Film Review - Hellraiser: Inferno

Starring - Craig Sheffer, Nicholas Turturro, James Remar, Doug Bradley | Directed by - Scott Derrickson | Dimension DVD WS R 99min 2000

Review By Juliet

Hanging onto the puzzle box for a bit longer as I take on Hellraiser: Inferno, the fifth film in the franchise. I'm happy to report that this review does not contain any major spoilers as I really think you have to watch this one for yourself. Joseph Thorn is a brilliant but very flawed detective who's called to investigate the mysterious death of a man named John Cho. Cho's body is wounded by what appears to be hooks and the puzzle box is found at the crime scene along with a child's finger. Ignoring the needs of his wife and family, Joseph goes on a coke binge and sleeps with a young prostitute. That night while staring at the puzzle box, Joseph has strange visions of two female cenobites trying to both seduce him and rip him to shreds. At the end of his vision, Pinhead appears. Later that day he receives a strange call from the prostitute and returns to the hotel to find her body hanging in the shower with hook-like wounds. As Joseph begins to investigate, he finds that the victims are connected by a figure known as the Engineer. As he tries to seek out the Engineer, he's also plagued by visions of cenobites. Dr. Gregory, the police counselor, tells Joseph about another cop who searched for the Engineer and ended up shooting himself at his desk with the puzzle box next to him. Gregory has done research into the puzzle box and says that while he's not sure if he believes in the devil, he believes in its power. Joseph continues his search for the Engineer as the Engineer seeks him out, targeting his family and everyone around him. After Joseph's elderly parents are kidnapped and his partner, Tony, attacked, Joseph comes face to face with the Engineer. But who he is, wants he wants and what his connection is to the cenobites are all things you'll have to find out by watching Hellraiser: Inferno.

From the fourth Hellraiser film that I affectionately called Hellraiser in Space, we move on to the fifth film that I'm going to call CSI: Hellraiser. But I say that with the utmost affection because I was surprisingly pleased by this film. You have to wonder if a franchise can maintain making really great films by the fifth outing namely because most don't. But this film delivers, in part because it does something different, which is par for the course for the Hellraiser franchise. With each stylistic variation, I've found myself wondering whether it would work and each time I'm pleasantly surprised that it does work. This time goes with film noir vibe with the flawed detective as our anti-hero. Joseph is a great character both charismatic and despicable, and Craig Sheffer does a great job playing him. What I really liked about this movie is that you have no idea if any given moment is really happening or if it's the result of Joseph's drug use or something Pinhead is behind. As if trying to decipher that wasn't enough, you're then trying to figure out the mystery of the Engineer. It's safe to say that this film held my attention. But I've heard that not everyone is a fan, and I can definitely see where hardcore horror fans would be less than impressed. There's gore and violence, but it's really just a slightly more gruesome (especially by today's standards) detective story, not a horror film. That said, the visuals are really well done both in the special effects department and the cinematography. One of the things I enjoyed most about the first Hellraiser film was the atmosphere, and while the fifth has a very different mood than the first, it's still distinct. The interesting thing (that probably contributes to many people's dislike of the film) is that this was not originally a Hellraiser script. Dimension owned this script and rewrote it to make it a part of the franchise. Without spoiling the end, which you really need to see for yourself, I think they did a good job, and while it's not what you'd expect from a Hellraiser film, the story works given what we know about Pinhead and the cenobites. Speaking of the cenobites, we have a few new ones in this film: the Wire Twins (the two who try to seduce Joseph) and Torso, who's reminiscent of Chatterer.

The DVD includes a few special features including Secrets of Hellraiser revealed and a Conversation with Doug Bradley. The cover's red lighting implies fire, but think of Dante's Inferno and the title will make more sense.

I was genuinely surprised at how much I enjoyed this film. It's different than the other Hellraiser movies, but that's okay. I don't think I'd want the first 5 movies to all be the same, let alone the following four. So take a chance on this one. I think it's worth a watch for fans of the series and even those who may be new to the Pinhead and the puzzle box (though after you see this, I recommend going back and watching the first four films to get caught up).

Speaking of the puzzle box, my time with you is up and it's time to pass the box on to the Baron for your next review in this franchise.