Clive Barker has always been the unsung connoisseur of horror behind H.P. Lovecraft, Edgar Allan Poe, the Marqui de Sade and Stephen King (perhaps due to his strained vocal cords). But Candyman, Nightbreed and Hellraiser are all veritable masterstrokes within the genre. Hellraiser, in particular, put Barker on the map. My feelings for the series are akin to other franchises- the first one is a classic, the second entry is a polished rehash and the rest are jokey affairs that desecrate the legacy.
I haven’t seen Hell on Earth since it was a staple on PPV (pay-per-view for the laymen) but I recall enjoying its excessive viscera and Doug Bradley’s scenery-chewing. As Christopher Young’s baroque, gothic score begins, we are back in the land of suffering for pleasure. As you may reminisce, Pinhead (Bradley) was vanquished in the previous film by a flower-sprouting cenobite and now the Lament Configuration is encased inside a statue that is purchased by narcissistic nighclub owner J.P. Monroe (Kevin Bernhardt).
From there, Dimension Films acquired the rights to the sadomasochism and we are besieged by speaker-rattling pyrotechnics when a patient is minced by chains in an emergency room.The Hard Copy sleuthing by television reporter Joey (a welterweight performance by Deep Space Nine’s Terry Farrell) is an anemic pathway into the Pillar of Souls plotline. Her virginal-white-nightgown dreams about her father’s expiration in the Vietnam War are saccharine wishful thinking. The trench warfare with Spencer (also Bradley) is much more realistic in terms of art direction.
In a revamp of the original, Pinhead requires human sacrifices in order to be completely manumitted from the cabalistic artwork. The ingestion of Sandy is definitely a grossly exuviating sight. Pinhead’s bargain with the devil (“A key to black dreams, unknown pleasures…) is the highlight of Bradley’s role as Pinhead would merely be a minimalist cameo in the the later films. Do Pinhead’s chains have a radius? Why do the lambs have to be directly in front of him within a few feet?
However, much like Hannibal Lecter and Freddy Krueger, Pinhead is less menacing when he is unleashed onto an open-world canvass (The Boiler Room massacre is especially confounding with CD’s and a stalactite ice cube as weapons). Before Pinhead never raised his voice, now he is shrieking at Joey to discard the puzzle box and angrily pulverizing crucifixes. There was something disturbing about his Buddhist-like composure. I wish I could proclaim that this is an underappreciated coda to the trilogy but it is a digressive, stentorian, lowest-common-denominator attempt to be the next Nightmare on Elm Street.
Rating: 1.5 out of 5