There were key movies in my life that helped to make me who I am today. Movies that I have loved from the moment the opening credit rolled and still love now. This blog series is about those, My guilty pleasures, my favorites, my escapes. Some were very popular, others not so much. Some of these will have some real life take-aways, others are just for fun.
Until recently I would only discuss films that were massive parts of my life in these reviews but, since I am covering the Hellraiser franchise as a whole, I can’t just stop at the last one I saw as a kid, oh no, we are in this for the long haul. So, today we continue our discussion of the Hellraiser franchise with Hellraiser Inferno.
Today’s Key Movie:
A wayward and hedonistic detective with a knack for solving puzzles tracks down a mysterious killer known as The Engineer only to run into the puzzle box opening a door to his own personal hell. Starring Craig Sheffer, Nicholas Turturro, James Remar and Doug Bradley returning as Pinhead this is the fifth film in the Hellraiser franchise.
Why this movie?
As I mentioned in my review of Hellraiser Bloodline, I stopped watching the Hellraiser films around this time for one main reason, it’s creator, Clive Barker had left the franchise to it’s own devices and so, I followed. You see, by the time Inferno was released, I had become more of a Barker fan than a Hellraiser fan so it just felt wrong to continue watching someone else’s interpretations of a property I loved because of it’s creator. Although I really enjoyed the previous entry I never felt compelled to give this particular entry a try. Which, on hindsight, may have been a mistake.
This particular entry plays out like that of a classic Detective Noir but with a Hellraiser twist. Instead of the usual all bets are off apocalyptical tale with everyone trying to stop Hell on Earth, this story is more like a singular event in the Cenobites history showing a detective (Sheffer) as he tries to track down murders that are eerily similar to that committed by the Cenobites themselves. We soon learn that the culprit is known only as The Engineer who leaves Detective Thorne mysterious clues taunting him as this killer continues to escape Thorne’s grasp. Unfortunately for Thorne, he has a bad habit of hedonism and infidelity that is quite attractive to a certain race of overly sexual demonic beings…not to mention he runs into a certain puzzle box…and begins his slow decent into a madness of his own creation. Ironically The Engineer is also the name of one of the Cenobites from the second film and the original Novella but that fact is pretty much ignored here.
While the Cenobites torment Thorne throughout the film in subtle maddening ways, when Pinhead finally shows up, it is when you least expect it even though his presence is there throughout. I won’t spoil the twist in this story as it is a genuinely clever one that made me wish I had given this film a chance when it first came out. While this is not the gore fest we have come to know and love from the previous instalments, it is a very solid and cleverly laid out story that shows us the Cenobites true purpose in Hell, torturing the damned.
You like it, but is it really a ‘good’ movie?
Hellraiser Inferno is a film that shows how you can have a significantly frightening Hellraiser film without using the Cenobites themselves in excess. In this tale, it is the madness that Thorne experiences that brings the terror and uncertainty throughout. The beauty of this story is that there is a twist that is something truly clever and unique while remaining well within the Hellraiser theme. Yes, there is a lot of blood and the typical Hellraiser tortures, but done in a way that is original and fresh. Even the special effects, though minimal, are done with care and providing the film with a surreal yet grounded quality that works through and through.
While Inferno is rather slow compared to the rest of the franchise, Director Scott Derrickson does a great job throughout with the pacing and tone. You might recognize this name as he is also the director who would later write and film Marvel’s Doctor Strange as well as the modern horror classic Sinister. Derrickson does Barker’s creation justice through and through with a very solid cast at his disposal. Everyone in this film plays their parts to their fullest, from the lead Craig Sheffer to even the supporting cast with Nicholas Turturro as his partner and James Remar as the Detectives Psychiatrist, they are pretty much perfect.
Overall, while this is not a Clive Barker Hellraiser film, I am pleased to say that it is one that does the franchise justice. While it is far from the visceral and sexual horror that the franchise is known for, it manages to be more of a psychological horror in only the best ways. The genius of this story is that, if you know the franchise or the mythos you will pick up on the subtle hits as to what is going on, but only if you pay attention. This is a clever one and honestly, one worth seeing, just don’t expect what you may have gotten used to from the previous films.
Watching this and knowing the works of Barker, I also have to wonder if writer Paul Harris Boardman was inspired by one of Clive’s other characters, one Detective Harry D’Amour. While Thorne only bares a passing resemblance to this other character as Thorne has no real connection to the occult as D’Amour did, the fact that this is essentially a Barkeresque Detective story presents undeniable parallels. Interestingly, D’Amour would later face off with Pinhead himself in the book The Scarlet Gospels which marked Barkers return to the franchise in book form for the first time since the Bloodline. I highly recommend it, it’s a solid read.
OK, where do I get this movie?
You can pick up Inferno with Bloodline and the next two films for a pretty good price here. This is a good one and well worth your time. Next week we discuss an entry that marks the return of Kristy Cotton in Hellraiser: Hellseeker. Until then…
Late To The Game 7/1/2021
If you would like to read more reviews please check out the rest of the Key Movies Of My Life that comes out every Thursday.
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