Thursday, September 4, 2014

Hellraiser III: Hell on Earth

This is our third scorecard involving a film featuring the character Pinhead. What can we say, we like order.
So arrives the third film featuring the Cenobites, an unearthly coven of former mortals who, in their quest to experience sensations at the outer limits of experience, were transported to a hellish netherworld by a magical puzzle-box. There, they live forever in a strange Nirvana, a tranquility brought through centuries of endless, unimaginable suffering.

The Cenobites remain eager to adopt other mortals into their order—they have such sights to show us—but they do not inflict their tortures on hapless victims surprised in the dark. They come only when called; it is desire, and nothing else, that brings them.

At least, that was until Hellraiser III: Hell on Earth. It is at this point in the series that Hollywood seizes the original story’s fascinating mythology, pierces it with iron hooks and pulls it apart in a paroxysm of bloody goo.

Join us now, as we subject Hellraiser III to the pitiless probing of the nanobots. Let us hope it gets what it deserves.
  • Clive Barker presents … a movie he didn’t write. Which will only become more obvious as HR III wears on. = -5pts 
  • Wealthy, entitled young nightclub owner J.P. Monroe visits an empty art gallery in the middle of the night. Because that’s a thing that people do. = -2pts 
  • Monroe’s car and fashion-sense are totally cool and awesome—provided that you are 10 years old and are Kid Rock. = -1pt 
  • The art gallery is run by what appears to be Kris Kristofferson. I guess being Blade’s sidekick doesn’t pay the bills. = +1pt 
  • J.P. Monroe buys this fucking thing to decorate his home, thus clearly establishing himself as NOT ONE OF THE GOOD GUYS. = +5pts (For clarity.)
  • Introducing Joey Summerskill, feisty television journalist, staking out her city’s crappiest subway station. = +/- 0pts. 
  • Oh, wait. That’s a hospital. = -4pts 
  •  Joey’s cameraman, Doc, is so kindly and avuncular that we immediately start the countdown to his grisly demise. = +3pts 
  • Hey, some action! A bleeding assault victim is brought in, trailing hooks and chains. You just know that the doctor on call can’t wait to see what large, inconveniently shaped thing this guy has lodged in his butt. = +9pts 
  • The ER casualty’s companion gibbers something about “the boiler room,” which Joey repeats a couple of times so we remember it. = +1pt (For being helpful.) 
  • Thanks for zooming in on the heart-monitor flatline, movie. We almost missed that important implication of the man’s head exploding. = -7pts 
  • J.P. Monroe, as it turns out, runs the nightclub called “The Boiler Room”--and … this … club … is … METAL. Like, all-of-Motley-Crue-simultaneously- getting-blowjobs-while-motorcycling-down-a-studded-leather-waterslide-full-of-vodka-that’s-built-into-a-mountain-of-cocaine, metal. = +9pts 
  • Joey spends two minutes describing to the club DJ the girl who brought the victim to the hospital before adding “… and she might be the club owner’s girlfriend.” Way to bury the lede .= -8pts 
  • This supermetal nightclub is physically attached to a posh restaurant so snooty that one wonders why they condescend to play Vivaldi. = -25pts
  • Joey Summerskill has a dream in which she watches her father die in Vietnam. Which looks surprisingly like Vermont in autumn. = -6pts 
  • We finally meet Twitchy Terri, the elusive witness from the hospital scene. Terri is homeless, friendless, and poor, drifting from one boyfriend to the next and stealing to get by, with nothing but a bag of short skirts and heels to her name. She’s the type of character that Dickens would have created if he wrote porn. = -2pts 
  • Back at the Boiler Room, J.P. Monroe surveys his douchebag domain in much the same way that we imagine George W. Bush did: while wearing a bathrobe and cowboy boots. = +4pts 
  • Via an unlikely turn of events involving a rat, The Pillar of Yuck gets blood on it, which disappears into the mouth of Pinhead sculpted into its surface. = +15pts 
  • J.P. Monroe, Keanu-like, grins and says “Whoa!” Instead of wetting ‘em and having a myocardial infarction, like a human being would. = -11pts 
  • We return to Joey and Twitchy Terri’s “Tell-Don’t-Show” festival, where TT reveals that it was she who discovered the Pillar of Yuck in the art gallery and sent J.P. there. This is starting to sound a bit like Cenobite entrapment. = -9pts 
  • “These places are always all show.” Well, it’s an art gallery, Terri. They show things here. = -2pts 
  • TT stumbles across extensive videotaped testimony from Kirsty Cotton (Ashley Lawrence!), a character from a much better movie. Kirsty spills a metric buttload of information about the Cenobites and their puzzle-box. = +29pts (For reminding us of Hellraiser.) 
  • Back at the Boiler Room, J.P. Monroe likes seducing women with an offer of a single rose out of the beer-cooler. Good luck with that, Mystery. = -11pts 
  • What? That worked? J.P.’s lucky that the screenwriter understands women exactly as well as he does. = 30pts 
  • After the boning, J.P.’s single-serving ladyfriend wakes up and realizes that he’s a tool. And just as she’s starting to light him up for being deceptive, cruel, and unfeeling, the Pillar of Yuck shoots out its hook-chains and peels her like a banana. So the moral of that story is … not entirely clear. = 15pts
  • Pinhead opines: “There is no good; there is no evil. Only flesh, and the patterns to which we submit it.” Which we think was Johnnie Cochrane’s closing argument at the O.J. trial. = +12 pts
  • J.P. agrees to feed more victims to Pinhead, freeing him from the Pillar, in exchange for being granted spiky-leather sex-magic powers. = +8pts (for being comprehensible) 
  • Twitchy Terri is back at Joey’s condo, reading and occasionally glancing curiously at the puzzle-box which FOR FUCK’S SAKE SHE’S GOT THE DOORWAY TO HELL JUST SITTING ON THE TV. = -66pts 
  • TT gets a booty call from J.P. She resists his charms … barely. = +15pts 
  • The answering machine takes another call. A fake message fools Terri into believing that Joey has betrayed her and is fixin’ to throw her back out onto the street. Because Terri is a rich chocolate center of emotional dysfunction surrounded by a thin candy shell of stupid. = 10pts. 
  • … and off goes Terri to make the next in a lifelong series of degrading mistakes. His name is J.P. Monroe. = -11pts 
  • J.P. makes an incredibly clumsy attempt to sacrifice Terri to the Pillar of Yuck, and ends up getting himself knocked out. = +25pts 
  • Rule #1: When a hellishly grotesque carving of dubious origin grows a face and starts offering you “black miracles” and “unknown pleasures,” you get right the fuck out of there. = -5pts 
  • Long story short, Terri sacrifices J.P. to the pillar, and Pinhead is released. Now maybe the movie can start. = +13pts 
  • Joey wakes up to a WWI-era radio playing in her closet. She tries to tune in some “lite rock,” but gets the “interdimensional travel” station instead. = +11pts 
  • We learn that, at the end of a much better movie, Kirsty Cotton only released the “good half” of Elliot Spencer-Pinhead’s soul. The “bad half” went to live in the Pillar of Yuck, along with the puzzle-box—and bided its time until it found a patsy to set it free. = -14pts (For theological incoherence.) 
  • Now “evil half-Spencer,” in the form of Pinhead, is “unbound … unstoppable.” = +5pts 
  • Well, maybe “pretty much unstoppable, mostly” would be more accurate, since they’re already planning to stop him. = -5pts 
  • Back on earth, Pinhead turns all the decorative accoutrements of the Boiler Room into machines of butchery. It takes everybody a couple of minutes to notice. That’s just how metal this place is. = +4pts 
  • Joey sees the massacre on the TV news and races downtown, where she contaminates an active crime scene. Oh … and also confronts Pinhead in a church he has constructed for himself, for some reason. Things go badly. = +3pts 
  • Joey is pursued down the street by sentient power lines and Cenobite hook chains that can now come out of the sewer for some reason. = -14pts
  • Behold the worst atrocity this film has to show us: the new Cenobites. Apparently, Pinhead can just create them instantly now, using nothing but murder-victims and irony. Each of them has eeeeevil supermurderpowers that are thematically linked to what they did in life. Cenobite Twitchy Terri, for example, kills her victims by making poor sexual choices and not being very bright. = -33pts 
  • Joey flees into a real church … and Pinhead’s there. Because of course he is. = -19pts 
  • Holy shit, can Pinhead lay down some blasphemy. = +25pts
  • J.P. and Terri get to show off their “Pistonhead” and “Smoking Female” Cenobite costumes for about 10 seconds before Joey captures them in the puzzle-box, along with the other bargain-basement Cenobitches. = +10pts 
  • Back in the dreamscape Viet Nermont, Pinhead masquerades as Joey’s dead dad to trick her into giving him the puzzle-box. Well played, Mr. Head. = +9pts 
  • Elliot merges himself back into Pinhead, and it’s exactly as sexy as it sounds. Joey then sends him/them back to hell. = +7pts
  • Joey sinks the puzzle-box into a block of wet cement in the smartest move she’s made this half of the movie. = +12pts 
  • EPILOGUE: The construction site where the puzzle-box was buried has become an office building, with the interior design all done in images of the box. Presumably this is the new headquarters of Goldman-Sachs. = +8pts
Final Score = -68pts
Available from: Netflix, in the “Because you watched Troll 2 and enjoyed it un-ironically” category.

Well, there you have it. Pinhead, one of the most complex and original horror-movie villains the genre has ever given us, is reduced to just another leather-clad psychopath who enjoys torture and mass murder.

Except for the fact that he can only be defeated by … being raped. By himself. So there’s that.

On the up side, the Motorhead song over the closing credits is far, far better than this movie deserves. Lemmy, make the hurting stop.

Score Technician: John Ormond

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