This is part of my Horrorathon for Mothers/Men Against Senseless Killings (aka MASK).
From IMDb: A shady police detective becomes embroiled in a strange world of murder, sadism and madness after being assigned a murder investigation against a madman known only as “The Engineer”.
I love when horror can really tap into another genre and run wild with it. In Hellraiser: Inferno‘s case, it takes a detective noir and lets it quickly turn into a horror movie without losing the ‘gritty, corrupt detective trying to crack a case’ elements.
This sequel has a lot working against it. It’s the fifth entry in the Hellraiser franchise. It is the first Hellraiser to be released straight to DVD, and to not have the support or influence of Clive Barker. Barker did have a script idea that involved Kirsty returning to fend off a group of Cenobite worshipping cultists, and a giant puzzle box engulfing London. The studio reminded him of the straight to video budget and said no.
Two people who hadn’t been involved with the previous films, Scott Derrickson and Paul Harris Boardman, were asked to pitch an idea for the new Hellraiser. Derrickson liked the idea of someone having to reconcile the conflict between their innocence and corruption, and came up with this. Derrickson also wanted to downplay Pinhead’s role, and make him more of a mystery like in the first film. All of this background means this film should not work.
Yet it does work.
I have seen this once previously, and remembered being pleasantly surprised. Upon this rewatch, I’m struck by the clever way it blends a detective noir with a straight up Jacob’s Ladder meets Silent Hill horror film. It swaps the typically blue Cenobites for flesh colored Slenderman like nightmares, including twin Cenobites with some serious Silent Hill 2 nurse vibes.
There are two seriously horrific moments that are created with just sound design alone as a character hears another character get brutally murdered off screen, one of which felt like emotional torture just to hear.
Also I’m going to give this major props for having an even grosser hooks in face moment than the first Hellraiser. It is better than any straight to video fifth sequel has any right to be, undoubtedly thanks to being co-written and directed by Scott Derrickson of Sinister fame.
Although the ending is a bit frustrating and this takes liberties with how the box works, I think it is a superior sequel that works in its own way apart from the original four films which all built on one another. It is interesting to imagine the Lament Configuration inflicting emotional pain instead of physical pain.
I know Clive Barker wasn’t a fan of this one, and I’ll admit it has both frustrating and laughable moments, but I enjoyed it so much I didn’t want to spoil it with a recap. So I’ll just suggest watching it on your own and seeing what you think. Preferably your version of a corrupt detective’s liquor of choice.
Some Random Observations
I love the opening shot of the main character breaking the fourth wall, and the noir-appropriate voiceovers he does throughout the film. The direction and writing on this are shockingly good for straight to video.
- This is also the first Hellraiser movie to call the puzzle box the Lament Configuration (hence the reason I kept calling it the puzzle box in previous posts)
- I actually think the Pinhead in this film acts more aligned with the Pinhead of the first two films. In these films, his presence is meant to inflict punishment in creative ways on people who summon him vs. indiscriminately kill. The third and fourth feel a bit like “Pinhead Gone Wild” (trademark pending)
- There is a sex scene in this film that makes “the J.P. experience” from Hellraiser III: Hell on Earth look like an absolute delight:
On another subject I just love this weird visual of a child king spinning around:
So that’s all I have for this one. Give it a shot, and see what you think.