A couple of decades back, I discovered a book by Christopher Curry titled A Taste of Blood: The Films of Herschell Gordon Lewis. That book was rough around the edges—it was badly in need of a good editor—but it was invaluable and, in many ways, changed the trajectory of my own writing. Danny Stewart’s new book, War Is Hell: Making Hellraiser III: Hell on Earth (Bear Manor Media), reminds me of that volume. Like A Taste of Blood, Stewart’s Hellraiser book is obviously a project born out of passion. Both books are a little bit rough but contain a cornucopia of fascinating, never-before-published details about their subjects.
There are more than a few typos and misspellings in War Is Hell, but the book is a genuine treasure trove of information about the creation of Hellraiser III. Author Stewart professes multiple times within the book that Hellraiser III: Hell on Earth is his favorite installment in the Hellraiser series. As a result, he obviously worked hard to put together the best love letter for the film possible. The book is comprised primarily of interviews with cast and crew, and Stewart managed to snag interviews with an impressive number of principals involved with the film. Director Anthony Hickox, screenwriter Peter Atkins, and actor Doug Bradley, who plays Pinhead, are among those interviewed. Additionally, Stewart also talks to the DP, the editors, the camera operator, makeup artists, CGI people, and a number of actors and actresses. The interviews are a tad repetitious, but Stewart manages to wring a ridiculous amount of information out of them. There is also a plethora of cool, never before seen behind-the-scenes photos in the book. The book also has a startlingly attractive cover.
In truth, I’ve never had any particular love for, or interest in, Hellraiser III, but like any solid “making-of” film book, War Is Hell doesn’t require a love of the film in question. All that’s required to properly enjoy it is a love and appreciation for horror, horror films, and/or filmmaking in general. I started this review by comparing this book to Christopher Curry’s book, which I hold in high esteem. (Curry’s book started my love and interest in the work of H.G. Lewis, eventually leading to my co-writing a book with the late director.) Curry’s first book was a little bit rough, but his subsequent offerings have gotten better and better. It is likely that the same will be true of Danny Stewart’s forthcoming projects.
If you like horror films and/or the Hellraiser films, War Is Hell: The Making of Hellraiser III: Hell on Earth is a book you must add to your bookshelf.