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Bonus Reviews: The Lair of the White Worm (1988) and Hellraiser III: Hell on Earth (1992)
Horror Bulletin Bonus Reviews for Week 163
For this week’s bonus films, we’ll look at a couple of fun horror movies, “Hellraiser III: Hell on Earth” from 1992, and “Lair of the White Worm,” an offbeat British film that shows us what the 1980s were really like.
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Hellraiser III: Hell on Earth (1992)
• Directed by Anthony Hickox
• Written by Peter Atkins
• Stars Terry Farrell, Doug Bradley, Kevin Bernhardy
• Run Time: 1 Hour, 37 Minutes
Spoiler-Free Judgment Zone
It’s worth a watch for sure if you liked the first two. It’s a bridge between the excellent first two and the down sliding sequels that come after this. We weren’t quite pleased with the direction they take Pinhead in this one, but it’s still Doug Bradley being excellent in the role - and being his still-human counterpart more than we saw in the first two movies. Different cool Cenebite sidekicks in this one too, which was fun.
A young guy lights up a cigarette and goes into an art gallery full of creepy paintings and sculptures. He stops to wonder about a big cube with many screaming figures and faces embedded in it. It’s also got a very familiar puzzle box included. A crazy-looking artist staggers out and gives it to the guy for “whatever you think it’s worth. Take pleasure in it.”
Reporter Joey Summerskill is bored with her useless job; she’s at the hospital, but there are no accidents tonight. Cameraman Doc tries to cheer her up. Suddenly, they bring in a man who is wrapped in chains and fishhooks and is bleeding everywhere. Joey runs into the ER, and watches the chains do terrible things to the man until he explodes.
The following night, Joey goes to the Boiler Room, a local club where whatever happened last night began. She runs into JP, who we recognize from the art gallery. We cut to Joey having a nightmare of the Vietnam War and lots of people getting shot, including her father. Terri from the club calls and wants to explain what happened. Joey and Terri talk about dreams, nightmares, and stuff. Terri explains that the chains that killed the boy came out of the puzzle box that she has in her purse.
Meanwhile, JP looks at his statue and notices that a big piece has been broken off where that weird cube used to be. He puts his hand in the hole, and a rat bites his hand. He bleeds on the statues which causes it to moan and glow. The part of the statue that looks like pinhead begins to come to life.
Joey and Terri break into the art gallery, which has been closed for a month. They find pictures of the box, but not much else. They call the archive to get a videotape made by Kirstie from the previous films. Elsewhere, JP takes a girl home from the club and has sweaty sex with her in front of the Pinhead statue, whose eyes now move. After an argument, the statue shoots out fish hooks and pulls her right in. Pinhead wants more meat, and he enlists JP to get it. Pinhead is… persuasive.
Joey watches Kirstie’s videotape about the cenobites that live in the box, which is a gateway to Hell. In the middle of the tape, Elliot Spencer, the human version of Pinhead, talks to Joey directly. Terri finds the puzzle box, now looking all clean and new, and can’t resist playing with it Before she goes too far, the phone rings and JP invites her over to his place to see this cool new statue he’s picked up.
Joey has another one of her Vietnam dreams, but this time, it transitions to World War I, and Elliot is there trying to talk to her.
JP tries to feed Terri to Pinhead, but that doesn’t go so well for him. Pinhead talks Terri into pushing JP into the statue. This is enough food to break Pinhead out of his prison; he’s free!
Joey gets a vision of Elliot becoming Pinhead the first time. She finally gets to meet him on a WWI battlefield. He wants her to help him stop Pinhead from bringing Hell on Earth (Hey, just like the title of the movie!). He explains that Pinhead is now out in the real world, unlimited by the laws of Hell. Elliot is a ghost and can’t fight Pinhead on Earth, but if she can bring Pinhead to the underworld/dream plane he can do something. Pinhead will want to destroy the puzzle box so he can stay on Earth forever.
Meanwhile, back at the Boiler Room, things start to get weird as Pinhead makes his grand entrance. Panic ensues, chains fly, and people die. The DJ is killed by flying CDs. Joey hears about the deaths on the TV. She calls Doc to meet her there for the big scoop and takes the box along with her.
Joey arrives at the club and goes inside to find piles of bodies. Pinhead introduces himself, and Joey runs outside to find things are exploding out there on the street. She then encounters Doc, who is now a Cenobite that looks like a Borg. She runs into the DJ, who now shoots CDs and has a mouth that looks like a CD drive. The bartender Cenobite shoots at her with flaming alcohol breath and Molotov cocktails.
The police arrive, but that goes badly. Joey hides in a church, where the preacher scoffs that demons aren’t literally real; they’re metaphors. Pinhead shows up and proves him wrong. He feeds a piece of himself to the priest but gets distracted when Joey activates the box.
The Cenobite versions of JP and Terri arrive and beat down Joey. She’s surrounded by the others as Joey activates the box and it does its thing, making all the new Cenobites vanish. And it pulls Pinhead and Joey into the underworld.
Joey gets a vision where she talks to her dead father. Her father asks for the box, which she offers freely. Of course, it’s not really her father, it’s Pinhead in disguise. Suddenly, Elliot appears and fights Pinhead. The two fight and eventually merge. While he’s distracted, Joey stabs him with the box, sending Pinhead back to Hell. She then hides the puzzle box in wet cement, where a building is later constructed.
So much smoking in this; must’ve been the early 90s.
Terry Farrell was later best known as Dax on Deep Space 9, where she was great. Here, not so much. Apparently, she was still learning to act. She was fine in all the action scenes, but anytime she had to talk to another human character in the daytime world, her lack of experience showed.
It’s certainly not the worst third installment of a franchise. It adds new Cenobites and expands on the lore about Elliot and the box. We get a lot more of the Cenobites here, even though they aren’t the ones we’re used to. On the other hand, Pinhead went from being a powerful neutral figure in the first two movies, neither good nor evil, just a force, into being a gloating, mustache-twirling villain here. It significantly cheapens the character. It’s a good sequel, but it lays the groundwork for the travesties that follow.
Lair of the White Worm (1988)
• Directed by Ken Russell
• Written by Ken Russell
• Stars Amanda Donohoe, Catherine Oxenberg, Sammi Davis
• Run Time: 1 Hour, 33 Minutes
Spoiler-Free Judgment Zone
The casting is perfect, especially Amanda Donohoe as Lady Sylvia. It’s a strange movie that has held up well over time - full of dark humor but not a comedy. Definitely horror. We highly recommend it.
Angus, an archaeology student, finds a dinosaur head in his backyard. He says it’s from around the year 286, in Roman times. It’s not a dinosaur then. Afterwards, he and Mary go to a party. There’s a big musical number that involves a white worm, along with an actual giant white worm prop; it’s a local legend about the D'ampton Worm. He meets James D’ampton, the local landlord. Angus says maybe that skull he found was the worm from the song and legend. On the walk home, Mary tells Angus about her parents who went missing on the trail last year.
When they get home, P.C. Erny, a policeman, is there. They found Mary’s father’s watch. After that, Erny goes to investigate a strange car up at Temple House. He’s bitten by a snake and then runs into Lady Sylvia, who sucks out the poison. And swallows it. He mentions the skull that Angus found, and the next day, Sylvia goes to investigate. There’s no one home, so she takes the skull, grows big fangs, and spits venom on the crucifix on her way out.
James and Eve, Mary’s sister, come home and find the father’s watch. She touches the venom on the crucifix and gets a psychedelic flashback to Roman times and a giant white worm and a snake woman. They go outside to the excavation and find a fancy mosaic of a white worm. When they look for the skull, they can’t find it. James leaves as Angus and Mary arrive.
Sylvia picks up a hitchhiker on the road who’s looking for a local hostel. They play board games and music. She kisses him and then takes him in for a bath. She grows fangs and bites him. The bite paralyzes him, and she plans to sacrifice him to her god.
James drops by, dressed in full uniform. He introduces himself, and the two talk about snakes. That night, James has a very strange dream involving all the characters we’ve met as well as Mary’s missing parents.
The whole group goes up to the cave in the mountain where the watch was found. James hopes to find the D'ampton Worm in there. They continue exploring the caverns. Eve leaves early but runs into Sylvia on the way home. She hypnotizes Eve and plans to sacrifice her to Dionin, her snake god, alive. Sylvia commands Eve to call Mary and say she’s going out of town for a while, but that goes badly and doesn’t fool her.
James, Angus, and Mary discuss what they know. James figures things out and installs giant speakers on the house that plays snake charmer music. Lady Sylvia hears it and cannot resist dancing to the music. They find Mary’s mother, but she’s become a snake woman too and bites her. Mary hallucinates, but Angus sucks the poison out.
Meanwhile, at his home, James kills Mary’s mother with a sword.
P.C. Erny picks up Mary, and they both go to Sylvia’s house to pick her up as well. Mary notices that Erny has been bitten and makes a run for it. Erny is distracted when he hears Angus playing the bagpipes. It goes badly for Erny after that.
Angus injects himself with antivenom and then releases a mongoose into Sylvia’s house. He’s almost instantly attacked and bitten by Sylvia, who avoided being charmed this time by wearing earplugs. He’s put in a cave with Mary and Eve, who are also prisoners. They hear James and some men up in the caves above.
Sylvia is ready for her ritual for Dionin. The giant white worm-god makes his appearance, slithering up toward Eve. Angus wakes up and pushes Sylvia into the pit instead. Dionin eats Sylvia. As Mary and Eve run away, Angus drops a hand grenade down the tunnel.
We cut back to James, who has gassed everything in the cave system including Dionin. Angus gets a phone call from the lab; they gave him the wrong antivenom. He feels his fangs coming in. He then gets in the car with James to go to the hospital for the girls. But first, they stop for a bite…
Ah yes, the soothing charms of bagpipe music; that’s enough to charm any snake-creature, but probably no one else.
It’s a very strange film, with odd performances from everyone involved. It’s got a lot of dark humor, but it’s not really a comedy. We see early on that Sylvia is not what she appears, but it takes the rest of the cast a bit longer to get there.
It’s a fun, not-completely-serious vampire/old gods movie that’s absolutely worth a watch.
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