Review: Hellraiser III: Hell on Earth (1992)

Ahhhh, Hellraiser. You want to talk about a series that has a very love it or hate it reputation? Because this one has it in spades, even among its own fanbase. To say that the series has had a few hiccups along the way would be...a bit of an understatement. Mostly I think it's because they just had no idea what to do after all the cenobites went and sacrificed themselves heroically in the second film.

They're not so bad when you get to know them. Chatterer likes to knit.

But, we're not here to talk about the second film or even the truly classic first film. We're not even here to talk about the many strange sequels that have questionable continuity to them. No, we're here to talk about the third movie, because Anthony Hickox just so happened to helm that one. Is it one of the better sequels? doesn't regularly air on SyFy, so I suppose that's a bit of a plus in its favour, but it definitely isn't the best. It's also not one of Hickox's best either, but we'll talk about that more later. So, get your bondage gear out and prepare to delve into Hell on Earth.

No, really, there's some fetish stuff in here. Prepare those nipple clamps.
Following the last film, Pinhead is now suffering from a bit of separation anxiety. You see, when the man who he was formerly remembered that he was human in the previous film, this freed him from being Pinhead. But, due to the nail-headed torture master being in the driver's seat for so long, it seems that Pinhead still lingers on as an autonomous entity from Captain Elliot Spencer. That was kind of implied in the ending, which showed a strange revolving pillar that had Pinhead's face stuck to it, leaving audiences to assume he was trapped inside. And that does seem to still be the case as this film begins. Well, I say begins, but it keeps freakin' glitching out on me because I own a crappy old off-brand DVD of this movie. Ugh.

Top Ten New Media? This isn't even Top One Hundred material! Or new!!
And before I get back to the movie, I have to complain some more about this shitty DVD, because it is startlingly shitty for a movie that actually went to theaters. First off, the front of cover appears to be badly Photoshopped. Just call it a hunch, but I am relatively certain a legit company doesn't use Impact for a font. And the back? Oh, fuck me, the back is even worse as it has screenshots from the second film. Look, I knew going into this that the movie was one of the weaker sequels, but how dare you try to trick people into buying this by showing bits from a better sequel on the back? The coup de grace is that the entire cover is misaligned, causing the side to bleed over on to the back of the cover. It really is one of the worst bootleg type DVDs I have ever seen, and it's made sadder when it isn't even a bootleg. I bought this at Walmart years ago.

You're not fooling me, I know what lies beneath your cheap surface.
Luckily, Netflix has the movie too, so we can get back to it relatively painlessly. Anyway, that big pillar thing? Yeah, some rich douchebag wanders into an art gallery and finds it there, just a spinnin' away. Why is it spinning? Who knows! It just does that. It also looks a lot less interesting too, as it isn't quite as cool looking as it was at the end of Hellbound. Here it just looks like a sculpture, which prompts the douche to want it for his place. Rather than the creepy Chinese guy or the bum-dragon-demon, we get a stand-in who fulfills the same role but bears a startling resemblance to Kris Kristofferson. It's not him...but I still think it kinda is him. He sells the guy the pillar sculpture thing and leaves to go promote his new movie.

Despite appearances, it's not a Christmas themed porno. That would be more watchable, honestly.
Thus the douche, appropriately named J.P., takes the mysterious spinning pillar sculpture back to his club/home/restaurant and stick it in his room. Somehow the puzzle box, which is stuck in the pillar, gets removed and a young guy ends up getting exploded by zappy chains in the emergency room while a reporter named Joey watches on. She investigates the origins of the box, tracing it back to the Channard Institute and basically learns a the more believable bits of the first two films courtesy of video interviews with Kirsty, our previous (and much more capable) heroine. She also gets in touch with Terri, a girl who she met before Terri's friend exploded in the emergency room. First impressions are always important. Joey hopes that with the help of Terri and her cameraman, Doc, she can get to the bottom of this.

Or maybe they'll all get assimilated into the Borg. That could happen too.
Meanwhile, J.P. finally notices he's got a hole in his sculpture. Oh, and remember how it was spinning before? Yeah, it doesn't do that anymore. I guess the budget couldn't cover a spinning pillar effect for the entire film's duration. If it had been though, this scene would've been hilarious, watching J.P. chase it in a circle trying to stick his hand in the hole only to be spun along with it, ultimately breaking his arm. Oh shit, would that have been a riot. But no, instead he sticks his hand in a gets attacked by a large rat, causing blood to spray of the pillar, which wakes Pinhead up. But Pinhead decides not to say hi until, after a one-night-stand with girl from his club, chains emerge from the pillar to pull her skin off and then have her be devoured. It's not nearly as cool as it sounds, trust me. I was more interested in whether or not Clive Barker's paintings were hanging in J.P. place. I could swear that's Barker art in there. Anywho, J.P. and Pinhead become bros and douchey decides to feed his ex to the pillar. Guess who his ex is?

It's Terri, the girl who clearly isn't the main character because she's wearing leather.
While all of J.P. shenanigans are going on, Terri is invited to stay with Joey as her roommate, but Terri thinks she's being used for the story and going to be abandoned due to a misunderstood message on Joey's machine. Lovely. If all this isn't enough, Joey's been dreaming over and over about her dad dying in Vietnam only to have her dream cut into by Captain Spencer's WWI flashbacks. He tells her what's going on with the box and everything while Terri ends up fighting back against J.P., ultimately feeding him to Pinhead instead so she can willingly become one of his cenobites. Well, she does seem to like leather. Joey tries to get in touch with Doc, but can't, then finds his abandoned car near the club. So he's dead, obviously. This figures, as he was the only character besides the Captain's ghost that is really likable.

Good night, sweet prince.
But, did I say he was dead? Because no, he's not quite dead. There are lots of dead people in the club, but Doc is actually up and moving as a cenobite now. A cenobite who has a camera jammed in his head. This is what we've come to. A guy who literally just has a camera stuffed inside of his head isn't scary, movie. And a guy with CDs stuck in his head that shoots them out of his mouth? That's even sillier. Now the other cenobites are a bit more cenobitey, but overall, the new cenobites we get here feel more like a parody of what cenobites are supposed to be. But yeah, you get where this is all going. Joey thinks she beat Pinhead, gets visited by her father's ghost, realizes it's Pinhead after she gives him the box. General stupid main character mistakes. But since Pinhead entered her mind, he now has to contend with the other person who has been hanging out in there: Captain Spencer.

Doug Bradley is about to face off against Doug Bradley. I have a "hellraiser" of my own going right now. But it ends kinda tamely, with Spencer saving her by sacrificing his freedom to fuse back with Pinhead. She solves the puzzle and stabs him with it, he goes back to Hell, and the movie is over after she puts the box into some wet cement at a building site. We do get a final scene of the building having a puzzle box motif going, which I guess is meant to lead into the present day bits from Bloodlines. But yeah, this is over now. Sweet freedom, you are mine once more.

I should go light some candles and relax.
So, the movie? Yeah, I'm not really a fan. It does have an Anthony Hickox feel to it, but at the same time that ends up being a big detriment to to overall work, as a Hellraiser movie should not feel like a horror-comedy. And this does, immensely, feel like a horror-comedy. Or at least it feels too much like one. Couple that with cenobites that look more like they belong on an episode of Star Trek trying to assimilate crew members that they do fetish demons and you really have no problem seeing why many Hellraiser fans didn't like this movie much and still don't. The bits with Pinhead and Captain Spencer do work though, as Doug Bradley is a fine actor who easily brings both characters to life perfectly. Pinhead does toe the line at a few points though, almost treading into Freddy Kreuger one-liner territory. And then there is the over-the-top performance of Kevin Bernhardt as J.P., which really was difficult not to find amusing. Seriously, look at this sex scene.

I like to imagine that he's coming inside himself, which would explain why he looks that way.
In the end, it's not a great Anthony Hickox film and it definitely isn't a great Hellraiser entry. It is what it is though, which is a bit of confused mess of a horror film. Since the story has no real direct ties to anything from the first two films, it could easily be ignored. Its only real tie is the ending bit with the building, which seems to lead into Bloodlines, but even that doesn't matter because that movie doesn't really need a lead-in scene. There are enjoyable parts and some of the practical effects are still very well done, but if you want a solid Hellraiser experience? Skip this one. It's frankly not worth it. So, until I finally solve my Rubik's Cube and get turned into a cenobite, I'll be here pondering the mysteries of the flesh as I enjoy some beef jerky. Later days, bleeders.

"Would you please chisel me out? I really have to pee."