When J.P. (Kevin Bernhardt), a playboy club owner, buys a mysterious-looking puzzle box and mistakes it for a work of art, he has no idea that Pinhead, “the Black Pope of Hell” (Doug Bradley), is trapped inside. Playing tricks on his captor’s mind, Pinhead tries his best to manipulate J.P. into breaking him out of his prison — that is, until an astute journalist (Terry Farrell) begins to suspect something.
Sequels are often looked upon as the bastard progeny of cinema in general, but it seems that only in horror is it deemed ok for a really good film (and in some cases, a really bad film) to spawn sequels, because the people making decisions seem to think that if the first film was successful then surely pumping out more will make them (the film company) more money.
And the big wigs are right. Why else do we have ten âFriday the 13thâ films or seven âNightmare on Elm Streetâ films. Or five (so far) âSawâ films? Not because the sequels have been that good, but because horror fans will pack theaters to see the latest exploits of their favorite cinema bad guy.
However, the biggest problem that the sequel faces is simply that, being a sequel. The second film in any horror series is a tough sell, because if the first film was good, then you donât want to f*ck up the second film, because that will kill your possible franchise.
But if the second film survives then weâre off to the races with the three-qual. And yes Iâm well aware that âThree-qualâ isnât a real word, but if some bastard can coin the phrase âTorture P*rnâ when talking about exploitation movies, then damn it, I can make up words too!
âHellraiser III: Hell On Earthâ came out four years after âHellraiser II: Hellboundâ which is a bit strange considering that âHellraiser 2â came out a year after the original was released. As a viewer, Iâd be more skeptical of âHellboundâ when it came out considering the quick turn around, but with a four year gap between films, surely theyâve used that time wisely to craft a great story and film right?
Eh, not so much.
âHell on Earthâ picks up sometime after the events of the second film, when we are introduced to a young, swaggering asshole named J.P Monroe who purchases the âPillar of Soulsâ that was briefly shown at the end of âHellboundâ from a random homeless man in an art gallery. Pinhead and the box are trapped within the pillar, and while as a piece of art, itâs quite exquisite, itâs not exactly something youâd really want in your living room.
Next, we are introduced to a young reporter named Joey Summerskill (played by Terry Farrell) whoâs desperate to make her big break as an anchor woman. And wouldnât you know it, sheâs about to get her chance as her original story at the local hospital turns out to be a bust, a young man is rushed in and then torn apart by chains. Where the hell is the camera guy when you need him!
Oh right, he got called off to do something more important.
Joey knows that this story is going to be her big break, and after briefly meeting a young woman named Terri, who came to the hospital with the very dead young man, Joey is on the case to figure out what in the hell just happened.
Her search begins at J.P Monroeâs night club âThe Boiler Roomâ which looks like it might be a Goth/industrial style club, with weird decorations that are heavy on barbed wire and latex, but most of the crowd is made up of people who look like your average nightclub clientele and a few people who look like metal fans, leaving me thoroughly confused as to what in the f*ck they were trying to get across with this club.
Oh, and Armored Saint is playing live in a few scenes. For anyone who cares about Armored Saint.
Anyway, Joey is doing the reporter thing and is trying to track down Terri, who eventually finds her and explains what happened to the young man and then introduces Joey to the âLament Configurationâ.
And to further drive home the fact that J.P is a douche bag of epic proportions, we see him pick up a big breasted blonde from his own bar, then after having sex with her, tells her to get the f*ck out, and then accidentally feeds her to the pillar that heâs got on display in his apartment within the club.
Pinhead feeling a bit revitalized after the snack of blonde bimbo starts offering J.P power and influence in Hell if he will bring more victims.
Itâs around this time that Joey starts dreaming about her dead father, and then out of left field has a dream where sheâs in a World War I trench. And by golly who might that dapper fellow down at the other end of the trench be? Why itâs Captain Elliot Spencer, old Pinhead himself before he was changed.
This sets up a whole side plot and the explanation that since Captain Spencerâs soul was freed in the last film, Pinhead is now his own being and he is now pure evil. But heâs still stuck in the pillar so itâs all good right?
Well, one would think so, but J.P decides the best way to try and get his next victim for the pillar is to simply get a hold of Terri, his ex girlfriend whoâs been staying with Joey.
Of course, J.P gets whatâs coming to him and Pinhead is unleashed on the club. But he still has to get the Lament Configuration, but he canât just take it, the box has to be given to him.
At some point in all this madness, Spencer tells Joey that she has to bring Pinhead into Captain Spencerâs realm so that he can do battle with him.
Now, I know youâre probably wondering about what happens when Pinhead is unleashed into the club right? Bloody carnage and sadly the beginning of a tradition carried on in âBloodlineâ of making stupid Cenobites.
So who does Pinhead create to help him get the box? Well Joeyâs camera man gets turned into the âCamera Headâ Cenobite, the clubâs DJ gets turned into the âCDâ Cenobite, which trust me, is just as stupid as it sounds, including the god awful whirring sound he makes every time he throws a CD, âAtkinsâ the bar tender who blows fire, because in all of one scene heâs shown with a drink thatâs briefly on fire, JP becomes âPiston headâ and poor Terri becomes the âCigarette Smokingâ Cenobite.
Iâll give them credit where itâs due, because the designs for these cenobites isnât really bad, but having not one, but three of the Cenobites (Camera Head, Piston Head, and Terri) spew one-liners gets obnoxious fast.
And as silly as the CD Cenobite is, I kind love him, because heâs just so f*cking stupid that you really canât do much but scratch your head and wonder âWho the hell thought this was a good idea?â CD gets points for being so bad heâs kinda good.
So does Joey manage to end the horror and save the world from Pinhead and his menagerie of crappy Cenobites? Does Captain Spencer have a big climactic battle with Pinhead? Did anyone think that throwing a bunch of needless explosions into this movie was going to cover up the fact that the Cenobites were bad?
Of course, Joey succeeds in defeating the Cenobites, as she somehow manages to unlock the box and send them all back to Hell, Captain Spencerâs great plan for defeating Pinhead is to simply rejoin him, which when you think about it, is a horrible plan, because his soul was free and instead of enjoying his freedom, the dumb bastard just re-imprisons himself within Pinhead.
Of course, Joeyâs own plan for making sure the âLament Configurationâ is never found isnât much better, as it just leads to the box using its power to influence itâs surroundings, which leads into part of âHellraiser:Bloodlinesâ.
The acting in this film isnât bad, but itâs unfortunately the first in the series to start a couple of terrible trends that were continued in part four (Crappy Cenobites and Pinheadâs voice not being deepened with effects) and over all the story just feels like they were trying to turn Pinhead into a generic slasher villain and not the mostly silent villain he was in the first two films.
Another thing that bugged me about this film was that the twisted vein of sexuality and the grotesque was missing. In the previous two films without having any sex scenes, there was a very obvious theme of sexuality and the grotesque, first with Frank and Julia in âHellraiserâ and then Julia and Dr. Channard in âHellboundâ. In this one, weâre treated to a crap love scene with J.P and the blonde bimbo who eventually gets killed by the pillar and despite some crafty cutting to imply that Pinhead is using his influence on J.P from within the pillar, the sex scene still falls flat and comes across as a cheap chance to show some nudity for its own sake.
I canât award this film the title of âWorst Hellraiser Everâ because at the moment, that title is held by âHellraiser IVâ but I can say that you shouldnât go in expecting too much out of this movie. If you think youâre going to be getting a quality continuation of the series like âHellboundâ you are sadly mistaken.
Straight up, this is a bad movie. Not âSweet Jesus make it stop!â bad, but bad in the sense that you gather a group of friends, a case of beer and pizza and you donât take it too seriously.
Hellraiser 3: Hell on Earth