Duane Bradley (Kevin Van Hentenryck) used to be physically joined to his twin Belial but they were separated against their will and went on two killing sprees, first as revenge and second to stop the tabloid press from revealing their whereabouts to the world. Now they live in a mansion belonging to Granny Ruth (Annie Ross), a friend of the family, but Duane has jeopardised that welcome by accidentally killing someone close to her and in a fit of mania, taking the small and misshapen Belial and resewing him onto his side. Moving forward a few months, and they are separated again, Duane in a mental institution, but his brother is about to become a proud father, the mother being another blob…
By the time Basket Case 3 was made, it was clear the filmmakers were finding the concept, and indeed any continuation of that concept, fairly ridiculous, hence for this third instalment hot on the heels of the previous entry the comedy quotient was increased considerably. If anything, this was a wacky comedy with horror asides, more akin to the splatstick movement of the nineteen-eighties that was to fall out of favour by and by, which may be why part three was looked down on as the least of the series in comparison, not only to the other movies but to what other horror franchises were up to around the same time. Nevertheless, it picked up an appreciation in some quarters.
Mostly from those who liked the idea of horror being essentially ludicrous and therefore ripe for lampooning, which director Frank Henenlotter and his co-writer Robert Martin were doing a not bad job of here. Again, the travails of family were on the table for discussion, from birth to death and everything in between, as the Bradleys certainly lived a life that was full, if not necessarily sane, so we began, after some footling about, with Belial's children born, a dozen of them, all fanged little blobs like him and his missus. Well, actually we began with footage of the previous film's ending, as Part 2 had done with the original, and Henenlotter even padded out the ninety minutes with a bit from that as well.
So you could tell perhaps spare cash was thin on the ground, and had been mostly spent on the latex budget of which there was a considerable amount, not simply the unique individuals who made up Granny Ruth’s brood but also the gore effects that saw faces ripped off or heads turned all the way around, none of it looking remotely convincing but presented with a certain verve and gusto that made it more part of the humour than the potential for horror fulfilled. Annie Ross, being a famed jazz singer, got to deliver a rendition of Personality with the freaks as her backing singers as they all travelled by school bus to the doctor who will deliver the Bradley babies, and the fact there was so much attention lavished on this scene spoke volumes.
The tune was even played over the end credits, which followed a surprisingly happy ending for the murderous siblings, even a call to arms and statement of intent that may have been optimistic, but illustrated Henenlotter's benevolence towards his creations. They threw in various random bits and pieces seemingly for the hell of it, so one girl (Tina Louise Hilbert), the apparent wholesome love interest for Duane this time around, turns out to be a whip-wielding dominatrix for no other reason than to make us laugh, for instance. It’s such a fine line between stupid and clever as a wise man once said, and Basket Case 3 trod it rather shakily, just about getting away with its antics because it was so well disposed towards its cast of outsider characters, and there were even scenes where people were allowed to grieve, reminding us that these may be preposterous individuals, but somebody loved them nonetheless. This was the end for the Bradleys, but they'd had a good run, and at least here were laughing at themselves, though it was the crazed cackle of madness. Music by Joe Renzetti.
[Second Sight has released the Basket Case Trilogy on Blu-ray for the UK, uncut and with a whole load of extras including commentary, featurettes, trailers and galleries. Even Easter eggs!]
American director of trashy horror comedies. Made his debut in 1982 with the cult splatter favourite Basket Case, which he followed in 1988 with the similarly themed, equally gruesome drug addiction-analogy Brain Damage. Frankenhooker was a taste-free updating of Frankenstein, while Basket Cases 2 and 3 followed in the early 90s. After a long gap overseeing the preservation and distribution of vintage grindhouse movies, he returned to directing with Bad Biology in 2008.