Hellraiser: Inferno Is the Most Underrated Pinhead Sequel

Featuring several inspired moments of palpable dread, as well as some of the franchise’s familiar visceral gore, the film starts as a typically seedy urban detective thriller in the mold of a B-movie version of Se7en (albeit with a decidedly nu-metal 2000s soundtrack) before evolving into some more surreal and dreamlike as Thorne’s world unravels, bringing to mind Jacob’s Ladder or David Lynch by way of Pinhead. Hellraiser: Inferno is by no means perfect: Derrickson and Boardman clearly had a lot of creative ideas they wanted to play around with, but the lack of budget is a clear hindrance and gives the film  an unshakable straight-to-DVD quality. 

Nonetheless, Derrickson is still able to imbue proceedings with a scuzzy, underbelly feel that eventually gives way to something visually striking and akin to a waking nightmare. And while co-stars like Nicholas Turturro, James Remar, and The West Wing’s Kathryn Joosten are wasted in half-baked supporting roles, it should be said, Sheffer does a fine job as Thorne, the kind of morally repugnant antihero that would come to dominate TV over the decades to come.

Inferno Has Its Critics… Including Clive Barker

Unfortunately, for Derrickson at the time, Hellraiser: Inferno was not met with a positive response from either creator Clive Barker or Pinhead star Doug Bradley. Barker’s complaints initially appeared to stem from a lack of consultation on the project by Dimension Films rather than Derrickson himself. 

In an interview given as part of the September / December 2000 Lost Souls Newsletter, which was republished clivebarker.info, Barker said: “These guys sent me a script and I said if you want me involved, ask me. Let’s do a deal and get into business, but I really don’t think [the script] works right now. They said we really don’t want your opinion on it, we are going to make the movie. So they went and made the movie, and it is just an abomination.“

Barker’s main complaint about the film centered on the role of Pinhead, or rather the lack thereof, with Bradley’s character only appearing in the latter stages of the film’s final third, as events reach their denouement. The Hellraiser creator even went as far to suggest the script had simply been retooled to incorporate the Cenobites, a practice not entirely uncommon in the world of Hollywood sequel making. 

“I really hate the way he’s been treated in this film,” Barker said at the time. “It depressed me. It upset me on behalf of Doug, on behalf of myself, on behalf of the people who love these movies. I thought it was disrespectful and I felt as though he’d been tacked on just because they wanted to call it a Hellraiser movie. But it didn’t feel like a Hellraiser movie. It felt opportunistic to me.”

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