31 Days in October, 31 Horror Films – 2015
Day 5: Hellraiser III: Hell On Earth
Are there deaths in the Hellraiser franchise?
There are moments of pain, grotesque torture, and monstrous assertions of power but no one actually dies in these films. When characters encounter violence at the hands of Pinhead they transition into a different relationship with bodily pain. They become cenobites, members of a monastic order, reveling in jouissance.
“Personally, I prefer pain.”
I love this series for that. Most horror films, particularly slasher films, threaten non-existence. If you die, you are negated. The Hellraiser series has something different going on. “Death” doesn’t mean negation. It means redefinition. Characters find their demise as they alter their relationship with pain and find its intersection with pleasure. The flesh is often literally ripped away from a character, revealing another essential being – soul, memory (particularly in the case of Pinhead and his complicated relationship with post WWI England), or desire, manifested in the character of their new cenobite identity.
For these reasons, the antagonistic threat of these narratives is unique. To defeat Pinhead, the protagonist often has to “send him back to hell” which, in my opinion has always lead to unsatisfying climaxes. Trapping the cenobites within a puzzle box has always made it difficult to completely root for the protagonists. It’s a dishonest move. They must solve the mystery of the puzzle box in order to trap the cenobites, thus obfuscating their complicated philosophy of worship: the virtues of flesh over soul.
This is rich terrain and a quick morning post about my initial feelings is hardly going to do any of these ideas justice. That said, Hellraiser III: Hell On Earth is incredibly enjoyable despite its script and acting bruises.