Horror Movie Review: Hellraiser V: Inferno (2000)


The Hellraiser movie series has certainly had its ups and downs over the years and with each new installment it seems to drift further and further away from what it once was. Other than the original, I can’t help but feel that up to this point it’s ultimately failed in being what it sought out to be; Clive Barker himself would agree with this statement. Hellraiser movies are meant to be gritty, dark, psychological horror’s that assault the senses in terrifying fashion and in my opinion that’s exactly what Hellraiser: Inferno does. It succeeds where previous sequels had failed and gives us the Hellraiser movie we’ve all been waiting for and I’ll do my best at explaining why that is.

Joseph Thorne is an intelligent yet corrupt Denver police detective who regularly indulges in drug use and infidelity during the course of duty. While investigating what appears to be a ritual murder, Thorne discovers a strange puzzle box, which he takes home in order to indulge his fascination with puzzles. After solving the box, Thorne begins to experience odd hallucinations, such as being seduced by a pair of mutilated women and being chased by a chattering creature with no eyes or legs. Thorne also makes a connection between the murder and a killer known as “The Engineer,” who is suspected of having kidnapped a child. Thorne goes in search of the Engineer, who in turn begins murdering Thorne’s friends and associates, leaving behind one of the child’s fingers at every crime scene; Interesting premise right?

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Inferno explores the possibilities of redemption. Thorne’s character is certainly a very flawed individual and not the most likeable of people but he knows it.  His determination to solve the case and hopefully save a human life is in his mind the path to redeeming himself, in front of his own eyes, his family, and those around him. The actor who plays Thorne delivers a fantastic, convincing performance which greatly helps in solidifying the idea. Another character I really enjoyed was James Remar as Thorne’s Councillor Paul Gregory and when we do eventually see Pinhead good old Doug Bradley is back on form, delivering lines with a powerful, convincing tone reminiscent of the original Hellraiser.

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The Cenobites in Inferno are not any we’ve seen from the past or future however you want to make sense of the confusing timeline. There are the two female Cenobites who in my opinion possibly hint at how the box can bring pain for some and pleasure for others; which is mentioned in the original. The makeup is really well done and I particularly like Pinhead’s makeup in this, its just stands out so well in that black back drop. The crawling chattering Cenobite is a welcomed addition being very creepy, it certainly reminded me of the version from the original two movies.

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The unfolding story surrounding the engineer is gripping and even makes the viewer question Thorn’s sanity as everything continues to conspire against him. There is a big twist reveal near the end that’s worth waiting for just because of how awesome it is. Visually Inferno is as impressive as the first two Hellraiser movies; gone are the b-movie quality effects and Cenobite designs which played part in the failure of the third and fourth films. Scene’s that I particularly enjoyed were those involving snow fall, it makes certain moments really surreal and can even be quite stunning to look at. The narration by Thorne and the story involving his child and wife really reminded me of certain scenes from the original Max Payne; the dream stage comes to mind.

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Inferno is by no means perfect, I found myself quite confused about certain aspects of the movie involving the men dressed as cowboys and the people selling boxes for the engineer. Are they working for Pinhead & the Cenobites or are they Cenobites themselves, you never find out which is annoying. Also, up until the moment that Thorne actually opens the box the movie is just an average film about a corrupt cop and interestingly enough that’s because that’s exactly what it was meant to be until Dimension films ordered the script to be rewritten so it would involve Pinhead and the Cenobites effectively turning it into a Hellraiser movie.

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Inferno may not be the scariest Hellraiser movie but when it is creepy it does it in a much more subtle way which is very effective. A scene at a hospital involving Thorne’s parents is quite frightening which is wonderful to see. The reveal of Pinhead at the end of the movie isn’t the end for Thorne, unlike other entries he doesn’t just appear and tear him apart right away; he wants to make him suffer first and it’s really well done.

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I now consider Hellraiser: Inferno to be my third favorite Hellraiser movie and that’s because it’s exactly what I think a Hellraiser movie should be. Pinhead isn’t seen until late in the movie and even then we don’t see him for very long but that’s exactly what I love about it. Unlike Bloodline this isn’t a Pinhead that you could escape or outsmart; he knows your deepest, darkest fears and desires and he’ll use them against you in every way possible. The movie helps re-add some much needed mystery to the character and does well to ignore how much the previous sequels had damaged him. Bradley gives a performance on par with the original and Pinhead’s reveal at the end is one of my favorite scenes to date. It’s a true mystery story that will keep you guessing until the very end; its obvious Pinhead and the Cenobites are behind it all but the way it’s executed is brilliant. I imagine some people will be disappointed with the lack of gore in comparison to the others but I found that when the gore did come it was much more shocking and Inferno didn’t really need it to be honest.

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The strangest thing to me is that the most common complaint as to why Inferno is a poor Hellraiser movie is because Pinhead is barely on screen at all. Personally I see this as one of the movies strengths and that’s because it gives the character back some much needed mystery and the moments we do see him are much more impactful overall. I found the moments he was on screen to be much tenser than previously and thought that this version of pinhead was truer to the original version than any sequel I’ve seen so far. Funnily enough Pinhead actually appears on screen more in this movie than the original two films combined but you don’t see anyone complaining about that. It’s hard to judge Inferno in comparison to other Hellraiser movies because it’s just so damn different that it’s hard to believe this is a Hellraiser movie at all at times. I see this as a standalone Hellraiser movie that succeeds in just about every area that all others failed.

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I watched Hellraiser: Inferno with very low expectations after the disappointment that was Bloodline and I’m glad I did. It’s the Hellraiser movie that I’ve been waiting to see and gives the viewers back the version of Pinhead that they loved from the two original movies. Inferno is a fantastic Psychological crime horror and even though it isn’t comparable with the first two because well, they’re classic, hold high nostalgic value and are very different in a lot of ways, it’s certainly the best sequel after Hellbound by a country mile.

Hellraiser V: Inferno
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