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A spine-tingling thriller, HELLRAISER: INFERNO is the next inescapably terrifying chapter in the heart-stopping HELLRAISER series! It's the powerful story of a shady L.A. detective (Craig Sheffer -- THE PROGRAM, A RIVER RUNS THROUGH IT) who finds himself lost in a darkly nightmarish world of evil when he solves the mysterious puzzle box that releases the diabolical demon, Pinhead! As those around him begin to meet tragic fates, he sets out to conquer the horrifying Pinhead and escape eternal hell! Also starring popular Nicholas Turturro (TV's NYPD BLUE, EXCESS BAGGAGE), HELLRAISER: INFERNO combines great special effects and relentless thrills to deliver exciting, edge-of-your-seat entertainment!
This is the first Hellraiser sequel that doesn't bear the imprimatur of creator Clive Barker, and that makes it a sequel that many Hellraiser fans will want to disown, but they shouldn't dismiss it altogether. Now under the control of Miramax producers Bob and Harvey Weinstein, the franchise takes an entirely new direction, and Inferno is primarily a detective thriller in which a corrupt cop (Craig Sheffer) takes on a case that will judge his soul and, ultimately, damn him forever. His judge and jury will be Pinhead (Doug Bradley) and his legion of twisted Cenobites, but before he can be tried and condemned, Sheffer's cop will watch as those around him are killed off one by one, leaving a trail of blood (and telltale severed fingers) that leads back to the torment of his own youth.
So, what you really have here is a variation on It's a Wonderful Life and A Christmas Carol, with all the themes reversed to hellish extremes. The plot doesn't hold together all that well, but you can't fault the film for establishing and maintaining a heavily somber tone. This is pretty dark stuff, after all, and although Hellraiser fans will lament that Pinhead's appearance is relatively brief, he's presented here in an intriguing new light--not merely an icon of pain and suffering, but a giver of counsel and justice to those (like Sheffer's cop) who arguably deserve the eternal anguish they will receive. Does that make Pinhead a good guy? If this otherwise lugubrious sequel achieves anything, it's that it raises that question and lets the viewer decide. --Jeff ShannonSee all Editorial Reviews
- "Secrets of Hellraiser Revealed" A conversation with Doug Bradley (Pinhead)
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The story: Corrupt detective Joseph Thorne (Craig Sheffer, A River Runs Through It) sees the sleazy, cushy life he's created for himself turn into a nightmare when a brutal crime scene leads him to the Lament Configuration - opening the door to a mind-bending case regarding a mysterious "Engineer" and terrifying apparitions.
"Inferno" is a stand-alone story in the "Hellraiser" universe: it's the first movie which neither follows the plot laid in the original film nor attempts to significantly develop any existing character. The movie plays from the protagonist's perspective, hardly referencing any past canon and making every new discovery about the Cenobites scarier. What I love most about this is that it throws a new shroud of mystery over Pinhead & Co.: after seeing the Cenobites thoroughly deconstructed in the last two movies, it's great to have them presented as enigmatic monsters again.
Director Scott Derrickson would eventually find mainstream success with movies like Sinister, but he shows off his ability to create a very chilling atmosphere in the low-budget realm. Personally, I think this is the most frightening of the series since the first movie. There are some moments which disengage you - the CGI inserts are noticeably dated, and there's a totally incomprehensible scene wherein Thorne is accosted and beaten up by two karate cowboys - but by and large, a consistent mood of dread and foreboding persists. The scares themselves exist within this mood: there are very few jump-shocks, and most of the truly scary moments come from the creepy imagery (e.g. the old man in the wheelchair) and the macabre revelations (e.g. the mattress). There's a definite Jacob's Ladder influence, here.
"Inferno" is one of only a handful of movies I've seen use audio to convey its most brutal scenes. There are three instances wherein a Cenobite (Ray Miceli) tortures his victims to death off-screen, and I'll admit to needing to mute the DVD for those parts. Fair enough, this isn't an even trade-off for the almost artful bloodletting seen in the past flicks, but there's still some of that to be seen and I like to think that it makes an impression. The initial scene featuring the female Cenobites is relatively stomach-churning.
The acting is pretty good. Craig Sheffer plays his role better and better the most anxious the character gets, and James Remar (Django Unchained) has a few atmospheric scenes as a psychiatrist-priest. Doug Bradley's Pinhead speeches steal the show.
You must decide for yourself whether you want to watch this one. Fans of the originals can let it be and not worry about missing any pertinent story bits, but general horror fans can hop right in. Despite my squeamishness, I like it a lot and would recommend it to viewers looking for a chill.
My favorite works of his have always been the Nightbreed and Hellraiser series. Back in the late 80's, Clive licensed out the creative right for Hellraiser to Epic Comics, and several up and coming writers (Mike Mignola, Neil Gaiman, etc.) would write fantastic short stories based on the Hellraiser rhelms. These stories would always have a demented twist or sense of irony along the lines of Twilight Zone or Creepshow.
That is what "Hellraiser: Inferno" reminds me of. A really good short story. An episode or Tales From the Darkside or Twilight Zone. I'll warn you now, you get only one or two minutes of Pinhead or any other cenobites; so if that's what you're after, you're bound to be disappointed. The Hellraiser story has always been about the box, and the effect it has on those who find it...or who it finds :)
I don't really get the "direct to video" sense of cheapness from this film. The film quality is fine, the acting in good (the main character is played by Craig Scheffer, who also played Boone in "Nightbreed"!), and the effects are gory enough for a Hellraiser movie. It was probably on a budget, but they worked well within those constraints to produce a pretty good movie.