What with Clive Barker’s gothic romance garnering immense popularity among his fans and horror buffs, it was only a matter of time until the Cenobites took control of the overall premise of Barker’s mythos and headlined the franchise. After the second part, the entire series basically missed the whole point of “Hellraiser” and soon enough Pinhead took center stage evolving in to nothing more than another movie monster prone to Shakespearean diatribes. For better or for worse, Pinhead became the star of the “Hellraiser” films and here he’s reduced to little more than an interactive head on a totem pole. Bye bye Tiffany, you had so much to offer, but it’s off to movie purgatory with you.
In any case, “Hellraiser III” is a film I recall watching quite often when I was a kid and enjoying merely for the whole cenobite who shoots CD’s out of his eyes. I’m sorry but that’s bad-ass. Nevertheless “Hell on Earth” is a reboot of the series, something that also proves to be rather redundant of a title since “Hellraiser” is an indication of someone raising hell on Earth, already. That nitpicking aside, “Hellraiser III” turns Pinhead in to a stock slasher with a screenplay that completely undermines and disregards an already muddled back story featuring the cenobites. Now instead of the cenobites rising only when they’re called to prey on the truly wicked solving the puzzle, it’s just Pinhead stalking around and murdering innocent victims, turning them in his own gallery of droning cenobites all with their very own gimmicks attached. While the first four cenobites were gimmicky, the characters presented here are all obvious attempts to strike the lightning from Pinhead.
There’s the camera cenobite who launches missiles, the DJ cenobite, and a bartender cenobite (seriously), all of whom are sleekly designed but forgettable just the same. What with Pinhead and the other cenobites now being confined to a cheap piece of modern art, the gatekeeper has broken free somehow and pawned the statue on to an unwitting club owner who is convinced he’s bought a hellish piece of rocking art. In reality, he has the cenobite totem pole. Barker’s original film was much more about bondage and sexual pleasure deriving from pain. The puzzle box was something of an offering to anyone with a wicked fetish for painful sexual practices. It was enticing, seductive, and often those who gave in to its tortures became monsters of unabashed pain and pleasure.
Here it just takes a breathing being to be snagged by mugging Pinhead who is brought to life by bloodshed about as random as what we saw in the original film. His secrets are unfolded for the audience as he’s given even more backstory than ever. We learn of his life and how he came to be Pinhead adding unnecessary exposition to a once menacing monster and master of secrets. In spite of looking the part of the smokey heroine you’d expect from nineties horror flicks, Terry Farrell lacks any of the presence or appeal of Ashley Laurence, and we’re even force fed a spontaneous relationship between her and a young rebellious stalwart named Terri. Paula Marshall is merely there for eye appeal and to act as a form of emotional bait for an audience who is quite keen to the fact that she eventually gets hers and quite brutally.
The new backstory for Pinhead is so convoluted the story literally screeches to a halt to explain it for the audience, which is pretty much pointless considering the writer launches in to auto-drive by the finale indulging in explosions, clunky comedic one-liners, and gore that serves no purpose to the story. Not to mention turning Pinhead in to a walking utterly ridiculous Deus Ex Machina, to boot. This is the new version of the “Hellraiser” series and it really doesn’t get any better from here. So… the building in the climax became a humongous hell’s puzzle box? Would Godzilla have to solve it to enter hell? Would part four be “Hellraiser: Attack of the 50 foot Pinhead”? Did the Chatterer become a contractor? In either case a respectable horror franchise is down the hole with a ridiculous, tedious and boring third installment; thanks a lot Dimension.