Hellraiser III: Hell on Earth (1992)
HELLRAISER III: HELL ON EARTH
WRITER: Original story by Peter Atkins and Tony Randel
Written by Peter Atkins
DIRECTOR: Anthony Hickox
STARRING: Terry Farrell as Joey Summerskill
Doug Bradley as Pinhead/Elliot
Paula Marshall as Terri
Kevin Bernhardt as J.P Monroe
Ashley Laurence as Kirsty
QUICK CUT: A young reporter struggling to make it big, is haunted by nightmares of her long lost father, when she takes in a homeless girl. It's not long before the pair received some unexpected visitors from the art world that cause trouble for them both.
Joey - A young reporter who's relegated to boring human interest stories, and just wants something with teeth so she can be noticed and do real reporting. She's tenacious, doesn't take any crap from her coworkers urging her to show more skin, but also is kind and generous, as she lets in any old homeless girl on the streets.
Terri - A young homeless girl floating from couch to couch. She's street smart and spunky, and has little faith in humanity, due to her rough life. She dreams of a better world, but can only see the darkness of the gutter.
Pinhead - He's got pins. In his head. And he's from Hell. In this movie, he's little more than a poetic means to an end. He does cool stuff, but he's ultimately just there as a figure of evil.
JP Monroe - A local club owner, Terri's boyfriend for a little bit, and a major jerk. When he's not with Terri, or heck maybe even when he was, he would sleep with a different girl every night. He's a player, he loves horrific art, and he's just an all around bad guy.
THE GUTS: Welcome back once again, Triskelions! Here we are again, and it is time for the third Hellraiser movie, Hell on Earth! If you're paying attention, and this requires pretty close attention to be taken, this year's Hellraiser review is coming a month or so earlier than the previous ones. There's a reason for that, and I have summer plans a-comin'. Not the least of which being my 200th review.
But here we are, with our third adventure with Pinhead. The first one was very dark and gritty and gothic horror for a more modern sensibility, with serious BDSM undertones. The sequel carried over some of that, but was a little more standard, while still being rather cerebral and different in its own way. But what does #3 bring to the table? Let's see!
We pick up not quite right where we left off, but pretty close, as JP Monroe swings into a pawn shop, and there's the same monolith from the end of Hellraiser 2, just waiting for an unsuspecting person to come in and make a purchase. Talk about 'let the buyer beware'.
And to be fair, it's not quite the *SAME* monolith. But in my mind, that's no big deal. The thing is from Hell, after all. The first one was all wood and bits and pieces of stuff, and this one is a sculpture made of, copper I believe?
I have two explanations for this; first of all, it could just be magically evolving Hellish things going on, and it first started out as wood and body parts, because that was what was available to it, and over time, the copper shell grew over it as it completed its transition into the real world.
Alternately, there's a story between two and three, where someone got ahold of the wooden version, had Bad Things happen to them, and thought they could lock away the Cenobites struggling to be free of their wooden prison, by encasing it in metal and containing the evil. Let's see how that works out!
So JP buys the statue from a guy in the shop, and remember kids; if you wanna buy something questionable, and the seller says it's yours for 'whatever you think it's worth'? RUN AWAY. It's probably evil.
After the questionable purchase is done, we jump over to a nearby hospital where Joey Summerskill is trying to cover a story. She's a struggling news anchor who's been given fluff pieces all her career, and just wanting that one, big, real story to kickstart her career into the spotlight.
Which means it's time for exactly that to come crashing down the hallways into her life! A kid is wheeled in with serious wounds, and dangling long, dark chains with hooks all over them. Joey tries to follow and get the story, but Weird Things happen, like the chains becoming animated, lightning, death...fun times!
There's also this weird-ass scene of a nurse laying out all manner of strange, horrific medical tools, which serves zero purpose. Maybe to set a mood, but that's about it. They are not used, they never return to the plot, they're just like, "Look! Doctors uses SAWS and that's CREEPY!" I'm all for setting the mood, but something like this really needed to be a Chekovian setup.
Oh, and while watching the kid convulse in the operating room, his head kinda explodes, a la the end of the first movie. So a) nice visual reference and b) nice bit of horror to make Joey witness to.
Joey heads home on the bus, and along the way, some guy bangs on the window startling her, and hopefully the audience. Is...is this where The Forest stole it's first cheap jump scare??
She's not going to let the potential story go, and she heads to the Boiler Room to try and find the girl she saw with Mister Explodey Head. And let me tell you, "I'm looking for a pretty girl!"? That should not yeild actual results and proper directions, but for Joey it works!
Joey follows the directions to a restaurant next door and meets the skeevy JP, but no Terri. of course, if she just looked five inches to her right, she would've seen Terri sitting at a nearby table, but oh well.
That night, Joey has a nightmare of her daddy in Vietnam, which we'll come back to later. She gets awoken by a phonecall from Terri and the two agree to meet.
Joey invites Terri over to crash, and the pair bond over nightmares and coffee. Oh, and apparently Terri doesn't dream. Another plot point we'll circle around to eventually.
Anyways, we finally get around to the actual plot, and Terri tells how the kid took something from the statue, and that the chains came out of the dramatically revealed familiar puzzle box.
Meanwhile, JP notices the hole in his statue, foolishly reaches in, and gets bitten by a rat. In his flailing around in pain and anger, blood conveniently flies into the statue, and Pinhead awakens. Not quite enough to free him, but this is gonna be the chattiest statue this side of Gargoyles.
The two girls talk some more, and decide to head to the art gallery where Terri found the statue, but it's closed. But wait, it's ALWAYS been closed! As we are informed by a weird old guy and his weirdly tiny dog. This movie likes slipping in some weirdly random touches.
But that won't stop the Two Terris, as our little street urchin uses her skills to pick her way into the back door and they have a look around.
The pair dig through records, and we get a namedrop of the Chanard Institute, and some sketches of the box. Hooray for references!
Back at the Boiler Room, Skeevy McGreaser picks up his nightly blonde bimbo for the night, and shows off his giant...statue. After some sex, we jump back to the girls and their journalistic skills. There's also a handful of nice references via pictures to previous movies from the Chanard files.
Having got the information she needs, Terri assumes Joey is done with her, and it's time to go, but she lets the street rat stay for as long as she wants. Yay, a happy endi...wait, there's still an hour left, never mind.
Back at JP's, he shows his true colours to the girl, that he's done with her, and wants her to leave, but she backs ever closer to a certain statue. Not wise, but no one knows that yet.
Once she's close enough, the ever-present hellchains burst out, skin her, and drag her into the statue, where her face is added to the tableaus. See? That's how it grew from a hunk of tree. It added stuff as it went along. I am still rather liking my idea that someone got the old stump, had to deal with moving fleshy faces, a chatty Pinhead, and thought he could seal it up with metal.
JP sits there dumbfounded while all this happens, and listens with moth agape, as Pinhead and his purple prose return to the narrative.
Pinhead sees JP for the hedonist he truly is, and we all know by now that this version of Hell and its minions love its indulgences in pleasure and power, so these two are great for each other. And of course, offering a guy like JP power, after seeing such a supernatural display, is a great way to draw him in with promises of such pleasures.
Meanwhile, Joey receives a videotape from the Chanard Archives, featuring Kirsty herself, explaining to her psychiatrists everything that happened to her, and about the box, specifically. It's a good way to tie this movie to the rest of the mythology, but it's kind of a shame that a fuzzy, VHS quality security footage image, is the best we get of our previous heroine.
While watching the footage, Pinhead's human form decides to interrupt and address Joey directly, letting her know that Kirsty is telling the truth. ...Thank you, mister I've never seen and a clear sign I've lost my mind, because recorded images from years ago shouldn't know my name, I beleive you!
Back in Joey's apartment, Terri is just chillin' when she starts staring at the box like it's an Aztec totem, and notices it's lost its coppery sheen, assuming Joey cleaned it up. Or, y'know, magic hellbox containing chains cleans itself...
Before her fingers can do the opening, a call from JP interrupts her, and he tries to bring his old flame home, to meet his new friend. She's fine with her new life, and hangs up, but immediately Joey gets a call that she has a new job in California, which shatters all the trust Joey had built up in the girl.
So, Terri trashes the place, and goes back to the loving and caring arms of J..PAaahahahaha, I can't say that with a straight face.
He keeps trying to lure her right over to the statue, because I guess the hellchains are a very limited range attack. She keeps dodging though, and heads for the bed, wanting to just talk for now.
Joey has another Vietnightmare, where she sees Pinlesshead again, and wakes up screaming. But then the tv talks to her some more, because that's sane and normal awake behaviour.
Finally, JP gets bored of all the touchy feely talky crap, and just outright tries to drag Terri over to the totem pole. Pinhead comes to life, hungry for Terriburgers, and man she must be freaking out.
Fortunately, she has a pair of brass knuckles, because a girl who grew up on the streets is no dummy...at least not until she tries to escape, and Pinhead tries to entice her. He uses her desire to dream, to see other worlds, gets her to shove JP to the statue, taking her fate instead, for now.
Rather than absorb him, Pinhead rams a motor into his head, and yep, it's the birth of our first new Cenobite for this third outing.
The statue transforms from it's solid form, to a red, undulating mass that oozes, moves, and falls apart into chunky soup. Now, this is more like what I'd expect from a Barkerverse horror movie. Oh, and this also frees Pinhead from his confinement.
Back with Joey, reality continues to be just the wrong side of malleable, as she finds an early 1900s style radio in her closet that sends her messages to go to the window. Which instead of her nice NYC skyline, is now a room where Pinlesshead is trying to open the box.
And continuing our questionable level of reality, the window isn't exactly there anymore, so Joey steps through into World War Hell to chat with her new friend face to pinless face. Boy, it is a good thing she's not crazy, or she could've just walked out her high rise window and splatted out on Fifth Avenue.
She follows Pinlesshead through a series of wartime horrors until he decides to stand still and actually have a chat. We get a brief hint of Pinhead's origin story, and that he was once Elliot Spencer, a soldier, until he found and played with the puzzle box, and you can guess how well that goes. But it also gives us some flashbacks to stuff from the last movie.
Joey is also given her mission, to use the box to send Elliot's evil half back to hell forever. But beware! He's evil, and clever, and manipulative! Aren't they all?
Back at the Boiler Room, Pinhead finds it to be a place he rather enjoys, but it is in dire need of more chains and leather and pain. So we get treated to a nice hellish massacre.
Joey sees the massacre on the news, and calls her favourite cameraman Doc to come and help her film this, because it could be her big break. She gets dressed and grabs the box, and is on the way. Oh, and Doc can't find the report on the tv, and we see Joey's tv is unplugged. But dad...the tv IS off!
Our heroine drives into the third act finale confrontation, and finds Doc's car is already there, but her loyal cameraman is nowhere to be seen. So Joey heads into the Boiler Room, and finds the blood soaked and body filled hallways with more corpses than I can Body Count.
She wanders through the carnage, and eventually finds Doc...minus his head, and having it replaced with his camera rig. Well, he died doing what he loves.
Pinhead offers Joey a quick death if he just hands over the box, but I gotta give the girl some credit for standing up to this guy, and not backing down. Especially after what she just walked through to find Spikey McPainface.
He tries to grab the box, but it zaps him. I guess there's a 'must be given freely' clause to the magic here, and that's fine. The surprise on his face gives Joey enough time to run away and have everything on the street try and attack her.
It's a nice scene, if a BIT cheesy as eletrical wires try to snake after her and such, but I like the escalation. In the first movie, the horror was largely confined to a house, then the Chanard Institute, and now Hell is freee on Earth, causing chaos and death and pain. It's a logical growth, and has some terrifying undertones to the subtext, but it just wasn't presented the best way.
After enough explosions, the new Doc shows up all leathered up, and with his camera shoved into his head. Some poor random guy shows up just so he can die by the lens shooting out like the mouthtongue of a Xenomorph. That may be the first death by camera lens I've seen.
We meet a handful of other Cenobites, all from the club, and merged with nearby handy objects and tech, like cd players and such.
On the one hand, the looks certainly are unique and interesting, but they feel like too much of a departure from the original Cenobites, which had this very leather gothic pain fetish look. Now we're veering towards cyberpunk. They're not BAD, they're just too modern for this kinda horror. The familiarity with the objects, makes it feel kinda silly.
The cops show up because y'know, explosions. And well...it doesn't go great for them. The Cenobites make quick work of the cops, and Joey runs to the nearest church because Hell is on her heels.
She tries to explain what's going on to the priest, but he doesn't believe her, tells her demons aren't real, and wow. That's a switch. Usually it's if you believe in heaven, you must accept Hell. But it's refreshing that this viewpoint is being spoken. Of course, Pinhead shows up, renewing the priest's faith, I'm sure.
Pinhead chewing the scenery in a church is a blast. It's maybe a bit too on the nose, but Doug Bradley has some fun with it, and I'm along for the ride at this point.
Our villainous leather fetishist goes full on theatrical as he pulls out some of his spikes, and pushes them into his hands in a mockery of Jesus's wounds. The priest attacks him and is immediately stopped, as Pinhead peels off a piece of his flesh and speaks a mockery of the communion rites, feeding the priest.
Before he can do anything truly nasty, Joey fiddles with the puzzle box, and draws Pinhead's attention onto her, and leads him away and hopefully to the portal in her living room.
She takes a shortcut through a construction site and runs into Cenobite JP and Terri, whom I guess perished off screen. But hey, she can dream now, so yay happy ending! Oh, right, no.
Pinhead shows up and sics all his Cenobite friends on Joey, until she activates the puzzle box and pewpewpews them all back to Hell.
It looks like it's over, even though we never got back to the apartment, until the box changes the scenery into the hellish landscape of...a field.
Joey's dad shows up, confused, saying he was someplace shiny, but he has to go to his daughter, who has done well. Joey assumes it's a reward, and gives him the box, and really? When did she find the time to suddenly take stupid pills?
I mean, of COURSE it's gonna be Pinhead taking the box. She was even warned he would try trickery like this. How could she be this clueless??
But fortunately, we realise that the window wasn't the literal window of her apartment, but the 'window of her mind', which is a lovely metaphor so I'll allow it. Especially since this series is largely built on metaphor.
This brings us to a face to face confrontation between Pinhead and his pinless self, Elliot. Pinhead starts things off by dangling Joey and starting a Cenobite process on her, while the twins fight it out.
Naily McLeatherdress calls up a creature from hell to keep Joey busy, which I hate we never get a great look at, and saying that Elliot should enjoy this as much as he, since they're the same, two sides of a coin, etc. The moment they touch, Pinhead drops the box, and Joey is freed from her leathering fate. Because end of movie.
Pinhead absorbs Elliot, undoing what Kirsty had started, and I always thought it would've been interesting if the Spencer side of Pinhead was able to exert more control going forward, but sadly that never occurred.
He does manage a brief moment here to hold Pinhead in place, and give Joey enough time to do what needs to be done with the Lament Configuration, but I feel like it might have made Pinhead a more interesting character in other movies.
She turns the box into a blade kinda thing, resembling the Leviathan from the second movie's hellscape, and he gets sucked back to that place. The box returns to normal, and Joey finds herself back at the construction site.
Joey picks up the box, takes it to some wet cement being left overnight to cure, and buries it inside, never to be seen again!
So of course it goes horribly wrong, as we speed forward some time to the completed building, and the faces of the puzzle box are now encorporated into large facets of the buildings lobby and overall design.
Now, I always thought this was cool. It's a promise of things to come, and the idea of the puzzle box's evil being transferred to an entire building, a gigantic almost inverted puzzle box which people are inside of? That fascinates me.
I'm sure such promise will be delivered upon in future installments!
Video: I struggled to find the exact right version of this disc I wanted. Most versions are in 4:3, but I wanted the letterboxed, and it's worth it. It looks good, the picture is solid, with good colour, and maybe a bit grainy, but for a not too high priority transfer, it looks perfectly fine. I *think* this version might be missing some gore or nudity and such, but it's the theatrical cut at least.
Audio: I thought it sounded just fine, with a good surround mix, and always clear dialogue.
Sound Bite: "Demons aren't real! They're parables, stories..." "Then what the fuck is *that*??"
Body Count: I...I am not counting the Boiler Room. I am tempted by the *challenge* to count every single body piled in there, but no. Besides that, we've STILL got a giant body count.
1 - Terri's friend's head goes boom after a Cenobite attack we don't see, at the 8 minute mark.
2 - JP's girlfriend of the night gets skinned, chained, and devoured by the Pinhead Column.
3 - JP discovers he's not a fan of motorhead.
4 - One Boiler Room patron gets a pole through the chest
5 - A woman in the club gets her drink turned to ice and slices down her throat.
6 - The bartender gets his face wrapped in barbed wire.
7 - Another woman gets SOMEthing through her face.
8 - The DJ gets I Come In Peaced to death.
9 - Another man gets hooked and carried away.
10 - One person gets chained in the face.
11 - And another
12 - And another
13 - Someone gets a chain through their chest...
14 - ...which goes through another person's chest.
15 - After far too many bodies to count, Doc is found minus his head.
16 - Poor random sucker gets too much of a closeup from Cenodoc.
17 - Poor random bastard #2 steps out of his cab and gets CDed in the face.
18 - Cop #1 takes a CD to the face.
19 - Cop #2 gets a molotov cocktail thrown on him and explodes...
20 - Taking cop #3 along for the ride.
21 - We find out Terri died and became a Cenobite off screen.
Best Corpse: I *really* wish we had seen Terri's death/transformation, because she was the person we were connected to most, so even if it wasn't great, it would've had added bonus of being personal to us. But since we didn't get that, I'll go with Doc's. He was a great guy, a good friend, and beheading and getting a camera fused to his head as a new eye is pretty cool.
Blood Type - B: I'm being a little harsh on this one, since there is splotches of blood all over, but it's largely in pools or quick gags, but we DO get the skinned woman, and some other moments.
Sex Appeal: Sex and nudity here and there, largely in the vicinity of JP.
Drink Up! Cruel version: Whenever someone dies. Sane version: every time you see the puzzle box or a sketch/image of it.
Video Nasties: How do I not go with that massacre, right? It was close though, there were a couple other choices I liked. But Pinhead tearing through a club wins every time.
Movie Review: Oh, this movie got SUCH panning from the fans when it was released, but I always liked it. Is it as good as the first two? Oh, hellraiser no. But much like the second movie being a bit of a departure without Clive Barker, but still a very solid movie with just a different tone, the story is very much the same here. It's a bit more of a standard horror slasher movie, but still with those very distinct Hellraiser qualities to it. The fetishism, the tone...it's way less cerebral and not at all psychological as the first, but it's still a really solid horror movie, and fits in very much the same world. As each movie expands the world to engulf more of the actual world, it makes sense things might become more conventional. Inside a single home, you can deal with more personal stuff, but once the world is in danger, things shift a bit. It is also very much a continuation of the previous two stories, with that expansion as I said. It is a proper threequel in that sense, and you could see how the story might've gone if Kirsty had come back for a larger role, instead of Joey. The story works, and the acting is just fine. I'm a big fan of Terry Farrell, and I'm sure this was the first thing I saw her in. Kevin Bernhardt plays an amazingly perfect JP. He's great at being a skeevy jerk, a player, a sexist, that perfect type to love 'em and leave 'em, but he has JUST enough charm to see how he gets away with it. I don't need to say anything about Pinhead, and Anthony Hickox's directing isn't anything special, but gets the job done. He also did several other favourite Triskables, like Waxwork 2. The biggest crime of this movie is that it's not by Clive Barker, and the quality does suffer for that, but it still largely works, is entertaining, and lives very comfortably in the world the first two established. And after the next, what? Six movies? This movie looks like a freaking MASTERPIECE in hindsight. Four out of five deadly cds.
Entertainment Value: There really isn't a lot of cheese here, and most of the entertainment is GENUINE entertainment. The 80s fashions are fun though, or 50s in JP's case. Pinhead's scenery chewing and tearing through a church are highlights, as always, and seeing him go for high camp at times with going over the top is a blast. Then there are those weird touches that make this movie stand out for no other reason than you go, What was that?? like the old guy with his teeny dog. Hellraiser 3 is a fun, gory horror movie, even if it doesn't go full on camp and cheese like some other Triskings, but it deserves its four out of five homeless street dreamers.