Our look back at the Hellraiser films continue as we watch the second sequel of the franchise and an entry that moves away from the vision of Barker and into a more mainstream horror flick…..
Is this a Hellraiser or A Nightmare On Elm Street flick? I had to ask that question many times to myself as the predicament that the writers found themselves with the popularity of the character of Pinhead, caused a massive problem that rears its ugly head for the second sequel of the franchise.
By turning Pinhead into the main thrust of the story, not only destroys the main dynamic of what made Hellraiser so good, but turns the character into a one trick pony. He is not so scary when he just stands there and talks and talks, and err!!!..talks some more. He is not even that interesting either, the all dark and the figure of hell, becoming quite laughable, as he more or less becomes a Freddy clone which would not be a bad thing if it was the Freddy of old, I am talking about the Freddy of parts 4,5 and 6 which back then the sole interest was to make viewers laugh and have him in every scene.
The trouble is, Pinhead is not that character. The first two sequels had the cenobites in the background, they were not part of the story, the main focus was character driven or when that failed, the sole interest was for Argento effects of a dream like world that may seem shaky, but the ambition was there to be admired. When you have neither of those aspects then you know the film is in trouble.
The truth is, the characters in Hell On Earth are so unlikeable that you simply can not care for them. The fact that they have no background for us to get any sympathy for is a major negative, and as for the effects, well even though they have improved dramatically from the previous two, there is nothing to make you go WOW! Its scenes that we have seen many times before in better films, and its quite clear that the film is missing the touch of its creator Clive Barker whose original plan for this movie was sadly dropped.
The original concept had the film staged in the pyramids and more to do with the origin of the box that causes so much suffering. Pinhead would have played more of a part, but not so much for him to have been the main star, but the move from a British studio to an American one shows that the plan was to make this into a franchise slasher film, hence the hundreds of killings that engulf the movie. There is more killings in one scene here that there was in the entire last two films and that goes to show how little thought went into this movie.
For plot, well its totally different to the last two. The pillar that arose from the mattress at the end of Part two, is back, well I say its back but it looks totally different to what we last saw of it, you see with the move to a new studio, hence a bigger budget, so this pillar is all flashy and nice, ruining the ancient haunting look it once had.
Anyway it ends up in a second hand shop and this annoying character who walks around for most of the film half naked and truly loves himself buys it, simply because he thinks it looks good. Why? who knows! I mean its a huge pillar with freaky things and if you look close you can see a figure of a man with pins in his head. See? where this is going? Now how Pinhead is in this box is a huge mystery as far as we saw, he died for good in the climax of Hellbound. BUT!!!! I hear your cry, They always bring back the bogeyman, and so the explanation for this is that, the soul of Pinhead is spilt into two. The good side is alone, stuck in a world of nowhere with just his memories, while the bad side is stuck in that box, just waiting for some dumb idiot to release him.
That is of course the new owner J.P. Monroe (Kevin Bernhardt) who after a long night passion with a one night stand, the pillar which is directly by the bed, sucks the girl in through a hole and her blood makes the pillar come alive and soon the face of Pinhead appears. Carrying on the tradition of the series, Pinhead demands blood to regenerate his body but while this plot is a franchise must, the film totally disregards it as only one more body is needed and soon Pinhead is out, and free to walk the Earth.
Feeling all alone though with no cenobites for company, Pinhead decides to turn many humans into these creatures of the night, and because J.P owns The Boiler Room downstairs, a nightclub with hundreds of people dancing away, Pinhead does not need to look far, and the main set piece of the film, sees all these poor fools getting punished for dancing badly by getting killed weakly. Yes I would love to say that this bloodbath is great for horror fans, but with all that blood being splashed around its quite hard to take it seriously and all this happening while Pinhead stands in the background laughing like a maniac.
So? Where is Kristy?
Well the heroine of the franchise is here, warning all those that listen how dangerous the box is and who the cenobites are, you have to feel sorry for her as the frustration must be getting to her, but while she sits there, begging to be heard, if you wondering why she does not get off her arse and do something, its because she is behind a TV screen. Yes the only character that the fans have an affinity for, is reduced to a cameo appearance on a video tape. How? well, our new heroine, television reporter Joey Summerskill (Terry Farrell) is investigating the story of the mystery box, when she finds out about this woman called Kristy. She breaks into an office and somehow manages to find everything she needed in one first look. This leads her to the tapes of the Channard Institute, yes that of the second film, (oh the memories of when it was good) and this leads her to the brief appearance of Kristy.
Instead of doing the normal thing and just saying, “sod this shit!” she carries on investigating and starts to dream of her dead father, a solider in Vietnam, and of Elliot Spencer, the human form of Pinhead. Its these scenes that are too close to that of Elm St and you half expect Joey to be called the Dream Master or something.
To makes things worse, we also have an actor that is even worse than that of the boyfriend from Hellraiser. Ken Carpenter is atrocious as Doc, the cameraman. His slow talking and stiff movement is cringe worthy and he only comes to life when he dies and is reborn as the Cameraman Cenobite, a creature that looks like he has just jumped off the Borg ship in Star Trek.
Hell On Earth tries its best to build any tension and suspense, but it fails miserably. For a franchise that felt dirty and cheap, its too polished for its own good. The bigger budget actually making the film suffer as its just too slick for its own good.
The new cenobites are also a massive let down. What is thought to be clever and wicked is totally off the pace, with the deadpan gags bringing a loud groan to those watching.
The cenobite with Music CD’s engraved into his ace because he used to be a DJ is not funny. Doc having a camera in his eye socket because he used to be a cameraman is again not funny! Its just too half arsed, not at all scary and an actual insult to the fans who expect something big from the third chapter.
Of course, the climax arrives and all it does is end the suffering of the viewer, all coming down to that box again which makes you think, if the box is that hard to solve, then how do these girls manage to do it in a few seconds?
The finale which builds to a showdown between evil Pinhead and his true self fails to reach the excitement levels of say Superman III in which good vs bad fought it out in a junkyard.
The script mumbles something, Joey screams and then somehow calls out the name Pinhead which shocked me, as I thought it was a fan name invented, but they somehow do call him this in the film, so when this evil force does go back to where he belongs, at least he can tell his friends he has a new nickname from those up above!
Hellraiser III is not an awful film, its just not that very good. It will please the gore fans and those who just love to switch off and enjoy, but fans will be in despair, making Pinhead the main focus is a massive misstep, it has its moments, but they are just fleeting and serves a reminder at how good this franchise once was!
Hellraiser should be all about grotty sex and taboo subjects that after watching you are desperate in need for a bath, this is too teen friendly and because of that loses its way and focus.
What I will say is the final image is the best of the film, a real eye opener that made the planned fourth film quite an interesting prospect that gave fans hope that they managed to get back some sort of the franchise credibility…..wait its set in space?….oh for *CENSORED*!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!