Deep Dive: Hellraiser #3 Hell on Earth
Hell on Earth (1992): What’s in the b…Pillar of Souls?
Where the popular opinion is mixed (incorrectly) on the merits of Hellbound, critically and commercially its only trending south of heaven for Hell on Earth.
All change at the pumps for the third instalment, Kirsty is but a cameo, the Chatterer and Butterball Cenobites are replaced by 90s Cenobites (handcrafted by Pinhead) and The Box has become embedded (along with Pinhead’s face…a warning sign if every one was needed about the dangers of buying antique furniture) in the Pillar of Souls that is deemed only fit to be a decoration in a nightclub. I understand why people weren’t happy with this instalment, it moves away from the smaller personal tales of Hellraiser and Hellbound and frames Pinhead and the Cenobites as a larger, more far reaching threat.
If it can be compared to anything, this is the instalment where Pinhead takes on the roll traditionally associated with Lucifer (as he would again in The Scarlet Gospels), he’s not just a threat to one or two souls who have opened the box, he’s the adversary. Sure he’s focused on newcomer Joey (Terry Farrell, excellently channeling the attitude of Kirsty whilst still being very much her own character) but if she doesn’t stop him and his ever increasing Cenobite conversions it’s clear that nothing else will, not the cops, not the clubbers, nor our usual bastion of defence against hell: the clergy.
Whilst this is where the franchises critics generally feel things start to go wrong, for me this is where Hellraiser sets itself apart. It’s such a stylistic change that it almost transplants the Hellraiser mythology into another horror subgenre.
The first two films are naturally comparable, they’re a direct extension of Kirsty (and Julia’s story), but Hell on Earth is nearer to End of Days (yeah, I’ve just compared Terry Farrell and Arnold Schwarzenegger, what of it?). It’s still deeply dark but it’s almost an action horror in its format and culminates in a way that will feel familiar to anyone whose spent time with The Mummy series (Brendon Frasier, not Tom Cruise). That’s one of the reasons three films in and there isn’t a black mark for me. If Hellrasier and Hellbound were Isla Single Malts, Hell on Earth is Jack Daniels and Coke and there is always a place for that in my cabinet.
What say ye Nick?
Nick: Also in Spanish, very fun.
Ed: What’s left to say that Nick hasn’t already? Such poignancy, such eloquence…
I think Matt’s comparison to whiskey and bourbon is spot on with Hell on Earth. Yes, I have a whiskey encyclopedia in my bookshelf and while I love to sup some proper uisce beatha, I would be lying if I said that I didn’t also enjoy a Jack Daniels—but whenever I’m in the fortunate position of having a selection to choose from, invariably the Jack will be the last bottle to be finished.
It’s interesting that Matt also mentions The Scarlet Gospels because I think this is what I love about Hellrasier as a whole; it doesn’t stand still. If you think about horror franchises, your Friday 13ths, your Halloweens, generally speaking there is a reluctance to stray too far from the well-worn path. It’s a tricky balance to strike, providing something new and interesting without alienating your core fanbase. It’s one of the reasons I enjoyed Womp Stomp’s Never Hike Alone, because it felt like a breath of fresh air from Camp Crystal Lake.
Hellraiser doesn’t repeat itself. The evolution of Pinhead from Hellbound Heart to The Scarlet Gospels is one of a rich and deep character as opposed to a stock villain. Look at the first three films in this franchise, there has been no sense of repetition, of pandering to the notion of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”. It’s a high risk strategy because when you try something new and it goes horribly wrong (Bloodlines I’m looking at you) it goes really horribly wrong, but I would far rather a franchise kept evolving and kept trying new and ambitious ideas than finding a formula and sticking to it.
With that in mind, a word of warning about our next entry in the Hellraiser deep dive…it’s Bloodlines.