THE BLACK SHEEP is an ongoing column featuring different takes on films that either the writer HATED, but that the majority of film fans LOVED, or that the writer LOVED, but that most others LOATH. We’re hoping this column will promote constructive and geek fueled discussion. Dig in!
Hellraiser: Inferno (2000)
Directed by Scott Derrickson
I’ve never really been a big fan of the Hellraiser films, but that’s not for a lack of trying. I’ve seen Clive Barker’s original several times, though somehow that film or the series has never really grabbed me. Maybe it’s Pinhead (though no disrespect to the nails-in-face man in black leather. It’s me, not you). Maybe it’s the utter darkness and despair of them, where even the gore doesn’t bring any fun to the table. And no, I’m not the kind who needs my horror intermixed with slapstick antics, but that doesn’t mean some entertainment can't be in there somewhere. Hellraiser never entertained me.
With that said, it hasn’t kept me from giving further entries a shot. Much like the Halloween series, you never know what you’re going to get. Sometimes a sequel is just horrific garbage, while other times things end up giving some surprising enjoyment. So is the case for the fifth franchise entry, Hellraiser: Inferno.
“This is the hell that you have created for yourself,” explains everyone’s favorite piercing expert Pinhead. “Welcome to hell.”
Oh the dramatics! But that’s what director/co-writer Scott Derrickson (Deliver Us From Evil and the dude just got Doctor Strange!) attempts to do, bring reality to a series not generally known for it. He does his best to keep things grounded while fusing together a few different films, mostly Hellraiser (kinda obvious with the title), The Shining, and Seven. The end product is what I dig most about Hellraiser: Inferno as it plays trippy as balls (think of a brooding detective investigating the nightmare of The Shining).
Dirty cop Joseph Thorne (Craig Sheffer) isn’t the most noble guy, snorting coke, stealing coke and money from victims, banging hookers, setting up his partner (though he loves his daughter, so there’s that). However, as soon as he starts investigating a series of brutal murders and finds a little box, things start to unravel as he has trouble deciphering reality from nightmare, which is really the strength of the movie. Sometimes watching a character lose their damn mind is either unbelievable or uninteresting, but this avoids both. Going insane is some scary looking shit.
I’m sure fans of the series might have issues with this entry as most of the mythology built from the previous four entries have mostly vanished minus the mystery box and Pinhead himself. Hell, I’d wager Pinhead has roughly five minutes of screen time. Instead, we follow around Thorne while faceless demons do all the dirty work, killing innocents and hiding a severed finger somewhere close to the bodies (demons need hobbies, too, I guess). With that said, out of the long lasting horror franchises that have been spared the reboot treatment, how many lost focus of what truly mattered? With so many writers and directors, they have to shake things up to remain interesting. Gotta give some credit for trying.
The bad of Hellraiser: Inferno comes from things don’t always make a lot of sense as to why this is all happening to Thorne or even what the plot actually is, but you know, that’s an easy fault to overlook because of the stellar visuals and the demented nature of the whole damn thing. For a direct to DVD film, the special effects are mostly quite good.
Thankfully, Derrickson stayed away from the dreaded dated CGI, going with a practical effects instead. At times things look a little too cheap (like a character’s transformation into Pinhead…that one just looks awful). But overall, the film looks great and finds a new to play with chains and leather.