Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Hellraiser III: Hell On Earth (1992)

Director: Anthony Hickox
Notable Cast: Terry Ferrall, Paula Marshall, Kevin Bernhardt, Doug Bradley, Ashley Laurence, Ken Carpenter, Peter Atkins, Eric Willhelm

This is a love it or hate it film. Hellraiser III: Hell on Earth has this odd  and very devout following (even apart from the rest of the series) and for a variety of reasons it splits many fans. I, for one, am not a fan of this one as I feel that it changes a lot of the heart of the story and what Hellraiser was originally about in the intent of broadening the concept of the film and adding in a lot more mainstream appeal. Many fans do like it and truthfully there are many things to like about this one, but for me there are too many flaws in it and it conceptionally doesn't work for me as a film within the Hellraiser universe.

Granted, to put things in perspective, Hellbound: Hellraiser II was a let down as its scatter-shot script and inconsistencies undermined the solid story and visual elements that were meant to continue the initial story, but give it a larger and more epic tone. This one suffers from similar problems, most of all the inconsistency to story elements in the film itself, although I do give it credit for trying to explain some of the odd moments in second film, like the pillar at the end of the film and Pinhead's death in hell. In that aspect, at least the film attempts something.

Even then, there are a lot of various pieces to appreciate that pop up in Hellraiser III. Lots of interesting visual moments (Pinhead's face in the pillar is actually kind of interesting and of course Doug Bradley's performance of Pinhead is always wonderful) and there are some solid special effects to be had. There are these moments of creepy fun that work, including a sequence where Pinhead poses in a crucified pose before a stain glass window blows out behind him. For an early 90s style film that attempts to move the franchise more into the classic slasher franchises that were popular at the time, it seems to do its job and it takes a new approach to the franchise that will appease some fans.

Unfortunately, I think they went about this all the wrong way. Story wise, Hellraiser III is even more scattered than the last one and full of smaller plot holes that really make the audience stumble. Like how Pinhead got out for one...why was he in the pillar to begin with? And how is he able to get that creepy hobo guy (that normally pretty awesome reoccurring character) to get club owner and general asshole Monroe to buy the fucking pillar? To me, it doesn't quite make sense in context. Then of course, once he is out, how come he has all these powers in this realm when he is no longer fueled by hell. He's just that evil? And if he has all these powers, then how come Joey can give him the run around so easily? He slaughters a shit ton of people, controls inanimate objects and even brings the dead back to life to help him (side note: the new Cenobites are insanely dumb in design I think. Pinhead even refers to them as 'shadows' of his former colleagues - and this my friends is a fucking understatement). Yet, in what should have been a really climactic ending, Hellraiser III ends up being some what of a let down. The entirety of the third act devolves into a semi-coherent disaster that focuses far too much on the cenobite aspects and loses sight of the actual meaning that this hell is supposed to represent. Half of the characters are randomly killed or disappear, the main character Joey just kind of runs around and the film doesn't embrace the Elm Street inspired (stolen?) concept that she needs to bring him out of the real world and into a dream world (?!) to beat him, and it just collapses under the weight of trying to be a horror franchise that it was never meant to be. Hellraiser III was on very patchy foundations to start, but by the end of the film it's all rumble in a film that feels both watered down and unfocused.

Hellraiser III starts off in the with some fun ideas and the right intent, but it quickly ends up being a slasher film instead of a thought provoking horror film. This is, for me, perhaps one of the weakest moment in the Hellraiser saga as this is the first time that it starts to derail itself from the main themes and tones to embrace a more mainstream approach. Hellraiser has fallen a long way from its debut as a brilliant and character driven film and Hellraiser III is just one low point on an ongoing series that is only going for the worse in the end.


The third film in this iconic franchise is finally getting a nice US release on an upgraded media format, even though the rights to the film would have seemed to be in limbo for a number of years. As you may have noticed through my review of the film above, I'm not a fan of Hellraiser III, but there are plenty of horror aficionados that are and it's wonderful that Arrow Video has seen it fit to include this film in the box set. Strangely enough, the restoration of III would seemingly be the clearest and best of the set (perhaps due to the existing elements being in the best condition of the three films) and this release includes both the theatrical cut and the unrated one for fans. The special features on this third disc are still robust, including a new commentary and a ton of previously released footage all combined onto one release. However, for those super fans, it's the fourth disc of the set that might be some of the most interesting material in the entire box as it includes a couple of documentaries (one on the entire Hellraiser series and one on the literary works of Clive Barker) and it few short films that add a lot of value to what this set has to offer. For a Barker fan like myself, this is the big selling aspect to owning this box set it is worth the purchase from that alone. I added a list of the special features below, but if you haven't already guessed from my additional comments on my reviews of Hellraiser and Hellbound, this set is a must own, must worship kind of set for any horror fan. Arrow Video have truly outdone themselves with this one.

  • Brand new 2K restoration of the Original Theatrical Version [93 mins]
  • Alternate Unrated Version [97 mins]
  • Brand new audio commentary with writer Peter Atkins
  • Audio commentary with director Anthony Hickox and Doug Bradley
  • Hell on Earth: The Story of Hellraiser III – making-of documentary featuring interviews with Atkins, Keen and actor Ken Carpenter
  • Terri’s Tales – brand new interview with actress Paula Marshall
  • Under the Skin: Doug Bradley on Hellraiser III: Hell on Earth
  • Raising Hell on Earth – archival interview with Hickox
  • On-set interviews with Barker and Bradley
  • Never-before-seen Hellraiser III SFX dailies
  • Theatrical Trailer
  • Image Gallery
  • Hellraiser III comic book adaptation [Disc gallery]
  • Clive Barker short films Salomé and The Forbidden
  • Books of Blood & Beyond: The Literary Works of Clive Barker – horror author David Gatward provides a tour through Barker’s written work, from the first Books of Blood to the recent The Scarlet Gospels
  • Hellraiser: Evolutions – a brand new documentary looking at the evolution of the hit horror franchise and its enduring legacy, featuring interviews with Scott Derrickson (director, Hellraiser: Inferno), Rick Bota (director, Hellraiser: Hellseeker, Deader and Hellworld), Stuart Gordon (director, Re-Animator, From Beyond) and others
  • The Hellraiser Chronicles: A Question of Faith – short film

Written By Matt Reifschneider

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