Hellraiser III: Hell on Earth (Anthony Hickox, 1992)
I figured, since I’d already crushed my teen years by watching Hellbound and seeing how it didn’t hold up, I might as well kill off the nostalgia of my twenties as well and give Hell on Earth another watch. All I really remembered about this one was that Lieutenant Dax (Terry Farrell’s role from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine) was in it, and that the cameraman dude that I always thought was Hulk Hogan (it’s actually Phantom of the Paradise‘s Ken Carpenter) always answered the phone with “Speak.” (Once cell phones got big, I couldn’t wait to buy one so I could do that.) Nothing else about the movie really stayed with me, and that should have been a clue.
SPOILER ALERT: The plot synopsis in the following paragraph contains a major spoiler (THE major spoiler, really) for Hellbound: Hellraiser II. The rest of the review contains spoilers for this film. Depending on which one(s) you haven’t seen and intend to, you may want to stop reading now (I’m not recommending this).
Plot: Would-be impresario J. P. Monroe ( Beauty School‘s Kevin Bernhardt, who semi-retired from acting in the mid-nineties and is now a screenwriter) finds a suspiciously familiar (if you’ve seen Hellbound…though it is by no means identical) piece of art in an otherwise-empty gallery—a spinning column covered with a grotesque collage. He purchases it and installs it in his new bar, the Boiler Room, which immediately becomes notorious for its patrons flying off the handle inappropriately. J. P.’s girlfriend-of-the-week, Terri (Cheaper by the Dozen‘s Paula Marshall) leaves him just after a strange incident at the club is covered by budding reporter Joey Summerskill (Farrell). Joey and Terri hook up, as Joey is looking for the story behind what’s going on at the club, while Terri needs a place to live. As Joey gets closer to the story, it becomes more dangerous, as Pinhead, who was imprisoned in the column at the end of Hellbound, has managed to extricate himself enough to force J. P. to bring him victims, as he needs blood to gain strength. On the other hand, J. P. is smart enough to realize that if this guy ever gets free, bad things will probably occur…
There’s a lot of just plain stupid in this movie (would you patronize a club that played Soup Dragons and KMFDM back to back and then, when it was time for a live band, brought on Armored Saint?), but what really killed me is how bad this movie crushes canon. I mean, a huge part of the mythology in the first two movies—though it only really comes out in Hellbound—is how damn hard it is to become a cenobite. You have to want it. It’s not something that just happens casually. (And it can certainly be inferred from Dr. Channard’s antics in Hellbound that cenobites are (a) all equals, power-wise, and (b) not necessarily sympathetic towards one another.) And yet, after the Boiler Room massacre, we find ourselves with a whole boatload of new cenobites, all of whom seem to be under Pinhead’s control. Uh… what? That’s actually cool as a stand-alone tableau (though, like the Channard cenobite from Hellraiser, these new thrall-type cenobites seem to work very much against the original characters that Barker created), but within the frame of the universe that’s been put together over the course of the last two films, it doesn’t make a damn lick of sense. Ultimately, that’s what kills the movie for me, and makes me wonder why the minority of Hellraiser fans who do like this film—a minority among which, until very recently, I counted myself—still do. **
The full movie on Youtube.