Hellraiser: Inferno (2000) – Review

2 1/2 Stars

The fifth official entry in the Hellraiser series is the first to debut straight-to-DVD and it’s too bad because this frequently disturbing film would have benefited from a larger budget. Purists of the franchise will no doubt discard Inferno as inferior due to the lack of Pinhead and other cenobites that have dominated previous sequels. To be fair thats a valid argument, there is very little that ties this picture into the overall mythology built up over parts one through four. The story feels like it was originally set as a straight forward police procedural before the Hellraiser segments were grafted on in order to sell the film to a built in fan base. If that is not the case then the screenplay by Paul Harris Boardman and director Scott Derrickson builds steadily for an hour before totally going off the rails in the last act. Situations become confused and the main character awakes from an ‘it was only a dream’ stupor nearly half of a dozen times. It gets to the point that the audience doesn’t know whats supposed to be played on the level of reality and what is happening in this dream state, which ultimately causes indifference.

Craig Sheffer is rather good as a crooked cop who becomes obsessed with solving a homicide tied into the occult. The puzzle box that fans of the series will recognize is the main piece of evidence that Sheffer has in tracking down the killer. When all signs point to an enigmatic presence know as ‘the engineer’ terrifying vision begin to haunt the cop’s mind. Leading to a jumbled climax that takes place in a version of hell. Until the final 30 minutes Inferno is an above average mystery thriller with horror elements thrown in at just the precise moment to jolt audiences. There are some very disturbing and repellant images in the film and within the context of the story they are very effective. On a technical level the fifth Hellraiser film is impressive. Director Scott Derrickson is able to set a creepy tone in the opening moments and follows it through to the downbeat ending. The special effects are quite appalling specifically a shot of pinhead morphing from another character. These were obviously due to budget limitation which is understandable and part of the appeal of some of today’s lesser horror films.

Hellraiser: Inferno is not as good as the first or third in the series but it is a compelling entry into a series that had all but disappeared after Scream ushered in the age of self-referential horror pictures. Plus It’s always a pleasure to see slightly built English born thespian Doug Bradley as Pinhead and to hear composer Christopher Young’s fantastic score once again.

Director: Scott Derrickson
Stars: Craig Sheffer, Nicholas Turturro, James Remar

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