In many ways this was breath of fresh air when I stumbled across it in 2000 or 2001. I had no idea it was even coming out when I saw it on the used video tape shelf at Blockbuster and I immediately bought it. Four had been a big let down for me (I even saw it in the theatre, and I had no inkling that the workprint existed yet) and this was actually arefreshing return to form.
I think this film is jarring to a lot of people because it’s SO different from the other Hellraiser movies. We’re back to a small personal story after the world and star spanning scope of Hellraiser Bloodlines, and man is this a head trip with a twist ending. Still, I dug the twist and the trippyness. I got it. I will admit that I was disappointed by how little Pinhead was in it (then again that would prepare me for his limited appearances in all of the DTV movies) but on the other hand we also got some very cool new cenobites with no real eyes and Lament glyphs carved into their flesh, moreover, the main bad guy the Engineer had a VERY Hellraiser look to him
Another thing that made it feel a little Hellraiser was the inclusion of Craig Schiffer. He’s definitely Barker alumni having played the main character in Clive Barker’s Night Breed. He’s even more of an anti-hero in this and it suits him. I think I believe him in this role more than I ever did as Cabal. Perhaps it’s just his age. He’s grown into his look and he plays the world weary cop type perfectly. Nicholas Tourtino is a brilliant piece of casting as his partner by the way, being as familiar with him as I already was from stuff like NYPD Blue.
There”s just enough gore hereto satisfy, probably a more satisfying type of gore in fact than what we’d seen in recent years. That was actually one of my main complaints with Bloodline, it seemed like the most inventive use of gore was during the dissection scene and even that was fairly tame. Then again, Bloodline was a fairly straightforward movie (muddled mess that it was, it didn’t aspire to anything more than by-the-numbers slasher fare. Inferno wants to get under your skin (no pun intended). It wants to unease you, to disturb you. They throw images at you that are meant to make you do a double take – “did I just see that” and it fits since at the end (Spoilers) we learn that most of the film in in Craig Schiffer’s head. He’s in his own personal hell. Those little cells we see in Helbound? He’s in one, and is experiencing this mentally. It makes sense, different tortures for different people. For Craig, the slicing and punishing of flesh isn’t torture enough, his bad choices have to be paraded in front of him. Regret is far more painful than razors through skin.
But….that’s also where the Hellraiser fan in me begins to have an issue.
You see, the Hell of Leviathan isn’t the Judeo-Christian Hell. That’s made clear…(at least back in the 80’s and 90’s it was, Clive seems to have changed his position on that in the last ten years or so) it’s a different dimension filled with extradimensional beings who crave order. We call it Hell because that’s the name we use for the worst thing we can think of and they have accepted the name, but it’s not the Hell the Bible speaks of. They don’t care if you’re good or evil, they just care about desire…and flesh. Inferno seems a little too judgemental…not that I have an issue with that in of itself, it’s just a little out of place in Hellraiser. Again, my best rationalize it is that this was determined to be the best way to torment Craig Schiffer’s character and we simply haven’t seen it before. It’s a good explanation and I’m fine with it, but I shouldn’t have to figure out how it fits in the mythology myself.
Still, that’s a small complaint, and one aimed more at appeasing Hellraiser fans who are driven nuts by this element. All in all, this is a really good supernatural detective story. It feels like something you wouldn’t be surprised to se Harry D’Amore in. If you go in not expecting to see too much Pinhead (despite his rather prominent appearance on the cover) and knowing it’s going to be a head trip, I think you will quite enjoy this one. This is back when Hellraiser still had a budget and a great cast. Definitely give this one a try on demand or borrow it from a friend.