Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Double Bill Mini Musings: Cenobites and Centipedes...

Hellraiser III Hell On Earth:
I've long since lost count of how many Hellraiser flicks there have been (apparently there are now nine with a remake also planned), but until now I'd only seen the first two, and the fourth. The third, on the other hand, I have had sat on a videotape (from when it was shown years ago on TV) and have never gotten around to it. Then I spotted it on the Horror Channel and figured I'd give it a go.

However, while the first two came during the 1980s when horror movies were doing really quite well, this third entry came in the early 1990s (1992 to be specific) when the genre was, mostly, dying on its arse. There were some good (even great) entries such as Candyman (also 1992) - which was brutal and horrifyingly good - but this was very much an exception, because more often than not we were getting dross such as Halloween 6. Hellraiser 3 is more along the lines of dross ... it feels dated, and not in a charming way, it's not in the least bit chilling (let alone scary), and the plot is a big "so what?"

Pinhead is trapped in a piece of art work, bought by a scumbag club owner, and after a couple of splashings of blood (and a massacre of the club's patrons) hell is unleashed upon the earth ... which means a couple of streets and a building site. In amongst it all is a female reporter, plagued by nightmares about her father who was KIA in Vietnam, looking for her big story. The plot jumps around, and at times the characters exhibit little in the way of motivation, joined-up-thinking or common sense, and as for Pinhead ... well, he's certainly not the intimidatingly cruel force that he was in the original movie. In short, I didn't care for it.

The Human Centipede (First Sequence):
Trading entirely on the inventively grim title (indeed it constitutes the entire plot), Tom Six's stylish but surprisingly empty shocker isn't quite the ... *sigh* ... "torture porn" flick that you might be expecting. The idea of three people being connected mouth-to-butt by a mad doctor (who used to be the world's number one corrective surgeon for conjoined twins) is gruesome enough on its own, and as such it's mostly left up to your imagination. The really gruesome elements are inferred, rather than shown, or indeed they're hidden behind bandages.

Speaking of the demented surgeon, Dieter Laser's performance (as Dr. Heiter) is clearly the high point of the movie - it's a wonderfully disturbing projection - so it's a shame that the rest of the film doesn't match in quality or intrigue. Particularly in the third act, there were some really dumb scripting moments, and you can't help but feel that the high concept was the real attraction. The look of the film is impressively artistic, and the pace is generally quite good, but the mad doctor is lacking enough motivation, and the two girls (two thirds of the sequence) are nothing but vapid and annoying party girls.

So it's nowhere near as gross as the pitch suggests, visually at least, and while Laser's crazy surgeon makes for a genuinely arresting screen presence, the rest of the movie is sadly a bit lacking. See it for the intrigue, see it for Laser's performance, but don't expect any lasting investment.

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