It’s October everybody! It’s time to dust off some DVDs and VHS tapes and watch some horror flicks! On deck this week is 1992’s Hellraiser III: Hell on Earth. It is the second sequel in Clive Barker’s Hellraiser series. The preceding films, Hellraiser and Hellbound: Hellraiser II, are high concept horror films that revolve around a puzzle box known as The Lament Configuration. When one opens the box, Hell’s leather-clad, S&M torturers bring that person to The Labyrinth to inflict pain on him or her for all eternity. It’s a sado-masochistic Pandora’s Box metaphor wherein the real monsters are the curious fools who dare to take a peek at Hell. Pinhead and his Cenobites, agents of Damnation’s order, are there to make them sorry – forever!
The Cenobites’ ability to work in unison as arbiters of torment differentiates them from the popular slashers of the day. They are emotionless, calculating and they know how to share. Watching the first 2 films in context of the 1980’s slasher flicks (most notably Friday the 13th and A Nightmare on Elm Street) is a jarring experience. Pinhead and company are very different kinds of monsters. They’re kind of like any girl I ever met off the Internet – totally not what I expected and out to cut off assorted parts of my anato… never mind.
Beat for beat, Hellraiser III has more in common with 1989’s A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child than it does with its predecessors. Let’s take a moment and look at some of the similarities.
In Nightmare 5, Alice has to free Amanda Kruger’s spirit to stop Freddy. In Hellraiser III, Dax from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine (Terry Farrell) needs to re-join Pinhead to his good ghost (Doug Bradley in both roles) in order to save the day. Both films prominently feature over-the-top gore effects for the sake of shock value whereas earlier films in both franchises use gore effects to enhance their respective stories. There’s also a crazy church scene where windows indiscriminately explode. God, this movie is giving me a headache…
Hellraiser III opens with Pinhead trapped in a sculpture (as seen at the end of the last movie). A scumbag artist/club owner named J.P. Monroe (played by Kevin Bernhardt, who looks like John Leguizamo’s older, less talented brother) buys the sculpture and installs it in his apartment (conveniently placed above the nightclub he owns). Installation in place, Monroe routinely brings female club goers up to his apartment for midnight trysts. One night, when he tells a woman to leave, she starts babbling some nonsense about him using her. Right… that’s my first reaction every time I sleep with a club owner: “I’m being used.” Sure, OK. Anyway, moving on…
In the middle of this deranged dip’s rant, hooked chains spring out of the sculpture, rip off her skin and drag her into it. Pinhead just ate some random LA club girl.
Cashing in on his shock value, Pinhead convinces a freaked-out Monroe to help him escape the sculpture. The plan is simple: Monroe brings up the floozies and Pinhead eats them (post-coitus, of course). Apparently, if Pinhead eats enough of these women, he can get out of the sculpture. For his services he tells Monroe he will give him unlimited pleasure, or power or something once he gets out. I don’t know. The only thing that kept me watching was morbid curiosity.
Dax is the film’s heroine. She’s a fledgling reporter looking for her big break. She reads a case file about the last 2 movies and somehow stumbles upon this film’s plot. At one point, she has a dream in which she’s wearing a nightgown in a World War I battlefield strewn with corpses. She meets Pinhead’s good ghost (apparently he was split from his evil alter-ego after the last movie’s events) and they hatch a plan to stop the evil rampaging Pinhead. Word to the wise, folks, trust your dreams, especially when those dreams are narrated by the guy who’s been eating loose women.
Instead of using disturbing imagery and good story structure (see the first 2 films), this movie builds up to one long sequence where chains randomly appear from shadows to kill a lot of nameless extras. The only word that comes to mind is “stupid.” At one point, Dax tries to take refuge in a church. A priest sees her and asks her what’s wrong. She tells him there’s a demon after her. He chuckles and tells her demons are just myths and parables. At that, the door opens to reveal Pinhead and Dax says, “then what the fuck is that?” Arguably, this is the best scene in the flick. It also reminds me of a scene from A Nightmare On Elm Street 5.
One thing that separates Pinhead from the legions of slashers is his small but menacing army of Cenobites. In the first 2 films, they’re in Hell with Pinhead and they’re really fucking scary.
Hellraiser III? We get a guy with a missile-shooting camera for an eye, a chain-smoking club girl with a triangle shaped tracheal ring, a former DJ who throws CDs and at least 2 forgettable others (I think one of them spits acid sperm, but I don’t have the strength to recall). Most of these Cenobites were supporting characters in the movie, so we know how boring they are before they become monsters. They’re poor substitutes for the evil support staff of the previous 2 films.
Hellraiser III: Hell on Earth is a lesser film than its predecessors. It’s great for a laugh if one feels so inclined, but it’s not what I’m looking for in a horror flick. Perhaps I’ll do better with my next selection, Dracula A.D. 1972…
What do you, Dear Reader, have on deck for your Halloween viewing?