October is Horror Movie month, where we let down our hair and celebrate all things macabre and scary! Not that we don’t during the rest of the year, but still… HORROR MOVIES! People who don’t like horror are encouraged to check back November 1st for less bloody and/or disturbing films. For everyone else, let’s put on our galoshes and WADE INTO THE MIRE!
Today’s post is about the Hellraiser series and unfortunately is NSFW – mostly because it’s damn near impossible to show work-safe images from the movies. Also LOTS OF gore, S&M, torture, physical, mental, and sexual abuse…
….Man… you start listing all the disturbing things in this series and wonder what you’re doing with your time…
ANYWAY! On to the review!
HELLRAISER III: HELL ON EARTH
By the third Hellraiser film, Clive Barker’s influence has begun to wane big time. The movie might as well have been titled ‘Clive Barker’s Hellraiser: Hell On Earth Based on Characters Created By Clive Barker From a Story By Clive Barker’ so that the film makers could still ride the first film’s coat tails. Maybe I’m wrong, but I get the sense he was losing some of his enthusiasm for the series by this point, and not just because he was relegated to the position of Executive Producer. His original idea for the film dealt with exploring the Lemarchand Configuration (puzzle box’s) origins and connection to ancient Egypt and sounds MUCH more interesting than this. I hope that movie will still be made some day!
Hell On Earth begins with a slick 80s-type jerk entering what appears to be an abandoned building but is really a secret art gallery, the kind that only those In The Know know about. J.P. Monroe and his distracting hair and cigarette wander the art gallery, oozing arrogance so thick you’d have to scrape it off with a trowel.
He comes upon a fascinating, rotating sculpture that is basically a distillation of the first movies as it contains the Lemarchand Configuration, twisting, tortured bodies, and the face of Pinhead himself. A mysterious art dealer appears, and makes arch comments about who the column really belongs to. Monroe waves a roll of cash and the art dealer takes it, saying that the column now belongs to Monroe.
Meanwhile, we’re introduced to the movie’s real protagonist, news reporter Joey, played by Terry Farrell, who would go on to find fame as Jadzia Dax on Star Trek: Deep Space 9. Tall and statuesque, Joey is nonetheless annoyed to find herself relegated to the graveyard shift of reporting, and she’s looking for her first big break. Her father was killed in Vietnam and she is tormented by nightmares about him. While reporting on the morgue, she is startled when a team of EMTs bring in a young man who’s bloody and battered. Just as she runs toward the door to see what’s going on, hooks appear and rip him messily apart.
Having witnessed Some Shit, Joey begins investigating, and soon meets Terri, a club girl and ex-girlfriend of JP.
Meanwhile, JP is busy being a douche in his fancy club, The Boiler Room. Apparently he bought the place after he inherited a shitload of money from his parents. He bangs hot girls while smoking and flexing in his totally 90s apartment above the club.
The Pinhead of the column comes to life and begins talking to him, in a manner much more forward than in the previous films. We learn that JP murdered his parents for the money. Here, Pinhead appears as a tempter, as a devilish dealmaker who is actively trying to shape events. As we learn through Joey, Pinhead’s human side and his cenobite sides were cleft. Although he is trapped in the column, that won’t last forever, and he wants out. Pretty soon JP is killing people and feeding them to the statue in order to bring Pinhead into the world again.
And things go from there.
Although Hell on Earth had some truly ridiculous moments (one of the guest cenobites has CDs in his face, because again– 90s), it also has some very interesting character moments.
As I mentioned, Pinhead has become more villainous and displays more agency than he had previously. Doug Bradley really put in a wonderful performance and got to show some marvelous range.
The relationship that develops between Joey and Terri was actually very progressive. Terri, a witness to some of the club’s insanity, is a homeless party girl whose entire life fits in her backpack, and was living with JP until he threw her out. She stole the Lemarchand Configuration before she went, and gives it to Joey.
Terri moves into Joey’s apartment and the very different women become friends. Terri is envious of Joey’s apartment and self-sufficient lifestyle, and their interaction doesn’t feel forced as they get used to each other’s funny little ways. I realized partway through the movie that it was actually passing the Bechdel test. A nice touch is the mess that Joey’s apartment becomes once Terri moves in; it’s never mentioned, but it’s just a neat little background detail that underscored their differences.
Another moment was when JP returns to the art gallery to ask about the column and finds the gallery abandoned and empty. I’m sure it was intended to be part of the Hellraiser mythos, but I laughed and wondered if the art dealer was actually some homeless guy in the right place at the right time to scam a dumbass rich kid out of some money. “Yeah, that mysterious column is totally… mysterious. *snickering* Oh I totally work here, I just wear dirty rags because I’m an edgy artist. Name your price, hotshot.” *pockets money, walks away laughing*
Pinhead slaughters his way through a crowd of Cool Club Kids and makes himself a new squad, and Joey must use the puzzle box to reunite him with his human side and defeat him. Once all is said and done, she shoves the puzzle box into wet cement, hoping it’ll be trapped for eternity and safe from human hands…
… OR SO WE THINK. As the other films have, this one left the ending open for a sequel.
Overall there were some good bones in this installment of Hellraiser, although the flesh (HA!) surrounding them was a hot mess. I thought the protagonist was interesting, particularly Joey’s subplot concerning her father, and Terri’s character and backstory were likewise compelling. I also prefer stories where Pinhead is manipulating a human agent, rather than doing things directly, but it was definitely great watching him go bonkers in the club. And seeing him reveling in his role as torturer and tempter was fun, as well.
And that was Hellraiser III: Hell On Earth! Before we conclude Hell Week, I’ll do one more post about the glorious, bizarre mess that is Hellraiser IV: Bloodline, or as I’ve been calling it, Pinhead In Space. Y’all have a great Friday!