Region 1 Hellraiser freaks have had an annoying hole in their collection for some time now. Oh sure, you could fill a shelf with the ferociously awesome original flick and the surprisingly solid sequel -- not to mention the steadily lamer series of direct-to-video follow-ups. (My apologies to fans of Bloodline, Inferno, Hellseeker, Deader, and Hellworld.) But right there in the middle, something was missing: 1992's Hellraiser 3: Hell on Earth, the final Pinhead adventure to grace the inside of a cinema* -- and arguably the last flick in the series that was worth a wet slap.
And just so you know: This DVD contains the R-rated theatrical cut of H3, despite the fact that an unrated cut has been released in various parts of the world -- and that's a little bit annoying.
Apparently weary of stalking poor ol' Kirsty, the heroine from the previous two entries, Pinhead has wedged himself into a rather ugly statue/pedestal thing, which is purchased by a conniving young nightclub owner -- mainly because it's just that ugly. But once the slumbering demon gets a stray taste of human blood, his head wakes up and he starts whining for more plasma. Meanwhile, in Plot B, a nosy-gal reporter starts looking into a recent attack at the club, which leads her into a rather dry and uneventful series of flashbacks in which we're treated to some of Pinny's arid backstory. The two stories leap around the screen and kinda come together at the end, which is where most of the creative carnage is located.
Despite its spotty pacing, schizophrenic plot veerings, and frequently unimpressive special effects, there's still just a few tasty drops of fun to be found in Hellraiser 3 -- especially if you've already seen episodes four through eight. The commitment to the previous entries is tenuous, but it seems clear that director Anthony Hickox and screenwriter Peter Atkins were at least trying to offer some new mythology while keeping the fans happy. They don't entirely pull it off, but hey, points for trying. There's a few good jolts in Act I, a whole lotta chit-chat in Act II, and an appreciable amount of mega-mayhem in the final frame. Arguably the weakest of the trilogy, but still packing just enough brains and red meat to keep the Pinfans sated.
Video: It's anamorphic widescreen, which is great, but the transfer is also a little flat and grainy in the darker spots, which is not. Still, the flick looks as good as it has in years, so I'm not complaining.
Audio: A passable but unimpressive Dolby Digital 2.0 track. Optional subtitles are included.
Extras: Those expecting deleted gore or newly-produced goodies will be sorely disappointed: The only noteworthy extra is a 29-minute mini-doco entitled Clive Barker: The Art of Horror, which was produced in 1992 and sees the writer/director/artist waxing pretentious (and portentious) while discussing his horrific inspirations. Absolutely worthy of a look for Barker fans, but it's more than a little dry -- and out of date. Also included is the original Hellraiser 3 trailer.
If you, like any half-awake horror freak, love and adore the original Hellraiser, I'd venture the opinion that its first two sequels, while certainly not brilliant, manage to hold up fairly well these days. Part 3 has some slow spots, and it gets a little silly here and there, but there's no denying that (once it gets rolling) Hell on Earth delivers the goods.
(* An eagle-eyed reader reminded me that Hellraiser: Bloodline did indeed play inside theaters. Thanks, Tim!)