Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Hellraiser: Inferno (2000)

Director: Scott Derrickson
Notable Cast: Craig Sheffer, Doug Bradley, Nicholas Turturro, James Remar, Nicholas Sadler, Noelle Evans

"Ah, the eternal refrain of humanity. Pleading ignorance, begging for mercy. "Please, help me. I don't understand."

I would like everyone to stand up and give Hellraiser: Inferno a hand. Come on now. Okay, well maybe you may not agree with me, but I think this is what the Hellraiser series should have been! Forget all this slasher shit with Pinhead from Hell on Earth and Bloodline as the series attempted to water down its concept for mass consumption. Forget all of the ongoing threading of the last four films about the history of the box and its future and lets focus on what made the first film memorable and scary. Hell and the people that invite it into their lives. Because this one gets back to basics folks, and despite being the first in the series to go straight to DVD, I feel this one is the truest to the aspects that made the original Hellraiser such a watch. A gem of the series.

This time around the focus is placed on our protagonist Detective Thorne (played by Craig Sheffer, that cult cinema fans may remember from Nightbreed) whom starts to investigate a series of murders and incidents that place him in the center of blame. He is a flawed character (and perhaps the most human of any of the leads in the series due to him being so significantly flawed and yet a character with the most potential for great) and its his flaws that bring Hell down on him.

Inferno just reeks of great atmosphere as a film. Scott Derrickson brings his A-game to the film with a tight and fluid narrative that owns up to its concepts and runs with many of the lost tones and style from the first entry of the franchise. It really gets down to a story of a man fighting to find a way of hell only to find that hell has already found him. Throne is not a wholly likable character, but where previous entries focused on innocence fighting the pieces of hell unleashed, this film takes that and spins it to focus on a man deserving to be there who is desperately searching to save innocence (in the shape of a kidnapped child) from the reaches of a hell that increasingly gets more powerful. This is where conception finally meets execution too. Although at times the acting left a little to be desired and there were some very odd moments in the movie (the odd Western scene seemed a little out of place although still kind of awesome), this one tends to nail it every time for me. Not to mention that this one actually moves forward towards a nightmarish (both story wise and visually) conclusion that is finally reminiscent of what I would imagine a person's hell would be in the way that reality fully blurs into a timeless place where rationale has no boundaries. Lines of reality are blurred in this one and it makes it both a dynamic and aggressive watch.

I don't want to give too much away, but I know many people have issues that Pinhead doesn't show up until the very end of the film. I felt though that it made his presence all the more powerful (with Doug Bradley's powerful voice and wonderful lines!) and brought the character back to what he originally was...judgment. Thank you! FINALLY! I appreciate that in this film even if he has only a little screen time because his screen time is meant to be the final layer and obstacle for this one man's navigation through hell.

I'm not sure why so many people have issues with this film. Yeah, its not like the other sequels too much, and its definitely a more subtle take on the franchise, but I appreciate that a lot. And I appreciate it getting back to what I loved about numero uno...lets watch hell unfold.

"It's all a puzzle, isn't it, Joseph? Like a game of chess, perhaps. The pieces move, apparently aimlessly, but always towards one single objective: to kill the king. But who is the king in this game, Joseph? That is the question you must ask yourself." 

Written By Matt Reifschneider


  1. Excellent review, Matt-- just excellent. After seeing a few of the abominable "Hellraiser" movies subsequent to this one (which were Hellraiser in name only), as well as the mediocre entries 3 and 4, I was resigned to the sad fact that there would never be another installment remotely on par with the first two.

    However, I dubiously gave this one a shot--based on your review--and I have to say, I was extremely impressed. I don't have much to add; your review was pretty much spot on.
    This surely had a different flavor than the original pictures, but I loved how the tension just keeps ratcheting up, and like you said, despite his lessened screen time, Pinhead was somehow more powerful and regal for it (I despised how some of the other films made a mockery of him).

    Double kudos to the guys who did the outfits/makeup, the new Cenobites were creepy as all hell.

  2. This one sort of twists me into knots, because so much of it is so good--it's atmospheric, the Cenobites are legitimately creepy, and the scene where the twin female Cenobites massage Thorne beneath the flesh of his chest is probably the best expression of Clive Barker's pain/pleasure ideas that's ever been committed to film in any of these movies--, but it just gets Pinhead so wrong. How did the leader of a band of creatures who are, ostensibly, "explorers in the furthest reaches of experience" end up becoming a dull moralizer? The lack of the more visceral bits from the first couple of Hellraiser movies doesn't bother me--what bothers me is that, instead of showing up to revel in the "sweet suffering"--to really enjoy it, and to describe it in pleasurable, loving terms to Thorne, as is the character's wont--, he just gives Thorne a stern lecture on morality. Everything right with the movie turns sour at that point for me, because it's very much director Scott Derrickson (a practicing Christian) altering the character to reflect his ideology rather than working with the character he's been given, which is a hallmark of bad writing.