Sunday, September 30, 2012

Hell on the Viewer: "Hellraiser III: Hell on Earth" (1992)

Watching this film is almost as bad as the centuries of pain Pinhead always eludes to, but that we never see.

Joey (Terry Farrell) is one of those frustrated television news reporters who cannot seem to catch a break. She is relegated to fluff pieces until staking out a New York City emergency room one night. A man is brought in, with chains and hooks piercing his body, and then his head explodes. Terri (Paula Marshall), the girl who brought him in, turns up at Joey's apartment after Joey goes to a club called the Boiler Room looking for information. Terri invites herself to live with Joey, and shows her a mysterious puzzle box she found that used to be on a sculpture at her ex-boyfriend's place.

The Boiler Room's owner (and Terri's ex-boyfriend), J.P. (Kevin Bernhardt), bought the weird sculpture from a gallery. It is gargantuan, and seems to show souls in torment. J.P. notices someone (the now headless dude) took something (the aforementioned puzzle box) off the piece, and when accidentally bit by a rat, J.P. bleeds on the artwork. At this point in the "Hellraiser" series, I think we all know what blood does to the Cenobites.

Pinhead (Doug Bradley) comes back and requires J.P. to start bringing him more blood, using some of the bar bimbos J.P. regularly beds. Joey gets more information from Terri (the two make like "The Odd Couple" with their sudden living arrangement), and Joey's nosy behavior finally pays off as she investigates what occurred in the past (and in the first two films in the series).

Despite the very good opening scenes and some jump-scare moments, "Hellraiser III: Hell on Earth" just should not have been made. Aside from Bradley, the only returning character is Ashley Laurence's Kirsty, and she appears in what looks like outtakes from the second film. Both Terry Farrell and Paula Marshall have found success on network television series, which is commendable considering how awful their performances are here. Doug Bradley, as both Pinhead and his human form Spencer, is seen more here than in the previous two films combined. Pinhead is still a great character, but the muddy screenplay gums up the original storyline with convoluted rules about how to get rid of the devilish monster. The direction is pedestrian and unenthusiastic.

The special effects are still not very good, and when a promising scene like a giant bloody massacre comes along late in the film, the weak effects quickly sink it. Too much time is spent on Joey's dreams of her father; scenes that are not worth the payoff in the conclusion. Watching this film reminded me how wrong Hollywood sometimes gets the world of television reporting. Joey makes like Nancy Drew and has plenty of time to put together the clues in the plot, lives in a huge New York City apartment with a view, and yet never seems to work very much. A new gang of Cenobites are introduced here, and they are all lame and forgettable...and North Carolina locations do not stand in very well for New York City, or Vietnam!

"Hellraiser III: Hell on Earth" is pretty bad, and after a messy but satisfying fourth film, the series was quickly relegated to direct-to-video releases. It's a real shame to see a film series get clipped like this. (* *) out of five stars.