British horror master Clive Barker's best-known story gets another workout in HELLRAISER III: HELL ON EARTH, a film that's more conventional than its predecessors but still delivers the goods to genre fans.
The terror begins when J.P. Monroe (Kevin Bernhardt), the owner of a decadent New York nightclub called the Boiler Room, purchases the torture pillar last seen at the end of HELLBOUND: HELLRAISER II as a decorative item for the club. Soon thereafter, Joey Summerskill (Terry Farrell), a young TV
newswoman frustrated in her attempts to be assigned major stories, is present at a hospital when a young man is brought in, chains seemingly operated by unseen forces pulling at his skin and eventually ripping him apart. Attempting to track down Terri (Paula Marshall), the girl who came in with
the unfortunate young man, Joey learns that she is an ex-girlfriend of J.P.'s, and that the horrific death was somehow related to the pillar, which J.P. has installed in his apartment above the club. Terri also presents Joey with a puzzlebox, one that can unleash the demonic spirits known as
Cenobites, which she removed from the pillar before leaving J.P.'s place.
J.P., meanwhile, has shed some of his blood on the pillar and awakened the spirit of Pinhead (Doug Bradley), the Cenobites' leader, who is trapped within it. Promising him gifts of pleasure and pain, Pinhead convinces J.P. to sacrifice a young girl named Sandy (Aimee Leigh) to him. When the
insecure Terri returns to J.P., she nearly meets the same fate but manages to turn the tables, and Pinhead kills J.P. Now freed of the pillar, Pinhead seduces Terri, who has figuratively and literally lost her ability to dream, with the offer to join him in his world of ultimate physical
sensation. She succumbs, and soon Pinhead has invaded the Boiler Room, his supernatural powers sending chains and other devices down to slaughter its guests.
Investigating the pillar, Joey has discovered that only the puzzlebox has the power to send its demons back to hell. She is also visited in a dream by the ghost of Elliott Spenser, the WWI army officer whom the puzzlebox transformed into Pinhead, who tells her that his demonic incarnation can only
win complete freedom from hell by convincing Joey to hand over the box voluntarily. While investigating the carnage at the club, Joey is confronted by Pinhead and his Cenobite followers, who include the resuscitated J.P., Terri, Doc (Ken Carpenter), her cameraman whose camera has become part of
his skull, and the club's DJ (Brent Bolthouse), who now fires lethal CDs pulled from his head. Joey attempts to flee the creatures, but even hiding in a church can't deter Pinhead's demonic advance.
Finally confronting the demons at a construction site, Joey uses the box to send them back to hell--or so she thinks. Pinhead tricks her into handing over the box by disguising himself as the ghost of Joey's father, who died in Vietnam, and then prepares to turn her into a Cenobite herself. But
Spenser's spirit reappears and recombines with Pinhead, and Joey manages to banish them both to hell once and for all. She then submerges the box in a wet cement foundation--but the building erected upon it winds up having boxlike designs as decor in its lobby.
At first, HELLRAISER III promised to abandon completely the Gothic sensibilities of its British-made predecessors and embrace the simplistic characteristics of mass-market American horror. Unlike the first two films, this one was shot in the US; original creator Clive Barker was nowhere to be
found in the original credits; and HELLBOUND director Tony Randel was dropped in favor of Anthony Hickox, whose previous works (the WAXWORK films and SUNDOWN: THE VAMPIRE IN RETREAT) had little of the surrealism or depth that characterized the HELLRAISER movies. Fortunately, anchored by Peter
Atkins's solid screenplay, Hickox does by far his best work with this film, and Miramax, which ultimately picked up the US distribution rights, lured Barker back to supervise reshoots and lend his name as executive producer. The result, while it still owes as much to the ELM STREET films as to its
true antecedents, is an effective piece of rock 'n' roll horror.
The movie certainly benefits from expanding the role of its lead villain, Pinhead, without sanitizing him. Originally a shadowy figure lurking on the edges of the boundaries between earth and hell, the character is now allowed a larger part in the action, and Bradley's creepy delivery, either
promising unearthly pleasures or horrible fates (best line: "Come to me and die, while you still have the option of doing so quickly!"), make him a most effective monster. The way in which he taps into his victims' fears, doubts and desires to further his own plans to spread hell on earth is
creepily effective, particularly in his pivotal scenes with J.P. and Terri, and the character is given a black sense of wit without resorting to Freddy-style one-liners.
This, unfortunately, is not the case with the supporting Cenobites, whose overly literalized designs (combining them with key devices from their previous lives as humans) smacks of Americanized gimmick horror. And the rules of hell, which have been greatly expanded from the first two films, are
not completely thought out, but rather called into play at the screenplay's convenience. Nonetheless, HELLRAISER III goes farther with its horror than many recent genre items, reaching its apex in a sequence in which Pinhead invades the church and enacts a grotesque travesty of both the communion
(force-feeding a priest bits of his own flesh) and the crucifixion. (Excessive violence, substance abuse, profanity, nudity, sexual situations, adult situations.)
Cast & Details See all »
- Released: 1992
- Rating: R
- Review: British horror master Clive Barker's best-known story gets another workout in HELLRAISER III: HELL ON EARTH, a film that's more conventional than its predecessors but still delivers the goods to genre fans. The terror begins when J.P. Monroe (Kevin Bernha… (more)