Hellraiser III: Hell on Earth

(Anthony Hickox, USA, 1992)


There is a wonderful scene in Hellraiser III: Hell on Earth in which Joey (Terry Farrell) runs into a church while fleeing from the demonic creature, Pinhead (Doug Bradley). A disbelieving priest tries to reassure her that demons are only “parables, metaphors”. As Pinhead crashes through the church door in his customary blaze of evil glory, Joey turns sharply towards the camera, thrusts her pointed finger into the lens and politely enquires: “Then what the fuck is that?”

As in the Nightmare on Elm Street series, the Hellraiser sequels get progressively better. The original film showed horror writer-director Clive Barker straining to be an arty Stephen King: heavy moralising about good and evil interrupted by uninspired moments of gore and terror.

Hellraiser III resembles many of the better exploitation cinema sequels in that the central high concept of the series has devolved into a mere launch pad for dizzy free association.

Thus we have, in this instalment, Pinhead split into good and bad incarnations, locked in a climactic “mind melt”; a quasi-feminist angle with Joey as the empowered heroine, complete with a female buddy; many clever jokes about the similarities between Pinhead’s deeds and the crazy manifestations of underground art; and much more, all packed into ninety minutes.

Although Pinhead, with his theatrical one-liners, has been compared derisively to Freddy Krueger, he is a supernatural villain with an appealingly sophisticated edge – witness his impeccable string of Nietzschean aphorisms and blasphemous obscenities.

Anthony Hickox directs with a verve matching that of his later assignment in horror-fantasy sequels, Warlock: The Armageddon (1993).

© Adrian Martin March 1994

Film Critic: Adrian Martin
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