Hellraiser III: Hell On Earth


Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

Hellraiser III
"Whilst it's clearly at the budget end of the genre, it has an endearing silliness that helps atone for its multitude of sins."

Wisely distancing itself from its immediate predecessor, Hellraiser III: Hell On Earth escapes the trap of trying to connect itself closely to the far superior original - only the underlying premise and brief mentions of its secondary heroine link the two. The mood of the original is gone completely, and stylistically this has more in common with the likes of Highlander II: The Quickening than with Clive Barker's arty, brooding feature debut. But whilst it's clearly at the budget end of the genre, it has an endearing silliness that helps atone for its multitude of sins.

Made hot on the heels of director Anthony Hickox's only real filmmaking triumph, Sundown: The Vampire In Retreat, this is a film that's all about style over substance. The existing Hellraiser material provides a good deal of style to work with, albeit only in the visual sphere, and Hickox doesn't hold back. Unfortunately, his tremendous enthusiasm for the project is not matched by his abilities as a filmmaker. The film is cobbled together from shots borrowed from TV movies and cop shows, with the occasional bit of music video thrown in. This is a land of rain-slicked sidewalks, neon signs and clumsily sculpted latex. One can almost taste the hairspray.

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We begin in a world with which Hickox was personally familiar. A nightclub which might have looked super-chic to viewers a decade earlier, like some overpriced and over-expansive Tech Noir, heaves with wannabe-sleaze. Occasional decorative goths among the nylon and the shoulderpads must be wondering what happened to the free beer they were promised. In some manner that is never revealed, wide boy JP (Kevin Bernhardt) is making money off this. As this seems to be a world without cocaine, he needs something to spend it on, and then he comes across the ridiculous statue formed from the puzzle box at the end of the previous film. To him, this is art. To Pinhead (Doug Bradley), who is trapped within it, it's a prison. So Pinhead persuades him to provide human sacrifices which will enable his escape.

There's potential in this under-written Faustian bargain, but it's quickly squandered. The film walks an uneasy line, recognising the sexual element of the cenobiites' brutal behaviour but not really knowing what to do with it, as if the writers have comprehended sadism but masochism remains a mystery. After one scene which threatens to reduce it to a tawdry tale of rape and murder, an effort is made to reshape the narrative, with JP's whiny ex girlfriend Terri (Paula Marshall) discovering a sort of empowerment through her encounter with Pinhead. Meanwhile, tediously wholesome primary heroine Joey (Terry Farrell, whose chemistry with Marshall is the only thing under-exploited here) meets the ghost of the soldier who became Pinhead, in a dream, and a complicated tale of interdimensional self destruction emerges.

Bradley is a star; there's no doubt about that. But he is not an actor. Given this much to do, he flounders and the film loses its edge. Farrell pushes her plucky journalist thing to the max, though it's really not clear what Joey's boss is getting in return for her wages, and she spends an inordinate amount of time running around and gasping in horror. There's some amazingly bad special effects work during a scene in which things go awry in the club. It's delightful in its way but effectively undermines any attempt at generating actual terror. Innuendo is everywhere, yet the film never really puts out.

Despite all this, Hellraiser III is surprisingly watchable, and it's worth sitting through it till the end if only for Motörhead's spectacularly twee version of Hellraiser, the song they wrote with Ozzy Osbourne, over the closing credits. It's a Spinal Tap moment that perfectly encompasses both the failings and the charm of the film.

Reviewed on: 15 Apr 2017
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An imprisoned demon manipulates his unwitting captor into killing people so he can use their blood, but a reporter begins to suspect him.
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Director: Anthony Hickox

Writer: Peter Atkins, Clive Barker

Starring: Terry Farrell, Doug Bradley, Kevin Bernhardt, Sharon Percival, Philip Hyland

Year: 1992

Runtime: 93 minutes

BBFC: 18 - Age Restricted

Country: US, Canada


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