7.27.2012

Hellraiser III: Hell On Earth (1992)

DIRECTED BY
Anthony Hickox

STARRING
Terry Farrell - Joey Summerskill
Doug Bradley - Pinhead/Captain Elliott Spencer
Paula Marshall - Terri
Kevin Bernhardt - J.P. Monroe
Ken Carpenter - Doc/Camerahead


Genre - Horror/Action/Supernatural/Demons

Running Time - 93 Minutes


PLOT
Joey Summerskill (Terry Farrell) is a New York City reporter trying to catch her first major story, but ends up reporting unimportant stories instead. While conducting a story at a local hospital, she watches a young goth girl named Terri (Paula Marshall) bring in a young man hooked by chains. Wanting to find out more about the situation, Joey stumbles into the chains electrocuting this guy, making his head explode as the end result.

Realizing that this mystery is the story she's been looking for, Joey begins to investigate. It leads her to The Boiler Room, a sleazy night club that Terri frequents, due to the owner, J.P. Monroe (
Kevin Bernhardt), being her ex-boyfriend. Joey learns from Terri that the guy who died got chained due to stealing part of a sculpture that J.P. had purchased - the Lament Configuration, which is the puzzle box that sends people to Hell when it's opened.

Meanwhile, J.P. accidentally spills blood on this disturbing sculpture, awakening the Cenobite known as Pinhead (
Doug Bradley), who became part of the structure at the end of HELLBOUND: HELLRAISER II. Pinhead, seeing that J.P. is full of sinful behavior and thoughts, feels a kinship to him and needs his help in bringing in more victims for him to feed off of in order to gain power and free himself. J.P. agrees, but is accidentally fed by Pinhead when Terri makes him touch the structure during a struggle. This frees Pinhead from his prison, ready to unleash Hell onto Earth.

What he doesn't know is that Elliot Spencer (
Doug Bradley again), who is the man Pinhead once was, has been visiting Joey in her dreams for her help in defeating Pinhead. Since she holds the Lament Configuration, Joey is the only one who could use it to stop Pinhead and send him back to his dimension before he destroys the world.


REVIEW


HITS

- Doug Bradley. The acting is a mixed bag in HELLRAISER III: HELL ON EARTH. But Doug Bradley, in a dual performance, is just fantastic and is the only actor who comes across as convincing at all times. As Pinhead, Bradley plays the role with menace, bringing a manipulative edge to the character. He's given more one-liners this time around [i.e. Freddy Krueger] unfortunately, but Bradley does seem to be having fun reciting them and making them work. As Elliott Spencer, Bradley does a complete 180 degrees. Bradley gives Elliott a more eloquent manner of speech, almost acting as if he's doing a theatre production of Shakespeare rather than acting in a horror sequel. I thought he played the normal role well and comes across as flawed, yet sympathetic. Doug Bradley, to a lot of people, is HELLRAISER and while this sequel is very flawed, Bradley has an incredible presence and you definitely want to watch him any time he's on screen. He's very good here.

- The direction. Anthony Hickox had a lot to live up to. Clive Barker gave the original HELLRAISER its dark, gothic tones and made you feel dirty after watching it, making the film both psychological and disturbingly gory at the same time. In HELLBOUND: HELLRAISER II, Tony Randel had a broader vision, using a ton of special effects to show the audience how dangerous and twisted the labyrinth of Hell was like. With a bigger budget, Hickox had more money to play with than previous directors. While he doesn't create something memorable to embrace visually like the past two directors, I don't think Hickox did a horrible job with HELLRAISER III.

If any positives, I do have to say that the film does look polished and very slick. The use of multiple camera angles are done well. The sound design works for me. I thought the editing was great at times. I felt when there had to be moments of action, those were the best directed scenes. I'm talking about when Pinhead is feeding off of his victims. I'm talking about the awesome scene where Pinhead just kills everyone in The Boiler Room in various ways, making the visuals very exciting to watch. I thought most of the final act was shot well, as things exploded around the characters and there was a ton of violence happening. Hickox was definitely confident at his job, even though he wasn't the original director [screenwriter Peter Atkins was, but was removed due to create differences] chosen.

Do I think the film lost some of what made it stand out visually? Absolutely. You never experience any dread. You never really feel as involved with the story as you did in the previous movies. There was no real tension or suspense. The film wasn't as dark as it should have been. But I blame most of that on the screenplay rather than the direction. I thought Hickox was competent enough as the director, even if I prefer Barker and Randel over him. The visuals were the least of the film's issues.

- The special effects and make-up. I thought the SFX was pretty cool in this sequel. While there's a lot of green screen used, it doesn't really distract all that much. The make-up of the Cenobites were pretty cool, even if the characters themselves weren't memorable. Except for that CD Cenobite though. I thought that was really stupid. But the skinned lady and the exploding head were fun!

Like I mentioned earlier, I thought the massacre at The Boiler Room was really great gore wise. The special effects really worked in that scene's favor and was probably the best overall sequence in the entire film.

I did think the effects used to merge Elliott and Pinhead back together towards the end weren't so hot, but it was okay at best. I sort of missed the stuff seen in the earlier films, because they made you cringe a bit. Things were pretty tame here, but at least it was good-looking tame.

- Certain ideas work. While the screenplay had potential that was never completely fulfilled, I do think the premise for HELLRAISER III is a solid one. We saw Hell in part two, so it would make sense for Pinhead to want to invade Earth and cause havoc. The idea that Pinhead was trapped inside a pillar [which was seen at the end of HELLBOUND] is still a bit ridiculous to me. But as the film went on, I sort of bought it. I liked that instead of releasing evil, the Lament Configuration would bring it back to the box. That was an interesting idea that I wish was played with more.


I also dug the Pinhead vs. Elliott dynamic, showing how the same character was so different as two extreme beings of good and of evil. Pinhead wanted to destroy Earth because he lost his soul at the end of HELLBOUND, while Elliott wanted to stop Pinhead but didn't have the power anymore to contain him. If you didn't know already, Pinhead was supposed to have died in HELLBOUND, with the intention of Clare Higgins to become the main antagonist in future sequels as Julia Cotton. However, Higgins wanted no part in becoming a horror icon like Jason Voorhees or Freddy Krueger, refusing to star in any more of these films. This lead to the writers changing certain things to bring back Pinhead and make him the star of future HELLRAISER movies. At least the film does a decent job trying to explain why Pinhead turned into Elliott again at the end of HELLBOUND and why he wanted to help Kirsty Cotton. And I gotta say - did Clive Barker and the rest of the producers not think that people would prefer Pinhead over Julia? One has 80s hair and Revlon lips, while the other has a sinister voice and pins shoved all over his head. Gee, which one is going to be more popular?

I felt the best ideas, both visually and script-wise, were the Vietnam nightmares Joey had about her soldier father. Not only did they give depth to Joey's character and make us feel sympathy for her somewhat, but I thought they were shot and written very well. They seemed and felt more real than anything else in the film, due to the powerful imagery and the way these scenes were written. It felt very serious and you definitely took those scenes that way. I wish the rest of the film was as powerful as these moments.


MISSES
- Some of the acting. Not all the acting in HELLRAISER III is terrible. But they don't impress as much as Doug Bradley. I'm not sure if it's because of the actors, the way Hickox directed them, or the simple fact that the characters are pretty flat for the most part. But other than Bradley, none of them came across as all too convincing. Well maybe except for Paula Marshall as Terri, who is very attractive as a goth girl and handles her role well, giving it more depth than what was on paper. But everyone else was too on-and-off for me to buy fully.

I like Terry Farrell, especially for her role as Jadzia Dax on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. But she doesn't really interest me fully as Joey. She had big shoes to fill after Ashley Laurence left [who does make a cameo in the film], and doesn't quite manage to do it. She does have her moments, especially during the Vietnam scenes, and one scene where she warns a priest about Pinhead which results in a really funny line. But other than that, she doesn't really shine as much as she should. At least she's very attractive.

Kevin Bernhardt has the same issues as Terry Farrell - being on-and-off at times. He plays a sleazeball well enough, but sometimes it would feel like he was forcing it. At least he's eye candy for the certain ladies and gentlemen. Ken Carpenter as Doc wasn't great, especially when he turned into a Cenobite. But the worst actress had to be one that played the blonde victim that becomes Pinhead's first victim in the film. Wow, was she annoying! So overall, not the worst acting, but something felt off that I couldn't shake off.


- Narrative goes against what HELLRAISER was based on. Man, I don't know what happened between the production of HELLBOUND to HELL ON EARTH. I understand that the property went from New World Pictures to Miramax [and later Dimension Films for the rest of the series], but to change a lot of what was established in the first two films just felt like a mistake to me.

For one, HELLRAISER has now entered slasher film mode. Pinhead, the villain of the franchise, is now the main character. He has one-liners, he acts like his shit don't stink, and just talks and talks about anything and everything. HELLRAISER and even HELLBOUND worked because Pinhead and the other Cenobites were background characters that just happened to major catalysts in how the narrative would go in the climax. But they were never the main attraction. The human characters who were severely flawed and corrupted by sin over the power of the Lament Configuration were. I understand that Pinhead was the figurehead of the franchise due to his look and because Doug Bradley is so damn good in the role. But turning him into a Freddy Krueger type character takes away his mystique. Instead of being a creepy demon, he becomes like any other horror icon at the time. I understand it from a business standpoint, but the film [and the rest of the franchise] suffers because the villain is now the main character.

Also, what the hell was up with the new Cenobites? First, they enjoy killing innocent victims for the hell of it. Wasn't it established in the previous films that Cenobites never slaughtered innocents unless they summoned them through the puzzle box? Not only that, but Cenobites get their kicks by torturing their victims, feeling that pain is pleasurable. Also, not just anyone can become a Cenobite. You had to really seek out the power of the Lament Configuration and be worthy to become a Cenobite. If anyone could just become one, Frank and Julia should have become Cenobites WAY before a random cameraman and disc jockey could be one. The two main characters that were more worthy of being Cenobites had the lamest abilities compared to the two unworthy ones. Pretty ridiculous.

Also, I felt the Lament Configuration wasn't used to the best of its abilities. It's supposed to be a scary puzzle box that could summon demons that will hook chains into you and pull your skin apart. Here, it's just a weapon to defeat Pinhead - sort of like it was in HELLBOUND but not as logical or effective. Again, the mystery of the box seems lost here.

Clive Barker's HELLRAISER was embraced because it wasn't a slasher film. It stuck out amongst the other horror films of that time for being sexually and violently interesting, making the audience think through interesting character interactions and situations. With HELLRAISER III, the franchise is now like every other horror film at that time. Pinhead, against his will, had officially sold out.

- The ending. The last scene totally lost me. Was that supposed to represent what the inside of the puzzle box looked like? I didn't get it. Did I miss something? Am I just an idiot? I don't remember if this leads into HELLRAISER: BLOODLINE since I barely remember that movie. It was just odd. I wish the film had ended with the scene before it. Adding this extra scene at the end was confusing and a bit tacky.


THE FINAL HOWL
HELLRAISER III: HELL ON EARTH represents the beginning of the franchise's decline, which is unfortunate since the first two films were so powerful and interesting. But it's nowhere near the worst of the installments, as it least has a great performance by Doug Bradley, interesting ideas that are somewhat done right at times, a cool soundtrack [metal songs and Christopher Young's awesome HELLRAISER score], cool special effects, and competent direction. Unfortunately, the acting is a mixed bag and what HELLRAISER was about is completely lost here. Definitely a mediocre sequel that you either take or leave. It's decent enough for what it is I guess. It's not quite HELL ON EARTH, but it's nowhere close to Heaven either.



SCORE
2 Howls Outta 4




6 comments:

  1. Dude you feel exactly as I do about this film, with everything. When it came out I was about 15, so I was sold on it at the time, and even enjoyed it in the theaters. Over time, it lost its luster for sure. Wisecracking Pinhead= no no. And as you said, the cenobites are hella disappointing compared to there predecessors. One throws flammable beverages and the other slings cds? Gimme a break.

    And great googly moogly Paula Marshall was a doll. The scene where she walks up to look outside of Terry Farell's window at the sunrise, holy canole. I had a huge crush on her back then, due to this and Warlock 2.

    This was totally Dimension trying to cash in on New Line's Elm Street success. Guilty pleasure at best. Great review, my friend.

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    Replies
    1. Yeah, it really doesn't hold up as well as it should. I remember liking it more myself, but I can see how heavily flawed it is now. And Wisecracking Pinhead is the biggest mistake this franchise made here. Totally goes against his character. And the Cenobites look cool, but aren't memorable at all. The CD one is just ridiculous.

      Yes, Paula Marshall is really hot in this film. And she's probably the best actress in the film next to Doug Bradley. Definitely a guilty pleasure and not the worst sequel - God I'm gonna need alcohol in my system for those installments.

      Appreciate the comment and support, buddy!

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  2. Terry Farrel's in this? Cool! That makes her the second Becker star to have been in a famous horror franchise! (I wonder how many films I've seen that starred actors who I wasn't familiar with at the time)

    As for the end shot, I was just as lost when I first saw that!

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    Replies
    1. Yes, her and Shawnee Smith like to star in sitcoms in between horror stints. And I'm still lost about that end shot. I think I guessed right, but it seems silly if it's right.

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  3. Definitely the beginning of the end for the franchise because it was all downhill from here. I've grown rather fond of Hellraiser 3 lately and it's the latest on in the series that's at least watchable.

    I don't really understand the last shot either. I suppose it was just meant to be a vague open ending. Perhaps it was supposed to be explored in Hellraiser 4 but lost direction because Hellraiser 4 is such a mess.

    Anyway, great review!

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    Replies
    1. Appreciate the comment, Alex! Yeah, I haven't seen BLOODLINE in years. But I do remember HELL ON EARTH being the last HELLRAISER film I actually found watchable. And you're probably right about that last shot. I'm sure it was leading into a sequel, yet the idea was never used for whatever reason for BLOODLINE. Boy, I can't wait to discuss that mess.

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