Miramax started off their Dimension Films subsidiary with a bang with the release of the third “Hellraiser” film, awaited by fans for almost four years. Their patience has not gone unrewarded, for Pinhead is back in all his blackest splendor. Assuming a more central role this time around, Pinhead cements his status as a horror icon and presides over a gory and entertaining film.
When we last saw Pinhead (Doug Bradley) he was encase in a stone statue and seemingly gone for good. But nothing stays hidden forever, as Traci Lords can attest with her underage porn films. The statue is bought by a hedonistic club owner, who places it prominently in his apartment above the club. Unbeknownst to him, an ambitious young reporter named Joey (Terry Farrell, “Deep Space Nine”) is staking out the local E.R. She winds up with the story of her life: a man is brought in clutching a strange puzzle box with chains tearing into him. When the man suddenly explodes, Joey thinks she might be on to something.
Teaming with the dead man’s newly single girlfriend (Paula Marshall), Joey learns about the Lemanchard Configuration and of the dreaded Cenobites. Meanwhile, Pinhead is freed from his stone prison and is set loose upon the physical realm. Pinhead aims to rebuild the ranks of the Cenobites by conscripting the unwilling people he encounters and ultimately turning the planet into a veritable Hell on Earth. It’s up to Joey to stop the Prince of Hell with the aid of Elliot Spencer, Pinhead’s human alter ego (also played by Bradley).
“Hellraiser III” brings a fresh new approach to the series, and the infusion of creative blood is certainly appreciated. Director Anthony Hickox (“Full Eclipse”) never gives you a chance to be bored with all the gruesome goings on. It can all be overwhelming at times, but in the end it’s all good, gory fun. Hickox is also adept at handling exposition scenes as well as those with death and carnage; both are balanced out enough so “Hellraiser III” never feels uneven or hits any slow spots.
Scribe Peter Atkins (“Wishmaster”) is smart enough to know that by the third installment the people want Pinhead. As a result, Atkins’ script focuses more on the Cenobite leader and finally allows him to run unchecked on Earth. Atkins also gives much more time to Elliot Spencer, and we learn more about the man who would become the monster. The writer also does a nice cameo, playing the club’s bartender, a character that gets turned into a Cenobite.
As Joey, Terry Farrell is a charming and likeable lead. Farrell’s performance is full of emotional resonance, making it easy for the audience to empathize with her intrepid character. Kevin Barnhardt is equally good as J.D., owner of the Boiler Room nightclub. His character oozes licentiousness, and at times acts like he’s a few cards shy of a full deck. But those two excellent performances are overshadowed by Doug Bradley as Pinhead. Bradley’s classical training pays off in spades and the character has never looked so powerful or dangerous. This is Pinhead unbound, and Bradley makes sure we get to see what the demon is really capable of. Series favorite Ashley Laurence also pops in for a quick and forgettable cameo.
The director’s cut features more gore, most noticeably in the Boiler Room massacre. There is also an interesting scene showing how Elliot Spencer acquired the box in the first place. It may not be the most shocking revelation, but it does add a nice detail to the history of Pinhead’s genesis. “Hellraiser III” is probably the last great film of the series, before its retrograde in later sequels to direct to video status. Audaciously bloody and never dull, this is one horror film that lives up to its name. Hell is indeed raised.
Anthony Hickox (director) / Tony Randel, Peter Atkins (screenplay)
CAST: Doug Bradley …. Pinhead
Kevin Bernhardt …. J.P. Monroe
Terry Farrell …. Joanne ‘Joey’ Summerskill
Ken Carpenter …. Daniel ‘Doc’ Fisher
Paula Marshall …. Terri