Hellraiser III: Hell on Earth (1992)
Release Date: September 11th, 1992 MPAA Rating: R
Director: Anthony Hickox Actors: Kevin Bernhardt, Terry Farrell, Ken Carpenter, Paula Marshall, Peter Atkins, Doug Bradley, Ashley Laurence
amiliar music opens this third installment to the “Hellraiser” franchise (absent is the unorthodox recap introduced in the second), an unexpected theatrical chapter and the first to deviate away from protagonist Kirsty Cotton (Ashley Laurence). The tone is consistent with the previous entries, but the sensibility has diminished even further, which was the chief problem with “Hellbound.” While trying to design an easy premise for gruesome horror, screenwriter Peter Atkins (returning from the first sequel) has cut so many corners that the plot demonstrates no inventiveness; audiences are left with nothing but a few moments of bloodshed and intermittently amusing makeup effects.
Channel 8 newscaster Joanne “Joey” Summerskill (Terry Farrell) is assigned to an uneventful watch in a hospital (stationed in a particularly ominous emergency room filled with glistening, cold surgical tools, toyed with by an unnerving nurse) when all of her colleagues are called away to a more important story. Left in the seemingly abandoned facility, she’s excited and horrified to see a bloodied man covered in heavy metal chains rushed in on a gurney. When his head explodes from unexplained surges of electricity and otherworldly manipulation of the chains (an unintentionally hilarious pan to a flatlining heart monitor highlights the moment), Joey has a striking lead to a story – though she has no photos or footage.
The following day she visits The Boiler Room, a hard rock club where hyperactive, mentally unbalanced Terri (Paula Marshall) witnessed the dead youth being attacked by hooks and chains. The owner of the club, J.P. Monroe (Kevin Bernhardt), has acquired a sinister looking statue (collected from the Channard Institute, a reference to the previous movie) that contains the puzzle box and Captain Elliot Spencer’s (Doug Bradley) body (again, from the first two films). The victim steals the box and Monroe accidentally splashes blood on the sculpture, reviving the frozen soul of the demonic cenobite leader Pinhead. After acquiring further bodies to recreate his fleshly anatomy, the angel of suffering embarks on a mission to corrupt all of humanity, resurrecting several corpses along the way to use as soldiers for his army of sadomasochistic torturers.
The primary trouble with “Hellraiser III: Hell on Earth” is that it doesn’t bother to create any rules for the supernatural elements – it just doesn’t make any sense. As with the predecessors, there’s a necessity for a character to collect human sacrifices to be unleashed from an out-of-body, alternate realm. But it’s never explained (with any feasibleness), especially after Pinhead’s demise in “Hellbound: Hellraiser II,” how he has come to be established inside the pillar, why an accumulation of fresh blood would discharge his corporeal figure, and why he’s separated into a doppelganger to conduct temporary goodness.
The cursed box is described as a gateway to hell, a purgatory of sorts, but its capabilities are correspondingly ambiguous. All of the obscurity is supplemented by rubbery gore effects and instantly, noticeably poor acting. While the dream sequences are moderately amusing, along with the notion of cenobites stalking their prey out in the open on the streets, the lack of imagination used for the new soldiers of hell is severely disappointing. Here, director Anthony Hickox uses dull mutilations inspired by handy props (nicknames include “Camerahead” and “CD”) rather than the morbidly twisted, highly unique inventions of Clive Barker’s controversial original.
– Mike Massie