I have to admit to being a bit under whelmed by Clive Barker's Hellraiser when it first hit theaters back in 1987. After all, this film and its writer/director were being heralded as the second coming of the horror industry and, well, I just didn't see it. I mean, sure, there were some cool moments, and the Cenobites were certainly interesting, but in the end I found it all a bit boring and pretentious. Of course, now that I'm older and my tastes have matured I…oh, who am I kidding; I still find the original film dull, but I do appreciate its accomplishments. I'm probably one of the few who prefers the sheer lunacy of its sequel, Hellbound, where Pinhead and his torture-mad cronies get a much larger role.
I've missed the boat on the sequels, however, and, while I'm almost positive that I've seen Hellraiser III: Hell on Earth at least once, I couldn't, for the life of me, remember a damned thing about it. Then again, the early 90's are pretty much a blur for me, so it was about time I revisited the property for, what I'm told by most, is the “last good Hellraiser movie”.
The film opens with club owner J.P. Monroe (Bernhardt) perusing the stock at a seedy art gallery, where he happens upon the big ol' pillar that shot up out of the ground at the conclusion of Hellbound. While I don't recall Pinhead being part of the sculpture in that film, here he is the centerpiece, and also sports his trusty puzzle box, the Lament Configuration.
Meanwhile, struggling reporter, Joey (Farrell) is covering the local emergency room, I guess anticipating some sort of accident to report on. Another story pops up somewhere else, and Joey's crew leave her in the ER with not so much as a bloody nose to cover for the evening news. Soon after, however, a young man is rushed into the hospital with chains dangling from his extremities, and Joey witnesses him being torn to pieces by unseen forces. Joey smells a story, and she gets one when she hooks up with Terri, Monroe 's girlfriend. Terri ( Marshall ), who has just walked out on Monroe , tells Joey all about the crazy sculpture, and even shows her a chunk of it that she's taken as a souvenir; the aforementioned puzzle box! As Joey digs for information about the mysterious piece of art, Monroe discovers that his latest collectible has an appetite for human blood, and makes a deal with Pinhead to unleash hell on Earth.
I would imagine that, if you're one of Pinhead's loyal legion of followers, Hellraiser III probably knocked your socks off, but it's a helluva lot of fun even for casual fans like myself. One needn't know much about the earlier entries going in as anything important is covered through the magic of flashbacks and exposition. While Farrell and Marshall are both very easy on the eyes, the real draw here is Doug Bradley, reprising his role as Pinhead, and delivering all manner of hilariously morbid puns and one-liners whilst shredding everyone in his path. There's also a whole new lineup of Cenobites to assist him, including a guy with a camera in his head who inexplicably fires rockets out of it.
Yes, it's silly stuff, but it's entertainingly silly, and only slightly less fun than Hellbound. It also looks really good, with a smoking 1.85:1 transfer, but the 2.0 soundtrack is so 1990's. The disc features one extra, but it's an interesting one called “Clive Barker: The Art of Horror”. This featurette seems to be from around the time Barker's excellent novel, The Great and Secret Show, was released, and we get lengthy interviews with the young Barker waxing philosophical about his work and the genre. While it has nothing to do with this particular film (it hadn't even been released yet), it's still a nice bonus.