Horror review: Hellraiser III–Hell on Earth

MSDHELL EC020

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN THE GEORGIA STRAIGHT, NOV. 12, 1992

By Steve Newton

In 1987, the mind of multi-talented British horror icon Clive Barker graced the screen with the formidable presence of Pinhead, the refined leader of a gang of sado-masochistic demons from hell. As played by veteran stage actor Doug Bradley, Pinhead was evil personified, and the character’s simple yet striking look—essentially a bald head with nails stuck in it—quickly caught on with the horror-loving masses.

Before long, the lead “Cenobite” was battling it out with Freddy Krueger for a home in comic books, jigsaw puzzles, and model kits. Horror had found a new anti-hero, and one who was a lot more interesting than the silent masked baddies of the Halloween and Friday the 13th series.

Pinhead returned a year later in Hellbound: Hellraiser II, but his presence in that effects-heavy film was overshadowed by a mind-blowing array of other hell-bred creatures. In Hellraiser III: Hell on Earth, Pinhead is definitely the star of the show, but by now the novelty of his evil look and graceful wickedness are wearing a mite thin, just like the retractable jaws of Sigourney Weaver’s nemesis in the latest Alien instalment.

Hellraiser III opens with Pinhead still frozen on the torture pillar from Hellraiser II, but hedonistic nightclub owner J.P. Monroe (Kevin Bernhardt) purchases the six-foot-tall, intricately carved “Pillar of Souls” for his bar. Shortly thereafter, a young thief steals a small puzzle box from the statue, and when Monroe discovers the theft and sticks his arm in the hole where the box used to be, a foot-long rat fastens its teeth onto his hand.

Of course, the only way to get a foot-long rat off your hand is to swing your arm around wildly, so J.P. does just that, spraying blood on the pillar in the process, which resurrects Pinhead. But ol’ spike-head still needs to feast on some souls before he can break free of his monolithic bonds. So with promises of dark, other-worldly pleasures, he persuades Monroe to bring him some human snacks.

Meanwhile, ambitious reporter Joey Summerskill (Terry Farrell), while on assignment at a hospital emergency ward, witnesses the puzzle box thief being ripped apart by several hooks and chains with a mind of their own. She learns that the animated murder weapons came from the puzzle box, so, like any good journalist, she follows up the story.

Eventually, she takes on the role played by Ashley Laurence in the first two Hellraisers—that of a terrified but determined heroine who manipulates the puzzle box to save humanity from Pinhead and his hellish minions.

Much fuss was made in the horror press about the neat designs of Hellraiser III’s new Cenobites, which include a “Discman” who throws deadly CDs around, and “Camerahead”, whose auto-focus lens doubles as a killer drill. But the carnage that Pinhead and his entourage create—which is, undoubtedly, the drawing card for this gory flick—gets tiresome quite fast. And, besides, none of the special effects match those displayed in Pinhead’s first killing, wherein he sucks all the skin off a victim in one second flat.

Sshlooopp.

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