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Hellraiser III: Hell On Earth

Rated R, 93 min. Directed by Anthony Hickox. Starring Terry Farrell, Doug Bradley, Paula Marshall.

REVIEWED By Marc Savlov, Fri., Sept. 18, 1992

To borrow a truism from Harlan Ellison, it's xenogenesis, folks: the children are not like their parents. So rarely is the sequel anywhere near the quality of the original, that it's become standard practice to think of them as inferior even before we've seen them. Sure, there's the occasional Road Warrior, a film that not only lived up to its prequel but far surpassed it. Such instances are rare, though, and so it should come as no surprise that this third and final installment in Clive Barker's Hellraiser series is about as traumatic as a de-clawed Cerebus. This time, a female innocent finds herself the unwitting victim of the demonic cenobites (and yes, that is a real word) when she discovers that foul little puzzle box/gateway to hell, the Lament configuration. Sounds rather familiar, doesn't it? Whereas Hellraiser gave us a deliciously original glimpse into the infernal consequences of lust and greed, and Hellraiser II offered up a flawed but genuinely interesting view of hell itself, Hellraiser III quickly turns into nothing more than a tepid and wholly uninspired retread of various genre conventions. My main beef here is the fact that by setting the film in the big city, and allowing “Pinhead” and his mutilated brethren to stalk city streets, the close-cropped paranoiac terror of the first two films is dispersed. There are, after all, stranger things walking the avenues of New York City even as you read this. Likewise, the first two films were laden with psycho-religious overtones that managed to resonate uncomfortably in the back of the mind long after the films themselves were over. Director Hickox has done away with all that and, as a result, his film is by far the weakest of the trilogy. Spurting arteries and random acts of horror are not enough to sustain a film with such a supposedly bold groundwork. Let's hope Barker himself can find the time to return to directing before he ends up like Stephen King.
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