HELLRAISER III: HELL ON EARTH
Directed by Anthony Hickox
Produced by Lawrene Mortorff
Written by Peter Atkins
Director of Photograpy Gerry Lively
Music by Randy Miller
Cast: Terry Farrell, Doug Bradley, Paula Marshall, Kevin Bernhardt
1992/93 mins/Color/Dolby 2.0 Surround
1.85:1 anamorphic/English/USA/NTSC Region 1
Review from the Paramount Home Entertainment DVD
This is an odd thing to admit, but I must confess that I've never really understood the HELLRAISER movies. Don't get me wrong, I understand the appeal of the films -- who doesn't want to see goth demons doing gory shenanigans? But, I always felt that there was some piece of the story that I was missing. Perhaps I was overthinking the movies. This doesn't seem to be the case, as HELLRAISER III: HELL ON EARTH is probably one of the more straightforward films in the series and even it had me scratching my head a few times. Oh well, the important thing is that HELLRAISER III is finally available on DVD in Region 1 (although a Canada-only edition has been available for several years).
HELLRAISER III picks up sometime after HELLBOUND: HELLRAISER II. Pinhead (Doug Bradley) is now confined to a statue, which is purchased by nightclub owner, J.P. (Kevin Bernhardt). Meanwhile, TV news reporter Joey Summerskill (Terry Farrell) is doing a report from a hospital when a boy is torn apart by chains right in front of her. Terry attempts to talk to the girl who was with the boy, Terri (Paula Marshall). However, she is able to track Terri to The Boiler Room, a nightclub owned by J.P. Joey is able to convince Terri to talk to her about the incident. At this same time, Pinhead kills a young woman right in front of J.P. and convinces the frightened man that they can work together. In order to complete this plan, J.P. lures Terri to the club, but things go wrong and Pinhead is released from the statue. Joey is visited in a dream by Pinhead's alter-ego Captain Elliot Spencer (Bradley) who tells Joey that the can use the puzzle box to defeat Pinhead. Overcoming her fears, Joey confronts Pinhead, unaware that he's created a new army of Cenobites.
...Yeh, I'm really not sure what's going on here either. HELLRAISER III was written by HELLBOUND scribe Peter Atkins and directed by Anthony Hickox, who had made splash with his two WAXWORK films. So, there was definitely some experience behind the camera. And yet, the movie just doesn't work for several reasons.
Let's start with the aesthetic ones. I rarely talk about the acting in films because as long as the actors can deliver their dialogue in a semi-convincing manner, I'll let them slide. But, there is some horrendous acting in HELLRAISER III. The young woman who is killed by Pinhead in J.P.'s apartment (I apologize for not knowing her character's name) is simply dreadful and her "performance" sucks all of the suspense out of the scene. And Paula Marshall may be a competent actress these days, but her overacting as teenager Terri was distracting (not to mention inexcusable, as Marshall was 29 at the time!) The other noticeable problem with HELLRAISER III are the special effects. By 1993 standards, the opticals are very cheap looking and they really detract from the movie -- especially when compared to the semi-elaborate special effects makeup. Those balls of blue light would have been at home in something like GHOSTBUSTERS, but they really stand out here.
The movie doesn't get much help from the story or pacing. Having Pinhead trapped in a statue is an interesting idea (as we know he'll escape at some point), but keeping him in there for half of the movie takes away from the overall effect of the film. When the various storylines involving Joey, Terri, and J.P. converge, it all feels very artificial. Joey is supposed to be the center of the film, yet her character is very underwritten and besides the fact that she's looking for that big story to help her career, it's often difficult to understand her motivations. The fact that none of the characters are very likeable doesn't make things any better. When Pinhead finally escapes (that's no spoiler, we all knew it was going to happen), his behavior is much different from that in the previous films, as he roams the streets, blowing things up. The Cenobites in HELLRAISER III seem more like filler than a true part of the story. I must give the story credit for one character death that I didn't see coming.
HELLRAISER III: HELL ON EARTH offers some interesting ideas (especially those which delve into Pinhead's origins) and visuals, but the movie simply doesn't deliver. The film does not exhibit the polish and class which were evident in the first two movies. And yet, it will always hold a special place for me, as I drive past the monument seen in the afterword at least once a week.
HELLRAISER III descends onto DVD courtesy of Paramount Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 1.85:1 and the transfer is enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. The image looks OK, but the picture shows some notable grain at times, along with minor dots and hairs (!) from the source material. The picture has an overall grimy feeling, as if the print wasn't properly cleaned before the transfer was done. The colors are fine at times, but they look somewhat washed out in some scenes. On the plus side, the image is never overly dark, which is good as the finale takes place at night. The center of the screen shows some pixellation and lack of detail at times. The DVD contains a Dolby 2.0 surround audio track. This track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The stereo effects are fine, but I'll be honest, I didn't hear anything in the way of surround sound.
The big question surrounding this release related to which cut the DVD release would contain. When Paramount promoted the DVD, they promised two trailers and 15 minutes of "previously unreleased, unrated deleted scenes". The final product has only one trailer and these deleted scenes are nowhere to be found. The cut here is listed as being rated R and is the same 93-minute cut which was found on the Canadian Lions Gate release. I'm not expert on the film, so that's all that I can say about that. The DVD does contain the 29-minute documentary "Clive Barker The Art of Horror" which must have been made around 1994. The feature contains an interview with Barker where he talks about his works and the works which influenced him. This will be a must for Barker fans.
This Film Features:
Review by Mike Long. All Right Reserved. 2006. ©