Hellraiser: Inferno (2000)
Release Date: October 3rd, 2000 MPAA Rating: R
Director: Scott Derrickson Actors: Craig Sheffer, Nicholas Turturro, James Remar, Doug Bradley, Noelle Evans, Lindsay Taylor, Sasha Barrese
n Colorado, cocaine-snorting, money-lifting, prostitute-soliciting Denver police detective Joseph Thorne (Craig Sheffer) has always had a thing for puzzles. When he’s called to the scene of a crime, where a victim, Jay Cho, has been torn to shreds in what appears to be a satanic ritual, Thorne is drawn into one of the most perplexing murders he’s ever had to solve. Among the collected evidence is a child’s severed finger and the familiar puzzle box – an ancient gateway to alternate dimensions, primarily hell. His partner Detective Tony Nenonen (Nicholas Turturro) is always nearby but largely useless. After playing with the brass cube, Joseph is tormented by a pair of horribly disfigured twin women, garbed in shiny black leather with stitched-shut eyes. When he tries to escape, a mutilated torso with chattering teeth and pale flesh stalks him up the staircase.
He awakes the next morning, chocking up the experience to a particularly vivid nightmare. But the hooker he spent the night with, Daphne (Sasha Barrese), winds up dead, her body hung in a shower with another finger placed on a shelf. Following clues to tattoo artist Leon Gaultier (Matt George), Thorne learns of a mysterious character called “The Engineer,” who becomes his number one suspect for the string of murders. Despite warnings of the dangerous nature of the enigmatic killer, Thorne pushes his snitch Bernie (Nicholas Sadler) to contact someone who once interacted with the Engineer. When Joseph is delivered a videotape showing the brutal slaughtering of Bernie, he rushes to his captain, only to determine that the cassette has been erased. Forced to visit department counselor Dr. Paul Gregory (James Remar), Thorne begins to wonder if all of the evidence he’s encountered is mere insanity-spurred delusion, or if the box has unleashed sinister creatures that are dispatching his friends and family.
Mismatched, artsy cinematography, teamed with misplaced slow-motion and noirish music make “Hellraiser: Inferno” tonally less faithful to the franchise than any other entry (it’s also the first to go straight to video, skipping even a brief theatrical run). Walter Werzowa’s score is peppered with rock and jazz and only occasionally creepy, screeching violin tunes, but the flashbacks and death scenes resemble snippets from a psychological thriller. The famous horror movie creation Pinhead (Doug Bradley) rarely makes an appearance, relegated to a supporting role that only inhabits dreams. And his face is only seen once during the entire first half of the film, with limited screentime after that. The film noir narration by Thorne is similarly discordant with the traditional slasher aspects of the franchise, with crime scenes replacing the typical bloodshed.
Returning is the grisly violence and nightmarishly hallucinatory imagery, now accompanied by appalling sound effects that significantly amplify the brutality. Also reappearing is the mediocre acting, led by Turturro, who can’t seem to deliver a single line convincingly. Remar’s appearance is something of a precursor to his stint on “Dexter,” while the sets and atmosphere mix in the unnerving strangeness of the “Silent Hill” video game from the previous year.
For the first time, the moniker “Lament Configuration” is used; and the term “cenobite” makes a conspicuous appearance in Gregory’s research. The use of the box and its demon denizens serves to mentally persecute and ultimately frame Thorne for a number of heinous murders, much like the plot of “Candyman” from 1992, instead of taking center stage as antagonists that collect and terrorize souls. Their mission is no longer to bring hell to earth, but rather to assist in the cerebral deterioration of an individual for the sake of moral revelations. How disappointing to take such petrifying movie monsters and stick them in a nonsensical dream-within-a-dream-within-a-dream premise, which is too philosophically knotty for its own good.
– Mike Massie