Four years after the utterly wasteful Hellraiser: Bloodline, Dimension Films decided to have another crack at the Hellraiser franchise with Hellraiser Inferno.
Detective Joseph Thorne (Craig Sheffer) is investigating the gruesome deaths of the serial killer The Engineer. Who leaves behind what looks to be the finger of a child at every scene. Knowing time is running out Thorne who must find out the truth, but due to Thornes inclination for drugs and prostitutes. He may have some inner demons that disrupt the case that comes to a head when he finds a certain puzzle box.
Starting with almost two full minutes of credits is never a good start for a film. Alas here we are in numero 5 of the Franchise that could have been so much more.
Interestingly Hellraiser: Inferno’s first sighting of Cenobites takes a little while and is of new female twin cenobites instead of Pinhead. Obviously appealing to Thornes cheating nature. They tease and tempt Thorne before slipping their hands under his skin to stroke his chest from either side. No that is not a mistake. It happens and you know what, that one short scene is far more interesting and actual Hellraiser based than what we have seen in several films. This scene feels like Pinhead has told his Cenobites to be more like Angelique from Bloodline. She was of the old school Hell who would tease and tempt the opener of the Lament Configuration into their world instead of the usual shock and awe approach. It is enjoyable to see a furthering of past storylines, even if that was not the intent.
Derrickson posits his film away from yearning for sexual pleasures that is beyond man. To the slow slide to the corruption of the police. A sneaking suspicion that Derrickson did not write this originally as a Hellraiser film lingers. The Hellraiser portions seemed tacked onto the script later on. They are added in very well it has to be said. It’s noticeable that this first started as a film about an anti-hero detective playing cat and mouse with a serial killer. Derrickson has said this was a spec script, but it feels too different in the opening hour or so. If a select number of scenes were removed from the film, it could easily work as a serial killer thriller film.
Without a doubt, this is a major issue for the film, in that while the last two films had Pinhead et al in it too much. Hellraiser: Inferno doesn’t have him in enough. Sure our serial killer looks like a cheap Cenobites, but they are needed to be in the film a bit more.
Pinheads rare screen role is a smart one. He always seemed like the judge over everything that went on. So for him to appear when he is required is suitable for this film. Yet, the Cenobites should not be absent for half of the film. We needed to have some glimpses of him and the Cenobites a bit more than what we do. The second glaring issue with the film is that Thorne is supposed to be an anti-hero. Yet he holds too many bad traits to become likeable. He does drugs, blackmails his partner, is a terrible husband, is an absentee father. Dumped his parents in a care home and choose not to visit them. Cheats on his wife with a prostitute and watches a torture tape beside guys playing darts.
It is almost to the point that Derrickson is making us cheer for the mysterious engineer. By making it all the more personal in the later in the film we are meant to feel towards him when we feel for anyone associated with him. Derrickson simply had Thorne be too much of a douche to bring him back for the audience. It is a shame as the performance from Craig Sheffer allows for the chance to feel towards him. But jeez, Thorne is not a likeable guy.
There are some successes in Hellraiser: Inferno and it would be unjust to not point them out. The overarching story works very well. As mentioned, this is not a psychosexual tale, but a morality one. How far down the rabbit hole of doom can a man go before even his innocent and the best version of himself is lost. Can he at any point safe himself to become the person he used or at the least could be? Derrickson directs us down this way with the greatest of ease and shows the talents as a writer and director that we would see later on over the next 20 years.
There has also been an exceptional amount of production work carried out here considering the budget. As expected, however, the budget didn’t stretch enough for the computer special effects. I for one never want to see digital pins on Pinhead again, thank you, please. Added with the production design, we have some great camera moves that are quite inventive for a 2000 era horror.
Hellraiser: Inferno is a great cat and mouse serial killer horror thriller. It just isn’t a Hellraiser film, no matter how inventive and well-intended it is with the concept.
If you enjoyed our review of Hellraiser: Inferno then feel free to have a read of our review of the previous films from the franchise. Hellraiser Hellbound: Hellraiser II Hellraiser: Hell on Earth and Hellraiser: Bloodline as we meander through the series.
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