Thursday, October 18, 2018

Only now does it occur to me... HELLRAISER V: INFERNO

Only now does it occur to me... I can't believe I'm saying this––after the CD-ROM Cenobite-madness in part III and the Alan Smithee/poor man's James Cameron antics of part IV––that HELLRAISER V is... dare I say it... not... so bad. Written as an original horror script by Paul Harris Boardman and director Scott Derrickson, Dimension Films ordered it to be revamped and shoehorned into the HELLRAISER saga.

In a nutshell, HELLRAISER V: INFERNO is a hardboiled detective story that takes an immediate (shallow?) dive into JACOB'S LADDER territory.


For a straight-to-DVD title, the caliber of visual storytelling is strong, the scares are occasionally effective (if incredibly derivative), and it builds a disorienting, distinctly L.A. atmosphere that almost feels like discount David Lynch slumming in the Barker-verse. A lot of the scenes have that stilted, surreal quality common in Lynch's work, and there's even a nefarious, advice-dispensing cowboy played by LOST HIGHWAY's Michael Shamus Wiles who prefigures the one in MULHOLLAND DR.

Wiles brings that Lynchian intonation...


...and yes, that is also a Cenobite cowboy in the background.


Flickering fluorescent lighting? Check.


Whatever this is? Check.


Shades of THE SHINING, as well.

It stars NIGHTBREED's Craig Sheffer (which lends it a little Clive Barker-esque continuity), as a "bad lieutenant" having a bad week with little support from his partner, lesser Turturro sibling Nick.

There's also an unusually soulful performance from a beardy James Remar (THE WARRIORS, 48 HRS.) who sorta looks like Fisher Stevens here.

We'll always have RENT-A-COP.

I mean, maybe my judgment is clouded by the memory of HELLRAISER IN SPACE, but there are some nearly subtle things at play here––a sort of Egoyan-style chiaroscuro and interest in mass media alienation,

one-liners like "I'll send you some candy at Christmas!" or "Are you gonna frisk me or fuck me?," and finally, in a wondrously head-scratching moment, a martial arts assault perpetrated by (non-Cenobite) Japanese cowboys who look like they should be in a hair metal band.

Obviously the best part.

You have to respect that. Also, despite being on the poster, Pinhead probably has about two minutes of screen-time, but I always thought he was best in small, effective doses. In the end, HELLRAISER V doesn't stick it's landing––it delivers a "twist," apparent from the outset, in an awkward, unnecessarily three-tiered denouement––but in terms of atmosphere and general competence, it's so far beyond its immediate predecessors that I have to give it a respectful head nod (but no slow clap).

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