Hellraiser III: Hell on Earth (1992)
By: CJ on April 22, 2005  |  Comments  |  Bookmark and Share
DVD
Magna Pacific (Australia). Region 4, PAL. 4:3. English DD 2.0. 93 minutes
The Movie
Credits
Director: Anthony Hickox
Starring: Terry Farrell, Paula Marshall, Kevin Bernhardt, Peter Boynton and Doug Bradley
Screenplay: Peter Atkins
Music: Randy Miller
Tagline: 'What began in hell, will end on earth'
Country: USA
AKA: Hell on Earth: Hellraiser III
1987 marked the directorial debut of horror author Clive Barker in the form of the startlingly original Hellraiser, which was adapted from his own novella The Hellbound Heart. At a time when the 80's slasher cycle was drawing to a close and jokey comedy-horrors like Fright Night were hitting cinema screens, Hellraiser was something of a breath of fresh air. Barker's film was completely bereft of humour and took horror back to a dark place – it was also an intelligent horror film, something the genre desperately needed. Hellraiser also created a new horror icon in Pinhead (played throughout the series by British actor Doug Bradley), head of the hell dwelling cenobites. His appearance was both startling and unforgettable and, paired with his metaphysical monologues on the beauty of pain and suffering, he was truly a being to be feared. What also marked Pinhead from other horror icons was the fact that he wasn't intrusive – he only came when summoned by the opening of the Lament Configuration Box, even if that Box was opened unwittingly. Nevertheless he was not an intruder on the world of regular human activity; he was more of an observer and would only lay claim on those brave souls that dared to open the Box.

Hellbound – Hellraiser 2 picked up directly from where Hellraiser left off, with characters from the first film venturing into hell and the world of the cenobites is more fully explored. The revelation of who Pinhead was before opening the Box is also given with Pinhead resuming his human form at the culmination of the film. Again, this film has a very dark and subversive tone and is a suitable follow-up to the first entry in the series.

Then we come to the instalment under review here, Hellraiser III – Hell on Earth. Directed by horror veteran Anthony Hickox, Hellraiser III does not directly follow on from what went before, except for the linking of the pillared carving, which resembles the pillar seen at the end of Hellraiser 2. This carved pillar, which contains an image of Pinhead, is bought by nightclub owner J.P.Monroe (Kevin Bernhardt) from a mysterious art gallery. Monroe takes the pillared statue back to his room above the nightclub and gets more than he bargained for. When blood gets splashed on the sculpted face of Pinhead, he reawakens and demands more sacrifices of flesh and blood in order to be free of his constraints.

Meanwhile, up-and-coming reporter Joey Summerskill (Terry Farrell) is looking for a big story that will give her career the necessary boost in order to climb up the ranks of the company she works for. Whilst covering a story of little worth at the local hospital she encounters a patient being rushed in with hooks whirling and flapping about. With her curiosity piqued at this strange and unsettling event, she begins to investigate and comes into contact with Monroe's girlfriend, the troubled and insecure Terri (Paula Marshall).

Back at Monroe's nightclub, things take an ugly turn when Pinhead finally gets his required dose of blood and fleshly remains and breaks free of his prison and begins a reign of terror within the city. Hell on earth indeed…

Director Hickox takes the Hellraiser story in a different direction to the previous instalments and whilst some elements work, others don't. Gone is the subversive and dark tone of the previous films and instead Hickox delivers something more akin to an action-orientated horror movie (though to be fair, this is probably equally down to Atkins' script as it is to Hickox's directorial delivery). While this works on a certain level, it also abandons a lot of what made the first two films so unique. This time around Pinhead is an unwelcome visitor in the land of the living as opposed to the summoned being of the films that went before – and this is kind of at odds with the whole Hellraiser mythos. On the other hand, as an action-packed horror movie that moves at breakneck pace, it works brilliantly. However, Pinhead's metaphysical ramblings are a little strained in this instalment and the film as a whole lacks the necessary depth for his monologues to have the chilling effect that they previously had.

Saying all that, Hellraiser III is not without merit and there is plenty here to enjoy. The nightclub massacre is a particular highlight, as is Pinhead's encounter with the priest, and there's enough grue and gore to keep any horror fan happy. The effects are certainly taken up a notch in this entry and look very impressive, and Hickox definitely cannot be accused of not knowing how to handle his subject matter effectively. However, it does seem a bit of shame that the darker elements of the earlier films are not in evidence here and that there isn't more expansion and exploration of the world that the cenobites inhabit. And, to be really pedantic, no explanation is given as to how Pinhead has returned after being messily dispatched in Hellraiser 2, but it's a minor point and not one I'm going quibble over – but it's something of a continuity error nonetheless.

Hellraiser III is certainly an immensely enjoyable flick and one that horror fans will definitely lap up, in spite of the series taking a new direction. It's infinitely better than the rather shoddy Hellraiser 4 – Bloodline that followed and is probably the last decent entry in the series, with the possible exception of Hellraiser 5 – Inferno, which wasn't, in all fairness, too bad. Hellraiser III is definitely worth checking out if you haven't seen it – and those that have will more than likely want to own it on DVD.
Video
Sadly, Magna Pacific's DVD is far from being the definitive article. The film is presented full-frame and looks little better than previous VHS incarnations. It's not unwatchable, but when compared with the recently released remastered and restored version from Anchor Bay UK it's pretty shameful. I would have expected better – this is DVD after all, and viewers quite rightly expect DVD companies to maximise the potential of the format, which Magna Pacific have failed to do here, unfortunately.
Audio
The audio track provided is a single, English language, stereo option. It doesn't sound too bad, but it's still not great and lacks the necessary punch that this film requires. Serviceable, but far from ideal.
Extra Features
The only 'extra' (and I use the term loosely here) provided is scene selection. That's your lot aside from the main feature presentation.
The Verdict
Despite its shortcomings, Hellraiser III is a thoroughly entertaining movie from start to finish. There's plenty here to enjoy and lots of grue, gore and nudity to relish – so it's not all bad. Sadly, the disc from Magna Pacific is far from satisfactory and I would advise those who are able to, to purchase the boxset of the first three films released by Anchor Bay UK – especially as the R4 release looks to be the US R-rated version, whereas the UK release is fully uncut. In the UK set, all three films are completely uncut, given sparkling new transfers with anamorphic enhancement, and each disc has bags of extras - including interviews, commentaries, featurettes and so forth. It's probably a bit naughty of me to promote the UK release over the domestic Australian release from Magna Pacific, but my conscience won't allow me to do otherwise – if there's a better release, then I'm going to say so. I make no apology for that.

My overall rating (see below) only scores a 2 because of the shoddy presentation of the film on this DVD. If it were on the film alone, I'd give it 4.
Movie Score
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