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‘Hellraiser III: Hell on Earth’

By Richard Harrington
Washington Post Staff Writer
September 11, 1992


Anthony Hickox
Terry Ferrell;
Doug Bradley;
Paula Marshall;
Kevin Bernhardt;
Ashley Laurence
Under 17 restricted

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Pinhead is clearly the star of "Hellraiser III: Hell on Earth," but unlike many cult horror heroes, he's clearly in service to the devil of a plot. Though Clive Barker is merely the executive producer this go-round, writer Peter Atkins has remained faithful to Barker's themes and there's nothing here to violate the narrative logic established in the film's predecessors. Sure, there are some curious plot twists, but they're built on "Hellraiser II: Hellbound's" denouement, in which the demon Pinhead was separated from his human core, World War I survivor Elliott Spencer (both played by Doug Bradley).

With more lives than a black cat, the Prince of Hell is back, trapped in the Lament Configuration, a torture pillar straight out of Dante's Inferno that has ended up in the bedroom of J.P. Monroe, a hedonist nightclub owner whose penchant for extreme pain and pleasure marks him as a prime Cenobite candidate.

Early in the film, an unfortunate clubgoer is dragged into an emergency room, trailing bloody chains hooked through his skin. When they are pulled taut by invisible forces, the results are a traumatized unit and a suddenly inquisitive television reporter, Joey Summerskill (Terry Farrell), who happens to be in the right place at the wrong time. Frustrated by her cub status, Joey sees this as a breakthrough story and seeks out the victim's companion, the fatalistic Terry (Paula Marshall). Soon after, Joey realizes she's in a Clive Barker story when she ends up with the mysterious puzzle box (a k a Hell's Gateway) and finds she's the only one capable of fighting Pinhead.

Meanwhile, the ever-loquacious Pinhead has set about freeing himself from the sculpture, which he does by skinning and eating one of J.P. Monroe's one-night stands, soon followed by the murders of J.P. and Terry, and the explicit massacre of the entire crowd at J.P.'s club. Some of these victims reappear as "handmade Cenobites," looking to visit unspeakable horrors on poor Joey, who is somewhat protected by the ghost spirit of Elliott Spencer. If you sense a showdown coming on, you know the genre and you won't be disappointed.

Out of the box, Pinhead is more ambitious, and more dangerous, than ever. The rules and restraints once in place ("Hell has its commandments too") no longer apply, and Pinhead no longer has Spencer's human side to temper him. Wrecking a church and gleefully torturing a priest, he intones, "I am the way." The wrong way, of course.

It's hardly a surprise that Bradley steals the film -- Atkins provides him with some great dialogue, to which the classically trained actor does justice. Farrell is solid as the intrepid Joey, who seems unfazed by anything, even a club full of dead bodies. The new Cenobites -- Camerahead, who has a video camera imbedded in his skull; CDhead, who has a lot of music on his mind; and Barbie, tightly wound in barbed wire -- are peachy Keen (Bob Keen does the special effects again, with Pinhead his masterpiece). Genre fans will appreciate the blood flow and the gore, and director Anthony Hickox keeps things moving so that there's never a dull moment -- or dull blade. Consider Hell raised.

© Copyright 1999 The Washington Post Company

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