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Subj: Halloween Post-Mortem: Hellraiser III and IV
Posted: Mon Nov 04, 2019 at 02:23:39 am EST (Viewed 447 times)
Even though I didn't get through all these in time for Halloween, I thought I'd finish viewing and then recap Hellraiser III and IV. Why stop at four? I think they're on number ten or twelve by now. But the first four are of a kind, all released theatrically and all had at least some involvement with Clive Barker beyond just "characters created by."
Hellraiser III: Hell on Earth (1992) Trailer (some NSFW stuff)
In the last movie Pinhead was reverted to human form and killed, but we saw Pinhead's face embedded on the Pillar of Souls, at least that's what it's called on Wikipedia. The pillar was wooden but now it seems to be carved out of stone and it has made its way to a New York art gallery. J.P., the owner of a heavy metal nightclub called The Boiler Room, purchases it from the shady gallery owner who tells him to pay whatever he thinks it's worth.
In a hospital, struggling reporter Joey sees a kid wheeled in on a stretcher with chains and fishhooks coming out of him crackling with electricity. She follows along to the ER where he promptly explodes. She smells a story and befriends Terri, the girl who came in with the boy, who points her to The Boiler Room.
Meanwhile J.P. takes a ditz from his bar to his bedroom, which is in the back of the club, and soon she ends up skinned alive and sucked into the pillar. Pinhead is now awake but still just a head on a pillar, so he orders J.P. to bring him more victims to drain.
Terri reveals she has the puzzle box which she got from the poor hospital kid, which he got from the pillar, presumably. Joey does some digging and gets ahold of the records from the Channard Institute from the last movie, including a video tape of Kirsty explaining how the box works. The tape fades out to a man who speaks to Joey and tells her that the box is a real threat.
At night Joey dreams of her father dying in Viet Nam. But now her dream goes back to World War I and the man from the tape, Elliot Spencer, the human form of Pinhead we saw in part 2. We see a recap of his origin from the last movie, and he tells her that when he died his soul was freed. He's now wandering in Limbo between Heaven and Hell. He says that what was left of the Pinhead persona also survived and is now unbound by the rules he used to live by, and he's about to be freed on Earth. Joey must use the box to open a portal to Hell and send Pinhead through.
Back at his place, J.P. tries to sacrifice Terri to the pillar but he gets sucked up instead. Now Pinhead is free. He steps out into the nightclub and it's a repeat of the prom scene from Carrie as he bars the doors and starts killing everyone horribly. Including what the trivia claims is the first use of CGI in a horror movie, when the water in a patron's glass forms into Pinhead's face and then a dagger which runs her through.
Joey sees it happening on the news and calls her cameraman, Doc, to meet her there to get the scoop. By the time she arrives, everyone including Doc is dead. Pinhead asks Joey for the puzzle box but she runs off with it. Now she is chased through the streets by Pinhead's newest batch of Cenobite lieutenants. Doc now has a camera embedded in his head. The nightclub DJ has a bunch of CDs stuck in his face. He ejects a tray from his stomach and can produce CDs to hurl like throwing stars. The only thing missing is him scratching a record. The bartender is also a Cenobite and even carries a cocktail shaker full of gasoline, and he breathes fire. These guys are ridiculous and they chase Joey through a studio backlot ... er, city street, as fire hydrants pop, cars explode, telephone poles topple over and sparks shoot everywhere. The police block the street and start firing at the three creeps to no avail, and I'm reminded of the advance of the three villains in Superman II.
Joey takes refuge in a church that is empty but for a lone priest. He tells her demons aren't real then Pinhead busts down the door so she can say "well then what the f*** is that?" This movie is a little too cheeky. Pinhead blasphemes as villians tend to do, and Joey runs off again. On a construction site she encounters J.P. and Terri who are Cenobites as well. Joey opens the box and zaps away Pinhead and his troops as Kirsty did in the first film. It seems a little easy, and it is. Joey gets pulled into a final dream where Pinhead finally comes face to face with Elliot while Joey is tied up in S&M gear.
After the final battle, Joey awakens back in the construction site. She buries the puzzle box in wet cement. Time passes and we see the finished building, an office skyscraper. In the lobby, all the walls are covered in art that looks like the puzzle box. What does it all mean?
I doubt Hollywood would come up with a movie like this on their own, but it is definitely a Hollywoodized version of Hellraiser. The story is that Clive Barker was thinking of doing a third movie when the studio New World Pictures went bankrupt and the Hellraiser license ended up at Miramax. They were just starting Dimension Films, a sub-label for horror, and in fact Hellraiser III was their first release. Barker didn't see eye to eye with the studio suits, go figure, and was off the project. Tony Randal who directed Hellbound and Peter Atkins who wrote it co-wrote this script, but the studio wanted a different director. They found Anthony Hickox of Waxwork fame to bring this in on time and on budget. All three have cameos in the movie. The word is that after shooting was complete, Clive Barker was brought in for some uncredited help in the editing room. Whatever role he played, it was enough to mend fences and get him an exec producer credit and his name above the title as "Clive Barker Presents."
Doug Bradley must have enjoyed double acting duty as Elliot and Pinhead. I wonder how he felt about Pinhead going from relatively neutral to scene-chewing cartoon villain? Terry Farrell does okay as the lead, Joey. Nice of Ashley Laurence to return for an exposition dump. Kevin Bernhardt as J.P. makes for a decent douchey guy I guess. Paula Marshall as Terri seems like a decent actor, but her character is not written that well.
Motorhead did a music video that was directed by Hickox and starred Bradley and Barker in a mini-movie mixed with scenes from the movie and the band playing. That definitely makes this the most MTV version of the franchise. It's not quite as good as the T2 video with Guns N Roses but it does have Lemmy beating Pinhead at a game of poker.
Hellraiser: Bloodline (1996) Trailer
On a space station in the year 2127, a man named Merchant uses high tech gloves to control the hands of a robot in a distant room to open the classic puzzle box. It opens and the robot explodes. Someone should remind the guy what Pinhead said in part 2, hands do not summon us, intentions do. I don't think the robot will be a sufficient buffer to protect him. Pinhead shows up on the guy's tv screen and then vanishes. A bunch of space marines then show up and stick guns in Merchant's face, and tell him to stop whatever he's doing. The lady in charge, Rimmer (a nod to Red Dwarf?) interrogates Merchant and he says it's a long story.
In Paris, France in 1796 an aristocrat commissions toymaker Phillip LeMerchand to build the original puzzle box. He delivers the box as soon as it's complete which is the middle of the night. He sticks around outside the window to see what the customer's going to use it for. The aristocrat and his house boy, future Parks & Rec funnyman Adam Scott, kill some young lady and skin her. They perform a ceremony which opens a hole in the floor and summon a spirit which fills the empty skin. We meet Angelique, a demon they have bound to them. They say the rules are that the demon must do whatever they command as long as it doesn't interfere with Hell's business. Who makes these rules?
LeMerchand tells his friend, a coroner, that his toy box has summoned a demon. The coroner, while dissecting a body for some added gore, says that if one invention can free a demon why not make another invention that can trap one? And so the toymaker starts drawing up plans. But he also goes back to the aristocrat's house to steal back the puzzle box, and he gets caught and killed, leaving his pregnant wife a widow and his work unfinished.
In 1996, shortly after the events of Hellraiser III, we meet architect John Merchant who designed the building we saw at the end of the last movie. He's been haunted by dreams of the puzzle box and Angelique his whole life because his bloodline is cursed. He based the building on the notes left by his ancestor.
Angelique has been living in Paris for 200 years, I guess, as more or less a sex slave to Adam Scott whom she has also kept from aging? She sees an article about Merchant's building in an architectual magazine and decides she must travel to New York to deal with it. When Adam Scott says no, he is now messing with Hell's business and she is free to finally kill him. He actually gets a quick death, which is surprising after torturing Angelique for two centuries, but she's in a hurry.
She arrives in New York at the building and goes right to the basement and busts open one of the concrete walls to find the puzzle box Joey hid there in part 3. She summons Pinhead who tells her that the rules of Hell are much different now than back in her day. A pair of identical twin security guards bust in on them and Pinhead fuses them into a conjoined Cenobite.
Angelique tries to seduce Merchant to find out about the building. He says it's a big device using mirrors to trap sunlight, I guess, creating perpetual light inside. Pinhead kidnaps Merchant's son to get him to do something. Destroy the building? Can't Pinhead do that himself? This part is frustrating because Pinhead says something like "time to play the game" and Merchant says "this is no game" and Pinhead says "yes it is, now run" so Merchant runs only to come face to face with Pinhead or Angelique or the Cenobites and then Pinhead says "enough running, the game's over." There is a lot of wasted time here I don't understand.
Anyway Angelique tells Merchant to activate his machine to destroy Pinhead. He does, the walls shift around, light starts swirling around, but it fails. Pinhead wraps chains around Angelique and kills Merchant, leaving his son behind and the work unfinished for another generation.
Back to the space station. Merchant says he designed the station based on his ancestor's drawings and hopefully it works better than the last one. Pinhead, the conjoined Cenobite and Angelique who is now one of Pinhead's lieutenants as well, march through the station killing the space marines one by one and giving Merchant time to activate his trap. It shouldn't be surprising since the station looks like a flattened cardboard box that it folds into a box. A satellite redirects some sunlight into the middle of the box trapping it inside. Bright light washes over Pinhead and he vanishes, for good I guess, as Merchant and Rimmer escape in a shuttle.
This movie looks pretty great but falls really flat. The generational story could be interesting. Pinhead makes it to space before Leprechaun or Jason X, making it potentially the best space-horror movie since Alien. But the characters are bland and most of what they do doesn't make sense. And the acting is pretty atrocious.
Supposedly Clive Barker came up with the generational story. The script is by Peter Atkins who wrote II and III. It was directed by Kevin Yagher who opted for the Alan Smithee credit after the studio cut about a half hour of his rough cut and had Atkins write a bunch of new stuff that was reshot by another director. YouTube apparently has a workprint that brings back most of the missing scenes but do I want to watch a longer version of this?
Does it answer why Pinhead doesn't destroy all of Merchant's notes in 1996 after killing Merchant so no one can follow his work? Or why he doesn't just take out the space station's reactor and blow the whole thing up? Also Merchant says the point of the whole machine is to trap light inside it forever, trapping evil with it, but the station immediately blows up as soon as Pinhead vanishes. So wouldn't he just come back?
You know what would be an interesting movie? One that spans the two centuries that Angelique, a demon, is bound to a pompous human. How many nights she must dream of killing him. How many ways she makes his life Hell in whatever small ways she can. 200 Years a Sex Slave.
How is it that Pinhead loses two groups of Cenobites in the first three movies but we're supposed to believe that he keeps the twins and Angelique for 130 years without losing them? What was he doing all that time anyway? He was going to use Merchant's building to open a bigger doorway to Hell in 1996. Why didn't he after Merchant was dead?
The other odd thing is the violence. I guess it's enough to justify the R rating but it seems tame compared to the previous movies. Some stuff is shown in silhouette. Other shots like skinless bodies are shown but only for a half-second, not lingered upon. Were they trying to self-censor? It's not like a PG-13 was ever going to be a possibility. Why not swing for the fences?
This was not the best way to end this run, and it's the last high point for the franchise that has turned into almost fanmade quality films at this point just to keep the license at the studio. Too bad.
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