Monday, March 17, 2008

Hellraiser: Inferno

I think this may be my favorite film in the Hellraiser series. Made after the franchise had fallen into straight to video hell, it largely eschews the series’ apocalyptic overtones in favor of telling a grim detective story. It’s not really like any of the other films in the series (at least of the ones that I’ve seen), and that definitely works in its favor.

The film follows a corrupt detective that’s trying to solve a series of murders orchestrated by a man known only as the Engineer, who seems to be specifically targeting people that the detective knew, starting with a prostitute he had slept with. Of course, it shouldn’t be too much of a surprise to fans of the series who eventually gets involved in these shenanigans, or that a mysterious puzzle box would present itself at the first crime scene, but it’s nicely done in how subtly they’re dealt with. There’s no screaming in your face demons here (even though I admittedly enjoyed the third film in the series for just that reason – what can I say, my reasoning skills are not without their inconsistencies), just a man and his own personal demons, and how he allows them to slowly destroy him. Of course, there are the required Clive Barker moments, like how his initial leads to the Engineer take him to a gay bondage club, because why not, and there’s always the requisite punishing chains that always accompany Pinhead and the rest of the Cenobites, but these elements are all very surprisingly held in check for most of the movie, for the most part only used to wrap everything up and explain what exactly has been going on.

I of course will not say what is going on, as that would be unfair to the movie, and since I try not to spoil the endings of movies that I hate, you can rest assured that I won’t do it to one that I actually quite liked. Indeed, given how most of the movies in the series, at least from what I’ve seen (parts 1-3 and this one), don’t really connect to each other aside from the Cenobites and the puzzle box, you could easily make this the first or only Hellraiser film you ever see, and it won’t leave you lost.

As I said in my review of the third film, I’m really not a big fan of this series. Compared to the Halloween or Nightmare on Elm Street series, this one is definitely second rate. However, despite this film’s occasional flaws (after all, despite all my championing of its understatedness, it’s still a Hellraiser film and still goes retardedly over the top at a few points), I would give it an unreserved recommendation as the best film the series has to offer. If you were thinking of trying the series out, definitely give this one a whirl.

Rating: ***

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