Hellraiser III: Hell on Earth (1992)
Director: Anthony Hickox
Cast: Doug Bradley, Kevin Bernhardt, Pala Marshall, Terry Farrell
In the Hellraiser universe, continuity doesn’t really matter much. They give you the illusion that there’s continuity because they’ll start with a recap of the previous film, or they’ll mention some character from the previous film, but believe me, it’s all an illusion. In the Hellraiser franchise, each film exists within the universe that Clive Barker created but each film brings its own characters in and eliminates anything established by the previous film. By way of an example, just when you think Hellbound: HellraiserII (1989) is going to give us a bit of continuity because it brought back the character of Julia Cotton, they go and kill her off, eliminating with no amount of respect, characters and situations established on the first film. It seems like the only constant in these films are The Cenobytes and the Lament Configuration. Well, Hellraiser III: Hell on Earth (1992) does the same; it ignores previous films, avoiding any sort of continuity and presents us with an entirely new set of characters. How did this third outing in the franchise turn out?
This time around, the lead Cenobyte a.k.a. ‘Pinhead’ is trapped inside of a sculpture. How did Pinhead end up in a sculpture? Who put him there and why? Never mind these questions because the filmmakers never bother to answer them. You’re asked to accept the fact that Pinhead is a sculpture now and that’s that. It feels like the filmmakers simply said “You know what would look cool? Pinhead trapped in a sculpture! Let’s go with that! I like it!” They didn’t care if this concept made sense or not, or if it fit with what had happened to the character on previous films, they just went with it. Then we are presented with J.P., the owner of a New York dance club called ‘The Boiler Room’. J.P. also happens to be an art collector. One day, while visiting an art gallery, J.P. stumbles upon the sculpture in which Pinhead is trapped in and buys it. Little does J.P. know that he’s bringing ole Pinhead home with him. Similar to previous Hellraiser films, you have to feed the demon in order for it to become flesh. What happens when Pinhead is released from the sculpture?
The idea behind this film is that hell will come to earth. Sounds epic and grand don’t it? This epic premise was a giant red flag for me because if there’s one problem I’ve always had with the Hellraiser films is that they are big on ideas but small on budgets. As a result, even though their concept might be grand, what they actually get to shoot looks cheap. Take for example the premise for this film, what is ‘Hell on Earth’ reduced to in this film? Hell on Earth translates to the main character running through a deserted city street while man holes explode and fire comes out of them, a few windows explode and that’s it; kind of small scale for “Hell on Earth” wouldn’t you say? My point being there’s no grand scope to the concept even though it should’ve been grand. You’re left wanting more, disappointed. Something all Hellraiser sequels do.
Hellbound: Hellraiser II (1988) left us without our favorite Cenobytes. For some reason the filmmakers behind that film decided to eliminate everything that Clive Barker had established on the first Hellraiser film. They killed off all the memorable Cenobytes from the first film, even Pinhead himself! Yet here is Pinhead, alive and kicking on this film. Why didn’t all the other Cenobytes return as well? I guess it was just an excuse to present us with a bunch of new Cenobytes, which sadly are not better then the originals. Let’s see, we get a Cenobyte that kills with the lens of a video camera that pops out of his right eye. There’s a cd spewing Cenobyte which feels so out dated now that CD’s are disappearing. Worst part is that these new Cenobytes are on the film for only five minutes, they are sent back to hell in the blink of an eye…and again you are left wanting. It’s as if they really didn’t think of interesting situations to put these characters in. The main character (a reporter trying to get to the bottom of things) gets rid of the Cenobytes so easily, that you never feel she’s in any sort of peril. And we’re talking about 5 or six Cenobytes with deadly weapons against one human female! It seemed like lazy filmmaking to me, there was no intent to shoot something worthwhile. Cool make up effects do not make a movie my friends. You need tense situations, you need complexities.
Is there anything positive to say about Hellraiser III: Hell on Earth? Well, not really. It feels like a lame-o sequel when compared to the original first film. At least the second one entertained with the ultra gory violence, which by the way is considerably toned down for this third entry. That edge, that feeling of shock, of the forbidden is gone; it’s not on this sequel. There are a couple of cool moments in the film, like when Pinhead walks into a club and the Cenobytes start killing everyone in the club, but it feels restrained. It feels like a wasted opportunity, that whole scene could have been so much more. Okay, I did like those scenes in which Pinhead fights himself. It’s like Pinhead the evil demon vs. the human side of Pinhead, who he used to be before he became a servant of hell. That concept was cool. The film does get sacrilegious at times; there’s a scene in which Pinhead walks into a church and starts bashing down crosses and cackling away like a mad man, but sadly these scenes amount to nothing but having Pinhead pose. The only purpose this film serves is to show us exactly what a cash in is. It kind of makes sense that the director for this film is Anthony Hickox, during the 90's, he was one of the go to directors for cheap horror sequels like Waxwork II: Lost in Time (1992) and Warlock: The Armageddon (1993). Hellraiser: Hell on Earth (1988) proves what I’ve been saying all along about the Hellraiser franchise, that after the first film, all Hellraiser sequels have gone from bad to worse with each consecutive film. It’s a good example of a franchise being treated like a cheap whore and being bled to death.
Rating: 2 ½ out of 5