Rounding off our Hellraiser: Scarlett box (Arrow video) sequence of reviews comes the final movie of the set the US produced – a first for the series – ‘Hellraiser 3: Hell on Earth’. Once again presented in impeccable high definition this movie sees Pinhead become the franchise figurehead as he moves from the labyrinth domain into our world!
A departure for the series in terms of both cast and tone, ‘Hell on Earth’ continues Pin Heads bloody reign in the most unlikely of scenarios. In this movie, after the division of soul and body, the Cenobyte ‘evil’ embodiments are trapped within an intricate sculpture of suffering known as the ‘pillar of souls’. Here they remain until the obnoxious owner of a nightclub named J.P. discovers the pillar in an abandoned art gallery. Back at his bachelor pad blood once again reawakens the Cenobytes – with Pinhead being the only one to emerge in flesh. To counter this impending doom the world relies on Joey, an underrated reporter who is contacted through her dreams by Pinheads human side (if you remember they were released from torment at the end of the second film). She must find the Lament Configuration (puzzlebox) and send Pinhead back to hell.
The two plots seem to take it in turn to showcase rather than merge together with any continuity, and whilst overall the film is passible fans will notice a distinct drop in quality from the first two films. This outing definitely has that ‘sequel’ feel, rather than an addition to the lore. Interestingly it is the non-cenobyte portions of the film which come across as the strongest, for me at least. I particularly enjoyed the concept of Pinheads evil taking its own form and the idea of the ‘former human’ element of him wanting to atone. I felt it was a clever way to continue the story, and an interesting way of building on the Cenobyte mythology without ruining anything. That said, there is a fairly lame back story of Joey wanting to know what happened to her Vietnam vet father which serves to facilitate one scene rather than draw to a satisfying conclusion, so thats the compromise. The whole concept is noticeably poorer than previous movies, with little atmosphere being created – all said and done it’s all a bit ‘by the numbers’. That said, the acting is sufficient and Startrek’s Terry Farrel brings a more mature Heroin into the franchise (although her involvement lasts just one movie I believe), and Doug Bradley returns to deliver the goods as always in his role as Pinhead so its far from unwatchable.
In terms of the special effects, well, welcome to the more morally conscious 90s Pinhead. The whole affair seems a little more slapstick than cruel. Pinhead is reduced to nothing more than a clichéd horror icon with little of the presence he –and the other Cenobytes (I don’t know where they went in this movie), had in the previous films. There is only so many times he can enter to scores of chorus, back lit and at walking pace before he feels a little bit over-done. There is even a scene where he is shot on an idyllic summer’s day where frankly he just looks a bit ridiculous. The kill sequences to feel almost lazy – Pinhead seems to have attended a lecture on irony run by the ‘Wishmaster’ as most of his kills depart from the whole ‘limits of pleasure and pain indistinguishable’ to the outright petty. A disc jockey killed by flying CDs, a camera man gets his eye replaces with the lens – and the list goes on! Coupled with the fact that for some reason Pinhead finds everything hilarious, the gore sequences seem the outreaching of a demon with some serious attention seeking issues! The effects are good for the most part, but the use of CGI becomes slightly detracting from the usual franchise aesthetics. That said, there are some decent gore sequences which will satiate most fans and whilst not as brutal or as frequent as in the first two films, it’s definitely still up there in overall standings.
Overall, proving once again the idiom that less is more, ‘Hellraiser 3: Hell on Earth leaves UK fans missing the old Pinhead as he embarks on his tour of Hollywood. More Pinhead, more explosions, more ‘inventive’ kills, less overall continuity with the franchise. It’s worth a watch after you are left hyped on the first two movies, even more so if you have the ‘Scarlett Box’ set, and the extras are more than worth your time, but like many 90s sequels it just doesn’t quite cut it.