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A variation on the series leads to a pleasant surprise.
I must admit to expressing a certain level of cynasism when I selected Inferno from my local video store. While I had found the frist two installments of the Hellraiser Series to be both disturbing and visually breath taking I was in no way impressed with three and four and am usually very sceptical about any direct to video horror movies. In this case I had little need to be.
The production values throughout this film are far above it's direct to video peers. The lighting and set designs are of the same caliber as many theatrically released horror movies. I will admit that the production design doesn't compare to sureal atmosphere of Hellraiser 1 & 2, but the this film seems to be grounded in a more gritty realistic environment. Craig Sheffer gives an excellent performance as the film's flawed protagonist a corrupt cop. He gives a minimally emotional performance giving his vice riden character a hollow and feel reflecting his soul's depravity. Character actor Nicholas Turturro gives an excellent performances as Sheffer's partner. The special effects and gore are far above those of a B-Movie. I was especially impressed with the transformation of pinhead.
What really sets this sequel apart from it's preadecesors is the script. In an inspired move writer/director Scott Derrickson choose to vary his story drastically from 3 & 4 an focus on the seductive nature of evil and takes the form of a modern morality tale. It is essentially the story Sheffer's struggle to purify himself of his own corruption, and return to innocense. This is in many ways the movie The Bad Luetenant as interpreted through the horror genre. Yes, Pinhead and his demon companions on make short cameo appearances and this is bound to anger some fans. I must argue however that the dread of their presences is always felt in the films atmosphere, and their use in the "surprise" ending is very effective.
I do have some minors critasisms which prevent me from giving this film a ten rating. First of all the film as times does degrade to cliches from both horror films and police dramas. I also felt the use of the demons in cowboy hats performing martial arts border on being unbelievable. In order for a film to be entertaining the audience must be able to suspend disbelief moments like this are difficult to accept. Finally, there are several false ending to this film. While years ago this may have been seen as an inventive horror tactic in the eighties it has become static and predictable. In many ways it takes away from the viseral power of the films conclusion. I rate this film as an eight out of ten due to it's inventive interpretation of the Hellraiser Series, and I would recommend it to both fans and non-fans of the series.
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