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Hellraiser III: Hell on Earth (1992)

Here we have yet another wildly entertaining sequel in a franchise that I really regret not giving more time to as a horror fan growing up. With each sequel I watch I find myself growing more in love with these films and the mythology that comes with them. Albeit, this installment is not quite strong as its predecessors, but, this is still a very solid 'Hellraiser' film that I immediately wanted to watch again once the credits rolled.

This time around, Pinhead gets more screen time than both previous installments combined. Not only making his character the central focus of the film, but giving (the perfectly cast) Doug Bradley the time needed to really develop the character he is so famously known for playing, finding that teetering balance between empathy and fear. Leaning heavily into both his past and present, showing us how the now so iconic character came to be.

This time around we are introduced to Joey played by Terry Farrell as our central focus, who is a very welcomed addition and does a fantastic job of taking the reins from previous leading lady Kirsty. Ashley Laurence does make a return as Kirsty, and although extremely brief, it's still a very welcomed one. Laurence's lacking presence from this film was noticeable, so I was glad she wasn't disregarded from the film completely or give the 'off-screen' death we usually see for main characters who don't return for a major role in sequels. As for the rest of the cast, the majority of are very forgettable and deliver some extremely bad and poorly written dialogue - thankfully most of these are killed off in quick succession.

One thing that has been so impressive to me about this franchise so far, is the consistency from film to film. And although, the overall tone feels slightly less focused here, the way this film utilises the final outcome for Pinhead from 'Hellraiser II', makes this feel very much like a solid companion piece to the first two in the series, whilst managing to forge its own identity. Seeing Pinhead consume victims in order to get his enviable release from the statue that bound him at the end of part 2 was very entertaining and things really escalate to new heights for this franchise once he does return to his true form.

The scene in the club towards the closing act in particular makes for some extremely well done practical gore effects (something we have come to expect by this point in the series) and some wildly creative ways to introduce new Cenobites to the films. Although some of them can come across as borderline farcical the makeup and costume design is as good as always with these films. A personal highlight of the whole film for me, has to be Pinhead screaming "I am the way" in a church whilst holding his arms out as if to suggest he is Christ. This being such an iconic scene for these films, I was surprised to discover this didn't show up until the third entry.

Taking the story in a different direction and away from the characters of the first two films was something I was unsure about at first. Now having watched this, I feel it was the best thing for the 'Hellraiser' franchise to do in order to continue forward without becoming stagnant. Having the freedom to explore new narratives really created opportunity to give this iconic film series in a different and fresh feel, yet still feel like a continuation of everything that came before it. I can only hope the fourth installment can continue on this path and join the first three, building on a very strong horror trilogy. Something that can't always be said for a lot of horror franchises.



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