Film Reviews:

Hellraiser III: Hell on Earth

(Anthony Hickox, US, 1992)

In this third entry into the Hellraiser chronicles, the demonic Cenobites attempt to create the 'hell on earth' of the title. Reversing their usual process of terrorising people by drawing them into their alternative dark world, the cenobites aim to make the real world their domain, as they try to take all humans onto a new plane of existence. Promising and epic stuff indeed. The first Hellraiser was in the grand tradition of British suburban horror. Unknown gruesomeness behind regular household doors, small scale terror. In the first sequel, Hellbound, the other side was seen, the hell that was home to the monsters - the flip side fantasy side of the disturbed reality of Hellraiser. With Hell on Earth the series attempts to reach an obvious conclusion. Hungry for ever more power, the Cenobites decide to risk all and enter the real world and destroy the tedious lives of all humans. It is the slam, bang opposite of the original. It's all out war. It's the Aliens of the Alien films.

Well, that was clearly the intention. However, the epic scale envisaged in the storyline doesn't quite make it to the screen. Budget restrictions (despite being increased during shooting) mean that a few sequences are a rather less large scale than one would have liked. As the Cenobites parade down a city street, blowing up and smashing everything in their path, a risible two squad cars are deployed to stop them! The destruction itself isn't as total as it first appears. Clever editing and camera angles make the most of the burning cars and shattering glass. That said, despite a shaky first fifteen minutes, things really begin to gel (if not build to a frantic pace) before too long.

British director Anthony Hickox is now clearly stamping his brand name on all his work. It's probably largely due to him that the the budget has gone as far as it has. Once more he injects enough wonderful images and stylistic camera work and lighting to help lift the events out of the familiar. The best scenes have our reporter heroine Joey Summerskill (Terry Farrell who later went on to find world fame in Star Trek Deep Space Nine) walking (in a white nightdress) in the trenches of the First World War, while carnage rages all around her. Taken there by the pre-Cenobite soldier Doug Bradley (in a great schizophrenic two-part performance), to explain to her the task that lies ahead, you know, saving the world from armageddon type stuff. Some of the supporting cast are less than convincing but for the most part the performances are good. Writer Peter Atkins has a less than subtle cameo as a bartender and director Hickox himself pops up on television for a second or two. The special effects are neat and some of the deaths are certainly unique. You even get more on video since an extra fives minutes of (mostly gore) footage was reinstated - missing from the theatrical release.

As for the new Cenobites, although they looked good, the designs for them seemed to have gotten in the way of the rationale somewhat. The original Cenobites were disfigured for sado-masochistic reasons - they got pleasure from their painful alterations. Here however, that idea seems to have been forgotten. We have Cee Dee - a man with compact discs embedded in his head (the best-looking Cenobite with a great grin!). Piston Head - an effective but over-the-top mechanical addition. A (suddenly chubby) bartender-obite(!) who mixes lethal cocktails and a punk female vamp who pales alongside the female Cenobite found in Clive Barker's first film. Perhaps too much 'light-relief' for some and a little disappointing for a few niggling reasons this got short-shrift from many reviewers. But I thought it was brimming with ideas and far better than Hellbound, and satisfying enough entry into the series.

Rob Dyer

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