The first three films in this series are a perfect illustration of sequel decay. Hellraiser is a low-budget classic horror with a dark visceral feel and a nice tight straightforward story. Hellbound: Hellraiser II expanded on the story and many of those who worked on Hellraiser returned. It is less focused and makes less sense than the original and has more spectacle and a larger body count. Then we get this film. Only one of the original cast returned, Doug Bradley is back as Pinhead who has been reduced to the status of a powerful evil misanthropic villain hell bent on conquering the world.
In an art gallery there is a sculpture with the very familiar face of Pinhead. Later flashbacks in the film indicate that it is supposed to be that cheap-ass column from the end of the second film but this looks much better than that, full of twisted limbs and faces. Wealthy club owner J.P Monroe (Kevin Bernhardt) is interested in buying it from a man dressed like a bum who is very vague about the ownership of the sculpture or its price.
Joey (Terry Farrell) is a junior news reporter desperate for a breakthrough to reporting on the main news stories but her latest assignment at the emergency room of a city hospital turns out to be a wash-out on one of the quietest nights in the hospital’s history. She feels even worse when her cameraman Doc Fisher (Ken Carpenter) gets called away on a “real“ story. After he’s gone a patient gets rushed in, a young man whose body is pierced by black metal hooks on chains. Joey tries talking to a young woman who came in with the patient to find out what happened but Terri (Paula Marshall) is too upset to tell her much more than her name and that it happened at the Boiler Room. While Joey is distracted by the boy in the emergency room getting his head pulled apart Terri sneaks off.
Joey tries to convince her colleagues back at the TV station about what she saw but she’s told no pictures then it didn’t happen. She finds out that the Boiler Room is a nightclub and goes there to look for Terri. This the place owned by J.P. Munroe and he has it decorated according to his own grisly taste with mannequins and dolls wrapped in barbed wire so the Pinhead sculpture fits in perfectly. Joey asks around about Terri and gets directed to J.P. who of course comes on to her but she rejects him and leaves her card for Terri to contact her.
Joey is awoken from a nightmare about her father, who died before she was born, by a phone call from Terri. Terri is looking a place to stay after her boyfriend J.P. kicked her out so Joey offers her a spare room. Terri happily accepts but she’s nervous and thinks Joey just wants to use her to get the information about what killed the boy at the hospital. Joey assures her that’s not the case but insists that she still has to find out happened. Terri rummages in her bag and brings out a puzzle box. She says it came off the sculpture. It was Terri who found the sculpture and told J.P. about it so next day Terri and Joey go to investigate the gallery. The gallery is locked up and a neighbour insists it’s been that way for months but Terri says she was there just last week with J.P. Joey is thrown by the apparent dead-end but Terri uses her burglary skills to get them in. They start looking through the paperwork to see if they can find any papers about the sculpture. There they find all the documents from the Channard Institute. Terri thinks that now Joey has what she wants she won’t want Terri around but Joey tells her that she has place to stay for as long as she needs it.
At the Boiler Room J.P. seduces Sandy (Aimée Leigh) a naïve young woman who he takes to his apartment and screws her giving us this film’s compulsory nude scene. After he’s shot his load he‘s no longer interested in her and is openly contemptuous of her. Sandy is angry and upset at being used and doesn’t notice how close she is to the sculpture. Pinhead’s eyes open and hooks on chains burst out of the sculpture and rip off her skin. They seize her and drag her screaming into the depths of the statue where she gets transformed into part of the sculpture. J.P. is shocked and frightened and tries shooting the sculpture but Pinhead just spit out the bullets. Pinhead offers to fulfil J.P.’s darkest desires in exchange for more flesh.
Joey gets visited in her dreams of her father by the spirit of Captain Elliott Spencer who was Pinhead but was freed when he was reminded of his humanity by Kirsty Cotton before being attacked by the Channard Cenobite and killed. Elliott warns Joey that the evil was driven out of him was too strong to be destroyed and now threatens to bring its evil to Earth. Pinhead is after the puzzles box to destroy it since it the only thing that can send him back to hell.
Terri is sitting in Joey’s apartment and gets a call from J.P. saying he’s sorry and wants her back. Having a new friend and place to stay has given Terri enough self-respect to turn down J. P. But she hears phone message left on Joey’s answering machine making her think Terri will be moving away leaving her homeless and alone again so she takes the hump and runs off into J.P.’s clutches. Back at J.P.’s apartment he makes all the right sympathetic noises and beckons Terri to come to him right next to the sculpture. Just before J.P. succeeds he starts getting too anxious and tries to grab her but she fights back and manages to knock him out with a knuckle-duster.
Terri goes to leave but Pinhead offers her the chance to dream and all she has to do is feed J.P. to the sculpture. She agrees to the deal and she kick s his unconscious body toward the statue. J.P. comes round just in time to protest before he’s seized by hooks on chain and his head in penetrated by a pair of pistons. J.P.’s blood allows Pinhead to free himself from the sculpture. Pinhead explodes through the door into the nightclub and unleashes his lethal magical powers on the club’s patrons, slaughtering everyone. This scene reminds me of the climaxes of the first two Wishmaster films but it isn’t really as imaginative.
Joey sees a news report about a major disaster at the Boiler Room. She rings Doc who agrees to meet her there and she lifts the puzzle box and leaves. When Joey gets to the Boiler room there’s no-one else is sight, no cops and no TV news crews. She enters the club and discovers bloodbath inside with mutilated corpses everywhere. She sees Doc’s headless corpse and realises she sent him to his death. Pinhead appears and offers to end her misery quickly if she gives him the box. Joey refuses and he tries to grab it and it zaps him.
Joey escapes from the club and runs off through the streets so Pinhead creates some new cenobites and sends them after her. The barman been turned into the Barbie Cenobite, his face wrapped and barbed wire and breathing fire. The club’s DJ has been turned into the CD Cenobite with his head full of slots for lethally sharp CDs which he throws to kill people. The third of these cenobites is Doc whose camera has been fused with his head to transform him into the Cameraman Cenobite with his lethal lens and ability to blow up TV sets. The original cenobites were disciples of pain and they were terrible to behold because their mutilation represented their devotion to their cause. These cenobites seem to be a lame attempt at injecting a contemporary feel and they pale in comparison to the originals. As they chase Joey they kill many passers-by and blow stuff up.
Joey runs into a church and tells the priest about being chased by demons. The priest tells her that demons aren’t real, that they are just a metaphor. That’s when Pinhead makes his entrance, blowing off the doors again. He makes his way to the altar and the priest tries to ward him with a cross. Pinhead chides him for worshipping a graven image and melts the cross in the man’s hand. Even more show-boating follows with a drawn out scene of Pinhead removing spikes from his head, piercing his hands and doing a Jesus impression. He follows this by removing a piece of flesh from his abdomen and forcing it into the priest’s mouth in a crude parody of the communion. Just to show how pointless this whole scene is it comes to an end when Joey uses the puzzle box on Pinhead and escapes which she could have done as soon as he appeared. The scene didn’t further the plot and seemed to be included for cheap shock value.
Joey gets to a building site so at least that will minimise collateral damage. There are two more cenobites waiting there, Terri and J.P. These two are better than the other ones and are more interested in causing pain than major property damage. The other cenobites arrive and Pinhead gloats but then Joey solves the puzzle box and it sends all the cenobites to hell, which is bit of an anti-climax
But it’s all a trick as Joey finds herself in her dream of her father who is no longer dying. He says that he’s a reward to Joey for defeating Pinhead and he asks for the cube which she hands over. Of course her father turns out to really be Pinhead who grins as he takes his true shape then laughs at his victory. The scene changes abruptly to an empty wooden room and Elliott is there. This is the room where Elliott solved the puzzle and was taken to serve hell. It was apparently Elliot’s plan all along to get Pinhead into Joey’s dreams so Elliott can get him. Elliot rejoins with Pinhead but Pinhead is dominant and sets on his sights Joey but she manipulates the puzzle into a long sharp spike and stabs it into Pinhead’s heart causing him to be dragged in pieces into the puzzle spike.
I know that the different behaviour of Pinhead is explained in the film but it’s not a change that I like and the new cenobites were a pale shadow of the original ones. I don’t know if I would have been happier with this film if it was not a sequel to Hellraiser but it is and I can’t honestly rate it any other way. Even the musical score was sacrificed to the marketing dollar by featuring a heavy metal soundtrack, something that I usually enjoy but not this one. The original music does still appear especially towards the end but it does little to recreate the original’s tone. It is certainly watchable and more entertaining than many other horror films but as fan of the original I am disappointed