The fifth instalment in the Hellraiser franchise is actually a return to form, a solid horror thanks to it’s mixing of the puzzle box ethos with a standard detective storyline. It may not be quite in the neo-noir mould but it comes close and is all the better for it.
Craig Sheffer (the guy you could rely on to play a rat bastard in the 80s if James Spader wasn’t available) plays Detective Joseph Thorne, a man who takes money from wallets he finds at crime scenes, has sex with hookers while his wife and daughter sleep at home and generally struts around like the cock of the walk. His partner, Detective Tony Nenonen (Nicholas Turturro), is his partner, he’s not a bad guy but he’s also not as smart as Thorne. When Thorne wakes up in a motel room beside a slaughtered hooker he drags his partner along to help him cover up any evidence that he was there. Something strange is going on. Something linked to a puzzle box and some underworld character known as The Engineer. Thorne is determined to catch this guy despite the warnings that if you hunt The Engineer, The Engineer ends up hunting you. Things get increasingly dark and insane as Thorne gets closer to his target.
Directed by Scott Derrickson, who also co-wrote the screenplay with Paul Harris Boardman, Hellraiser: Inferno does what the better Hellraiser movies do so well. Instead of aiming for the easy, cheap, slasher-style thrills that parts three and four went for it maintains itself as a movie aimed at adults. Yes, it has the gore and nastiness in there but it also has a certain intelligence and doesn’t feel the need to bring Pinhead onscreen every few minutes just to make a smartass comment.
The other big plus that the movie has is the cast. Sheffer is very good in the lead role, Turturro is okay as his partner and the great James Remar is the great James Remar. That covers the three main leads but all of the supporting players also do well.
The visuals, the dreamy horror, the new cenobite variations, all of these things are done justice and occasionally mix the sexual with the masochistic in a way close to the original two movies (especially the gruesome scene in which Sheffer is dreaming that he is being lusted over by two strange females).It’s a real shame that people may miss this one because of how poor it’s predecessor is because Hellraiser: Inferno is one of the few sequels that actually deserves to be seen by fans of the franchise. Seek it out if you haven’t seen it already.