Hellraiser: Inferno [2000]

This is the first Hellraiser sequel that doesn't bear the imprimatur of creator Clive Barker, and that makes it a sequel that many Hellraiser fans will want to disown, but they shouldn't dismiss it altogether. Now under the control of Miramax producers Bob and Harvey Weinstein, the franchise takes an entirely new direction, and Inferno is primarily a detective thriller in which a corrupt cop (Craig Sheffer) takes on a case that will judge his soul and, ultimately, damn him forever. His judge and jury will be Pinhead (Doug Bradley) and his legion of twisted Cenobites, but before he can be tried and condemned, Sheffer's cop will watch as those around him are killed off one by one, leaving a trail of blood (and telltale severed fingers) that leads back to the torment of his own youth. So, what you really have here is a variation on It's a Wonderful Life and A Christmas Carol, with all the themes reversed to hellish extremes. The plot doesn't hold together all that well, but you can't fault the film for establishing and maintaining a heavily somber tone. This is pretty dark stuff, after all, and although Hellraiser fans will lament that Pinhead's appearance is relatively brief, he's presented here in an intriguing new light--not merely an icon of pain and suffering, but a giver of counsel and justice to those (like Sheffer's cop) who arguably deserve the eternal anguish they will receive. Does that make Pinhead a good guy? If this otherwise lugubrious sequel achieves anything, it's that it raises that question and lets the viewer decide. --Jeff Shannon

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