Granny Ruth, but that woman is a star. She’s not only the best actor in this, she seems to be loving every minute of it. I’d love to have seen her in more stuff.

A painting of a six-armed baby.

Meanwhile a small-town doctor and sheriff seem to be hanging around a house where some ominous person called Little Hal is lurking behind closed doors. He sends a robotic tea trolley to make the sheriff some coffee, and a robot cow with a bellows up its ass vomits milk into the coffee cup for the sheriff to drink. I spent like six minutes trying to figure out a more elegant way to phrase that, but… I can’t. It’s what happens. There’s no way to convey just how weird this film is going to get.

The only clue we get about the nature of Hal is this painting of a baby with six arms that, I’m not gonna lie, I would absolutely love to put on my wall. Can I get one of those, please? Or like ten of them? Make it a wallpaper, I want that baby everywhere.

The freaks sing 'Personality' on a bus.

Granny Ruth loads all the freaks onto a bus to go see the small-town doctor, who has been tending to the freaks’ health issues on the down-low. In possibly the most fun scene of the movie, Granny Ruth sings “But you’ve got personality” to an assembled busload of freaks who sing along and do jazz hands and play the trumpet… Why are these movies so much fun?

A tiny baby Belial.

At the doctor’s house Belial’s girlfriend gives birth to twelve (count ’em!) babies, who all look like adorable killer pieces of popcorn. But where is Belial during the momentous occasion of his becoming a father?

Belial fantasizes about two ladies in thongs.
“A trapezoid is one of the simplest and yet most intriguing of polygons.”

Belial is in his basket fantasizing about two generously-hootered ladies reciting maths textbooks to him. I’m not making this up. They’re actually telling him about trapezoids. Now we finally know what “Introducing the Morrell Twins” meant in the opening credits. For the hell of it I looked them up, and it looks like this was their first screen credit. They went on to be in Penthouse: 25th Anniversary Swimsuit Video and Playboy: Voluptuous Vixens II before their film careers petered out, which is kind of a shame when you see how much of a go Caroline Monroe made out of being a model-slash-actress. She kicks ass in any number of cult B-movies.

A cop gets his eyeballs squeezed out of his head.

Blah blah blah plot. Two local cops break into the house and shoot Belial’s girlfriend, prompting Belial to go on a good old-fashioned killing spree.

Little Hal is a giant blob monster.

The sheriff discovers Little Hal to be Granny Ruth’s presumed-dead eleven-armed son, who she left to be raised in the care of the doctor.

Belial in a mech suit.

Belial continues his killing spree, but with the help of another of Little Hal’s inventions — a full-on mech suit with a claw arm and headlamps and everything. And, wait for it, wait for it…

Belial's cockpit with a pair of fuzzy dice.

A pair of fuzzy dice! God I love these movies.

The freaks mourn the death of Belial's girlfriend.

After holding a funeral for Belial’s murdered girlfriend, the freaks go on a rampage, tearing up fast food joints and taking over trashy TV broadcasts to let the world know they’re not hiding any more. They’re here to stay and there’s nothing we can do about it. Hell. Damn. Yes.

The Skinny

Duane in a padded cell.
Me at the end of 2020.

“She’s poppin’ ’em out like Pez candies!”

The Basket Case movies wear their influences on their sleeve and picking up on the cult intertextual references is part of the fun. Basket Case has basically the same plot as The Abominable Dr. Phibes (the victim of a botched surgery taking revenge on the doctors who performed it); Basket Case 2 had some definite Troma vibes with its over-the-top prosthetics (see the penis monster from Tromeo and Juliet); and Basket Case 3 takes off some well-known imagery from Aliens (the mech suit — “Get away from her, you bitch!”).

Basket Case 3 is every bit a worthy sequel to its predecessor and lives up to its high standard of bonkers plots, grotesque murders, and sheer novelty horror fun. Again, maybe this will be a bit less appealing to people who loved the grainy no-budget original, but this trilogy is a class act and I’m sad to be leaving the Basket Case universe behind.