Horror Movie Review: Hellraiser III: Hell On Earth (1992)


The first Hellraiser took place mostly inside a single house and that really added to the claustrophobic feel that the movie and story had, it worked really well. Its sequel, Hellraiser II: Hellbound, followed a slow build-up with many really brilliant sequences taking place inside the demon Box itself. It was a great way to expand that world and explain more about the box and the origins of its inhabitants. I personally couldn’t wait to see more of that in the second sequel so how did it do?

The revelation of his own former humanity in Hellraiser II has resulted in the Pinhead being split into two different forms: His former self, World War I British Army Captain Eliot Spencer, and a manifestation of Spencer’s, which takes on the form of Pinhead. While Spencer ends up in limbo, Pinhead is trapped, along with the puzzle box, amongst the writhing figures and distorted faces etched into the surface of an intricately carved pillar.

The pillar is bought by the rich and spoiled J.P. Monroe, owner of a popular nightclub called The Boiler Room. During her investigation, an ambitious young television reporter, Joey Summerskill, slowly begins to learn about Pinhead and the mysterious puzzle box. Joey is introduced to the pain the box can bring when she views a teenage club-goer being ripped apart by the box’s chains in a hospital emergency room. Joey tracks the box and a young woman named Terri to The Boiler Room nightclub.

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For Joey this is the story of a lifetime so she agrees to let Terri stay with her so that they can work together and figure out just what is going on. Video tape interviews are recovered from the Channard Institute of one of Pinhead’s former victims Kirsty Cotton (Ashley Laurence). Joey and Terri learn through the videos about the demonic Cenobites and the power of the puzzle box, so far so good.

While alone in his room of sculptures JP realises that part of his beloved statue had been damaged and a piece had been removed; the aforementioned puzzle box. He does exactly what anyone would do and of course puts his entire arm into the hole which just so happens to be making creepy noises, who wouldn’t. A rat jumps out and tears into JP’s hand which sprays blood all over the statue, where could this be going….

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Sometime later we see a very graphic sex scene between JP and an unnamed girl, the sound of JP having an orgasm seems to wake up the dormant trapped Pinhead which is a little strange, just think about it. After the deed is done JP shows his true colours and forces the girl to leave; in all honesty she is seriously annoying so I can’t really blame him here. The girl refuses and is attacked with chains that shoot from the statue in a truly brutal scene, they literally skin her in seconds and the effects are amazingly.

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Pinhead attempts to reason with JP, basically telling him that she deserved it but he’s having none of it. JP shoots the statue several times only for Pinhead to spit all of the bullets out in what is a really amusing scene. The only words that JP can think to say are “Jesus Christ!” Only to have Pinhead to respond with “not quite” there’s just something I really loved about it. Pinhead bribes JP with a place at his right hand side in turn for souls, being the scumbag that he is JP of course accepts and invites ex-girlfriend Terri over.

I really love the character of JP in this movie, the actor who played him is clearly really revelling in the role of being a complete bastard and it’s easy to see that he’s having fun with it. Terri arrives at JP’s and he attempts to act as if he’s a changed man and is sorry for all of the awful things he did to her. Terri isn’t falling for this so he gets impatient and attempts to force her in front of the statue but she over powers him and is just about to flee when Pinhead convinces her to join him. Terri longs to dream and Pinhead promises her that he will make it happen so she agrees to move JP’s unconscious body towards the statue. This is another very gory scene as JP gets a piston shoved through his head turning him into a Cenobite who we get properly introduced to later in the movie.

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Pinhead is now released from the statue and this is where Hellraiser III truly starts to spiral out of control and feel really rushed. While sleeping that night Joey has a vivid dream in which she is visited by Eliot spencer (Pinheads human soul) and he explains in some depth how he ended up becoming a Cenobite and it’s really quite interesting. He informs Joey that the demon would be coming for her because she possesses the box and all she must do is wait by the window for him to arrive and bring him through the window into his world, how simple is that?

Joey does the sensible thing and sleeps right next to the window with the box in her hand’ it’s a realistic thing to do. Suddenly she gets a call from her friend who’s also her cameraman and he asks her to meet him at The Boiler Room where we as the viewer got to see Pinhead tear apart every single guest in the place. I found that particular scene to be a little disappointing; for one thing it makes no sense to me why Pinhead would appear in front of hundreds of people and then tear them apart like some slasher movie villain, puns included. Now don’t get me wrong the gore and effects are done brilliantly; this is clearly the biggest budget that the series has had so far and it all looks great, well what we actually get to see that is. We get some awesome kills here; one guy gets CD’s inserted into his skull and it looks very painful indeed. Sadly the rest of the deaths happen off screen and it all results in a view of the sealed doors while blood seeps through the cracks below and we hear the sounds of chains ripping into people as the whole place becomes devoid of all sound, it is effective but I wanted to actually see what was happening!

Anyway, Joey drives literally miles away from the window to discover that everyone in the club is dead and her cameraman is missing. At this point if I was Spencer’s ghost I would have been seriously annoyed, I mean he couldn’t have made it easier for her and even explained how powerful and manipulative Pinhead is but to no avail unfortunately she’s an idiot. Even though the next few moments completely ruin anything mysterious about Pinhead and the Cenobites It’s still an awesome scene and is highly entertaining.

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We get introduced to a series of new Cenobites including her cameraman who has a camera inserted into his head and can now somehow fire explosives from the lens, it’s really silly and some of his puns are ridiculously bad. I really liked the Cenobite who threw CD’s it’s just such a wacky idea but really, could CD’s actually pierce the skull? There is also a fire breathing Cenobite who throws Molotov cocktails and my personal favourite which is JP who has been named Pistonhead, just the way his head twitches and the noise of the piston; I always found it very creepy. Once again the effects are fantastic and the fact that they use huge explosions and an entire street as a set just shows how huge the budget was in comparison to the previous movies.

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The ending is kind of anti-climactic as Joey defeats all of the Cenobites very easily, I love the scene in the church with Pinhead and the priest but it all feels really out of place and it’s hard to believe that this is the same menacing demon from 1 & 2 with just the way he speaks and acts. Joey is fooled like the idiot she is and hands the box to Pinhead thinking that it’s her dead father, I mean come on honestly. Spencer saves the day and stops him from turning her into a Cenobite; I seriously think the movie could have saved itself here. Pinhead questions just how much Spencer actually enjoyed it when they tortured their victims and for a brief moment it seems that he agrees until he inevitably saves Joey. Why not have Spencer actually voluntarily re-join Pinhead? I think that would have been a great ending personally.

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I really enjoyed Hellraiser 3 because it’s very entertaining but that’s not why I loved Hellraiser and Hellbound: Hellraiser 2. I loved those movies because of how atmospheric and terrifying they were, I enjoyed the mystery around Pinhead, the box and the Cenobites and that was with barely ever seeing them. When Pinhead spoke it was menacing but in this he never shuts up and cracks one to many puns that while are funny they just don’t fit with any of the characteristics of the demon from the previous two movies. I mean come on he laughs, smiles, makes jokes and it is slightly amusing until you realise you’re watching a Hellraiser movie.

This came out around the time when Freddy Kruger was gathering a huge following and it feels as if they were attempting to compete and bring in some of the fans of Nightmare on Elm Street franchise. Hell on earth suffers like many sequels do when they gather a larger budget; it just went insanely over the top and completely forgot just what it was that made the previous films dark, scary and unique. I did enjoy that it continued to explain more about Pinhead which I do find interesting but I feel as if they nearly crossed the line of making the viewer feel a tiny bit sorry for him which is a huge mistake.

The main issue is evident from the moment we first see Pinhead arise from the statue. We see him and the Cenobites far too much that it turns them into generic slasher movie villains instead of the other worldly mystical demons that they’re meant to be and although I didn’t mind some of the new Cenobites I did miss butterball and chatterer. The first half has some really nice build up and Joey’s character is really sensible, in the second half it all goes out the window and just rushes for the finish line and some of Joey’s choices are so stupid that cease to be realistic even in the slightest.

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Hell on Earth took the Hellraiser franchise in a whole new direction and strayed away from the gritty, dark, scary horror movies that the first two were. Seeing Pinhead as much as we do kills any mystery and fear that we as the audience feel, less would certainly have been more here. It is fun to watch and does still have the element of quality effects and a great soundtrack but if you take those away there isn’t much left. Hellraiser 3 feels really rushed at times and I think thats most evident when I noticed that the posters for the first and third movies are exactly the same except for an altered background, now thats just lazy.

Hellraiser III: Hell On Earth
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