The fifth entry marks a stark turning point for the series.
Hellraiser: Inferno is the first of a few films in the series that were originally written as something else, and the Hellraiser stuff was shoveled in to make it more marketable. This straight-to-DVD sequel marks the point in the series where all hope is truly lost. I am surprised that Doug Bradley would continue at this point. Further, the movies aren’t even numbered anymore, I am numbering them just so I can keep them straight. The days of watching two movies and then writing reviews seems to be over as these films are becoming so interchangeable I need to write them as I watch.
We follow scumbag Detective Joseph Thorne (Craig Sheffer) who does drugs, cheats on his wife, and overall just an asshole. Sure, this guy is ripe for the Cenobites, but doesn’t that seem a little easy? In the first film, the family is dysfunctional, but they aren’t evil at first. Setting up Thorne as so one dimensional means that we as the audience can only be so invested in him.
Thorne is hunting a serial killed nicknamed the Engineer, who is leaving behind a child’s finger at each crime scene. The killings seem linked to Thorne—someone he knew, or someone he cared for. It is hard to be too involved as Thorne is so unlikable, and it doesn’t help that the acting is pretty stiff. His voiceover that is stupidly hypocritical (“I believe in fidelity” while picking up a prostitute) adds nothing.
Twelve minutes in and you can tell they were more concerned with making the film look edgy than making it well done. The editing and directing are weird. We go from noir-style to super psychedelic with no reasoning in between. The film is trying to feel like a dream, but it doesn’t embrace the surrealism at the right moments to pull this off. Sometimes it does work, and these parts are welcome.
If the film does anything right it is the creatures. The demonic beings are back to being weird and hypersexual in a way that we have not seen since the first two. This coupled with some interesting scenes make parts of this film interesting. It is too bad that stifled dialogue and stiff movements in between these moments make the film a bit of a drag.
The surreal moments provide a bit of a Hellraiser fix, but that is about all the film has going for it. Thorne’s investigation is routine. The acting is lacking throughout, and as we plod through the expected tropes of an underground investigation we can start to see what this film might have been originally envisioned as. A super killer who taunts those who hunts him. I think it would have been serviceable alone, but they decided to shove in the Hellraiser themes. Thorne’s dumbassness and assholeishness knows no bounds, and as he betrays he partner it all comes tumbling down. Mind you, this is before the hallway point in the film.
We have a crappy detective thriller with about 10 minutes or so of Hellraiser imagery. I would have preferred a short film of just the Hellraiser stuff. Instead we get a mixed bag of about a dozen different styles of directing all complete with pithy dialogue cheesy enough to make anyone groan.
There is a big twist here, and I suppose I may as well spoil it. So, Spoiler warning!
It is all in Thorne’s head. His therapist is actually Pinhead, and the Engineer is his evil side. Pinhead has been psychologically torturing him for… reasons? Doesn’t really seem like Pinhead’s style—but whatever. I guess they figured this is the best way to fit it all together.
I guess the twist is somewhat hard to see coming. Not because it is foreshadowed well, or the mystery keeps you guessing, but because it doesn’t make any damn sense. (The detective fights with ninja cowboys in the forest—not kidding). Nothing makes any sense here, and not in the way that in hell there are no rules, but in the studios need money so anything goes.
Whatever direction the series once had seems to be long gone here. A bad sequel doesn’t necessarily kill a franchise, but we now have more crappy Hellraiser films than good ones—and that is hard to come back from. We also have five different directors for five films—another thing that is going to be hard to recover from. With almost all of the films we can kind of see the potential, but that is getting harder to grasp with each go around. It really seems like the best thing we can hope for is a stupid franchise like Freddy. It is sad to say that a crappy repeat of the first would be better than what this has become. About ten interesting minutes out of one hundred—not worth it. 3/10