There were key movies in my life that helped to make me who I am today. Movies that I have loved from the moment the opening credit rolled and still love now. This blog series is about those, My guilty pleasures, my favorites, my escapes. Some were very popular, others not so much. Some of these will have some real life take-aways, others are just for fun.
Today we continue our discussion of the Hellraiser franchise with the third installment following Pinhead and his leather clad brethren.
Today’s Key Movie:
When Reporter Joey Summerskill (Terry Ferrell) stumbles on the story of the century, she finds herself mixed up with a freed Pinhead and his army of Cenobites. Now she must find a way to stop them from bringing about Hell On Earth. Starring Terry Ferrell, Doug Bradley, Kevin Bernhardt and Paula Marshall, this is Hellraiser III Hell On Earth.
Why this movie?
Taking place sometime after the events of part two, Hell On Earth picks up revealing what happened to the strange monolith that appeared at the end of Hellbound. You see, Pinhead has been trapped in this statue and now must feed in order to free himself. Using the desires of a club owner, JP Monroe (Bernhardt), Pinhead (Bradley) promises the hedonistic club owner pleasures beyond imaginings if JP frees the lead Cenobite from his prison. Enter Reporter Joey Summerskill who, as mentioned above, stumbles on the Cenobites and the secret origins of Pinhead himself.
By the time this installment came out I was already a fan and my parents had pretty much given up on shielding me from this series so, of course, as soon as it hit VHS it was in my families VCR and I was ready for the horrors that awaited me. Needless to say, I was both frightened and delighted at what I had just experienced. This was a properly dark and visceral film leaving me wanting to know more about the creatures who hide within the famed Puzzle Box.
Despite my fandom for this franchise, especially the books and comics by Barker himself, It has been at least twenty years since I last watched this particular entry so watching it again for this review was quite a revelation when compared to my memories of it. Was it any good? Well, let’s say it didn’t suck.
You like it, but is it really a ‘good’ movie?
Hellraiser 3 Hell On Earth is very unlike it’s predecessors in tone and production. That’s not to say it’s bad just different. Hell on Earth is a slow burn with nearly half the film used as a setup for a truly hellacious final act that makes parts 1 and 2 look tame in comparison. With the success of the first two it is clear that this film was given a bigger budget in which to use on the visual carnage within and boy does it use it. Instead of only killing a handful of people, Pinhead and his ilk massacre an entire nightclub with a gusto that could only have been born from behind the gates of hell itself. With all new makeup for all new cenobites, we not only get to see the grisly dark origin of Pinhead himself but also the creation of new more modern Cenobite creations including PistonHead, CameraHead and more.
What I found surprising in this was the cast, no not Doug Bradly as Pinhead but the films lead herself, Terry Ferrell as Joey Summerskill. I had no memory of her being in this even though I simply love her from her time as Jadzia Dax in Star Trek Deep Space Nine. So, imagine my surprise when, after reviewing that entire series, I rediscovered her role in this horror classic. If anything, she is an absolute joy in this film showing that she really has what it takes to lead a film. Interestingly, the CameraHead Cenobite looks remarkably like a Borg….
While Hell on Earth has a solid story and actually some pretty solid acting, as I alluded to earlier, it lacks a certain something that made the previous entries special. That something? Barker himself. Unlike the first two films, Clive Barker had little to do with this one outside of creating the characters and acting as a producer so this entry has a very different feel comparatively. Sure we get the visceral and violent delights of Pinheads desire for inflicting pleasures beyond imagining, but in the previous films there was a certain subtly to these dark pleasures that is lacking in part three. In fact, now this will sound strange, but the originals manages to balance deep sexuality and horror in a way that no other film has been able to, while the sexual nature of the originals can be disturbing, this carful balance of horror and sensuality give Hellraiser and Hellbound a quality that could not be replicated without Barker at the helm. In a way Hell on Earth manages to get everything right but the tone making this more of a fast pace gore fest than anything else. Not a bad thing, but not something that really lines up well with it’s predecessors.
Bottom line, Hell On Earth is a solid horror movie that expands on but does not improve on the established world from the original films. It is a dark, irreverent and bloody film that has some truly memorable moments despite not being quite up to the standard set by the originals. It is a fun diversion that makes you want to know more about the beings known as the Cenobites but does little else. If you are a fan of the franchise or the characters, go for it, otherwise, just stick with the originals.
OK, where do I get this movie?
If you still want to give this a go, and honestly it is a fun film to watch, you can grab a copy digitally wherever VOD is found and also on disc with some of other sequels.
Next week we jump further into the puzzle box with Hellraiser IV Bloodline. Until then:
Late To The Game 6/17/2021
If you would like to read more reviews please check out the rest of the Key Movies Of My Life that comes out every Thursday.
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