Starring: Terry Farrell, Doug Bradley, Paula Marshall, Kevin Bernhardt, Ken Carpenter
Rated R for Strong Violence and Sexuality, and for Language
Horror movie sequels, especially ones that are content to never venture beyond the boundaries set by their predecessors, are hard to review. What else can I say about the third installment in the "Hellraiser" franchise that I didn't say about the first two? They're all essentially the same: some moron with evil intentions finds the puzzle box (or Lament Configuration Box, as it's called on the back cover), opens it, Pinhead gets released and wreaks bloody hell. The pun is intended this time.
News reporter Joey Sommerskill (Farrell) is sitting at the quiet emergency room hoping for a story and stewing because there is none. Doc (Carpenter), is sympathetic, but is called away to film another story. After he leaves, paramedics rush in with a man who has chains attached to his body. During surgery, they rise into the air by themselves and pull him apart (I liked the fact that after he explodes, the camera goes to the heart monitor to show him flatlining...I thought that humans could survive spontaneous combustion). Smelling a story, Joey goes hunting for the witness, a girl named Terrie (Marshall). It turns out that her boyfriend, a sleazy club owner named J.P. Monroe (Bernhardt), bought a statue with the box in it, and Pinhead (Bradley) has special plans for him.
"Hellraiser III: Hell on Earth" fits into the franchise nicely. It has an acceptable amount of tension, Pinhead offering ecstasy through pain, and a considerable amount of blood and gore. The best kill is when a woman's skin gets ripped off (in one clean swoop, no less) and is swallowed by the statue. Gruesome, yes, but the "Hellraiser" movies are never coy.
The acting is adequate, but acceptable for a horror movie. Terry Farrell, who would later go on to play Lt. Commander Jadzia Daz on "Star Trek: Deep Space Nine" and Reggie Kostas on "Becker," is effective but don't expect her to get an Oscar anytime soon. Paula Marshall is better as the streetwise but vulnerable Terri; in a strange way, she reminded me of Juliette Lewis in "Kalifornia." Kevin Bernhardt has no trouble playing a chauvinistic meathead. Doug Bradley once again plays Pinhead, but he also has a dual role as Pinhead's unintentional creator, a Captain in the British Army during WWI. He's quite good in both roles, and I was surprised that it was him in the latter.
The film was directed by Anthony Hickox, who is famous for directing the "Waxwork" movies (unseen by me). His work is pedestrian, but not bad. The script needed a few more rewrites, and the editing could have been less choppy, but it's far from awful. The war scenes are, for a movie with a measly $5 million price tag, well-executed and effective. The obligatory bloody climax at the nightclub would have been sadistic fun had it not been for the recent massacre in Orlando. Still, I can't blame a film made nearly a quarter century ago.
"Hellraiser: Hell on Earth" is what it is. No more, no less. Expecting anything more is akin to microwaving a hot dog and hoping to get a Thanksgiving turkey.