Hellraiser III: Hell on Earth (1992) – Anthony Hickox

Despite having his name listed as Executive Producer, I don’t think horrormeister Clive Barker had much to do with the third installment of the Hellraiser series. After the bloody and brilliantly constructed first two films, this one feels like it went right off the rails and didn’t quite understand why the first two films worked so well.

Despite attempting to tie it in with the previous films, which include a brief appearance by Ashley Laurence, this entry is a complete mess as we follow a young reporter, Joey (Terry Farrell pre:DS9) who finds herself caught up in the arrival of Pinhead (Doug Bradley) and his fellow cenobites as they are called forth once again.

And while there are some interesting moments featuring Pinhead and his alter-ego before his turn into the Hell Priest, the movie doesn’t feel half as entertaining as it should and its special effects don’t really stand the test of time.

There are some solid practical effects, but the Pillar of Souls and the way a victim is pulled into it, honestly, looks hokey, and nowhere near the level of ingenuity seen in the first two films.

Hickox said he was a fan of the series, but had previously directed horror comedies, and one wonders if he had difficulty finding balance in the seriousness and bloodiness of this franchise.

As much as I adore Farrell, it’s obvious that she had recently transitioned to acting from modeling. She was still refining her craft and seems a bit out of her element here. That being said, she’s no better or worse than the actors she’s interacting with, except perhaps Doug Bradley who no matter what scene he’s in has a refined menace to his performance as Pinhead.

The rest of the actors all seem to struggle, and it’s obvious that this was one area where the production attempted to save some money.

There are some nods to the previous films, the hooks, and chains, though this time the effect isn’t quite as terrifying, as well as a line lift but overall, the film, can stand on its own, and really picky fans can argue that the series ends with Hellbound and ignore everything that comes after it.

I think my biggest problem with this series, including the second film, is that they could be so very epic. If they took their time with the story, building all of the characters, the menace, the growing threat, setting the mood before launching into all-out horror. I think that would make for a much more engaging franchise. Pinhead is a fascinating character, and the glimpses of his original and new nature are so very cool, now if everything could be filled out a little more.

A strong story, effects, budget, and cast could truly elevate the series instead of the way this one descends into splatterfests with only a hint at original storytelling.

Maybe I won’t watch the rest of them.

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