This is the fifth Hellraiser film and as far as I know this went straight to video. It is also a standalone story with no reference to what has happened in past films. Some people dislike this change but I think it fits quite well with what Clive Barker was creating with the original Hellraiser. The story itself is intriguing, confusing, and violent and it reminded me of the film Angel Heart. I think this a good film and find it tiresome that it often gets just dismissed because it’s one of the lesser-known Hellraiser sequels.
Police Detective Joseph Thorne (Craig Sheffer) gets a call to a murder scene where the victim has been ripped apart by hooks. The scene has a ritualistic look with the remains arranged inside a square of candles. One candle is sitting on a box, the familiar Lament configuration puzzle box of course. Thorne gets presented with another puzzle, in form of a the severed finger of a child embedded in the wax of the candle. From the victim’s belongings they find his wallet with driver’s license and Thorne realises he knows the man from high school. We get a hint of what type of man Thorne is when we see him pocket a couple of hundred dollars from the wallet
Thorne goes back to home but he doesn’t stay, telling his wife Melanie (Noelle Evans) he has to leave because he’s working a case. In reality he’s leaving to pick up a prostitute called Daphne (Sasha Barrese) and as his self-serving narration says he thinks this keeps his marriage going. I’m not sure what his excuse is for the cocaine he uses all the time but I’m sure he’ll have one. He has sex with her then goes to the bathroom where he examines the puzzle box. Not really sure why he’s got it there but he solves it and the puzzle moves by itself but the walls don’t open up and Pinhead doesn’t appear. Instead the lights flicker and Thorne enters a strangely lit room. It is child’s bedroom and he hears a child calling for help through another door and he’s in a corridor where he sees a pair of strange cenobites with stitched-up eyes who kiss and stroke him push their hands inside his skin . He breaks way from them following the child’s cries for help until he meets Pinhead (Doug Bradley) who rips his face off then he wakes in the motel room’s bathroom.
Thorne goes to work and while he’s there he gets a call from Daphne who is very frightened and begging for his help. There are ghastly sounds of a bloody struggle and then the phone line goes dead. Back at the motel room Thorne finds her body hung up in the shower. He tells his partner Tony (Nicholas Turturro) that he was there the night before and slept with Daphne and begs for his help covering up any evidence of that. He also plants evidence incriminating Tony because Tony is honest and not happy with covering stuff up for whatever reason. They also find a second severed finger and from its freshness Thorne knows the child is still alive.
Back at the station Thorne helps to narrow down the search parameters for their search for a match on the fingerprints found on the box. This brings up a quick match to Leon Gaultier (Matt George) a man working in a body piercing/tattoo shop. Thorne gets a name from him of the owner of the box, the Engineer. Leon also says “Hunt for the Engineer the Engineer will hunt you.”
Thorne talks to his snitch Bernie (Nicholas Sadler) who is a drug dealing paedophile scumbag and he has an ice cream van. Bernie clams up when Thorne asks him about the Engineer but Thorne doesn’t take that and threatens him with jail. Bernie tells him a story of how brutal the Engineer is and repeats that thing Leon said about hunt the Engineer and the Engineer will hunt you. Out in the car Tony is waiting and he wants to know if he got any information and the way he asks it makes it clear he knows Thorne get his cocaine from Bernie. Tony really wants them to come clean about Thorne sleeping with Daphne the night before. Thorne tells that won’t be happening and tells him about what he did. Tony is not happy but he’s really getting a measure of how much of a bastard Thorne is.
While Thorne is sitting in a bar drinking a kid appears and gives him a videotape. He shoves into it the video player in the bar. It was shot in Bernie’s van and we can hear Bernie is being brutally whipped and begging for mercy that doesn’t come. We don’t see this happening, just the legs of the killer and barbed whip he’s using. But what we hear paints an awful picture of what’s happening. After he’s finished killing Bernie he crouches down to the camera and we see his distorted eyeless hell face. The killer then shows the camera a freshly severed finger. When he tries to show he tapeito the other cops back at the station the tape is blank. The captain orders him to see the station counsellor before he goes back to work because he seems on edge.
Thorne goes to see the counsellor Dr. Paul Gregory (James Remar) but he makes up an excuse and arranges an appointment for another time. He gets told that they’ve found Bernie. Bernie is chained to his steering wheel and the flesh on his back is ripped open, exposing his spine. Tony mentions that they haven’t found a finger at this scene and Thorne shows them that it’s in the cash register but he only knows that from the video that no-one else saw but Tony can think of another source of information. They find a mobile phone in his pocket with a message about meeting a Mr Parmaggi about finding the Engineer.
The next scene is fascinating but I‘m not sure what the point of it is. Thorne and Tony drive out to a remote bar in the middle of the night. Inside there are several tables of people in cowboy hats silently playing poker. Thorne sits at a table and asks about buying when Mr Parmagi (Michael Shamus Wiles) appears in his Grand Ol’ Opry gear, six-shooter included. Thorne asks him about the Engineer but Parmagi just gives him a cryptic answer. Thorne wants him to tell the Engineer that he won’t stop looking but Parmagi assures him that the Engineer doesn’t want him to stop. Thorne spots the hell faced killer get up from a table and leave so he follows into the woods where two Asian cowboys in long leather coats beat the crap out of him.
Thorne goes back to the station house and talks to Dr. Gregory and tells him he thinks he’s going crazy and tells him about the Engineer. Gregory has heard about the engineer and tells him about a cop who got so obsessed with finding the Engineer he ended up shooting himself in the head. Gregory has a picture of the puzzle box and Thorne brings it out asks him about it. Gregory tells him the legend that if you open the box they come for you and take you to hell. Thorne say they didn’t take him to hell and Gregory suggests that means they‘re still here.
Thorne goes home where Melanie is upset that he wasn’t home and didn’t even call to tell her where he was. Then she sees how badly beat up he is and she cleans his cuts and Thorne nods off. He wakes when the phone rings. Melanie answers it then tells him it was from his mother who said something about getting a visit from The Engineer. Thorne rushes to nursing home where they live. His mother sits by his father’s bed knitting asking him why he’s doesn’t come to see them anymore. His father is so ill he’s bed-bound. Thorne goes through a door and into that strange child’s bedroom he was in before and the door slams behind him. He hears ghastly noises of his parents screaming and the violent tearing of flesh. Blood starts oozing under the door and Thorne pounds on the door. Then he wakes up at home and the phone is ringing. Just like in the dream it’s his mother and Thorne rushes to their nursing home. His parents are missing but they discover that the mattress of his father’s bed is soaked in blood. On the cabinet beside the bed is a gift box containing two more fingers and a card with an address on it.
Outside the hospital he runs into Tony who really wants to have a word with him. Tony thinks Thorne’s out of control and he tells Thorne that no-one else has any evidence that the Engineer even exists. The link between all the victims is Thorne himself. Tony wants to take Thorne in to see the Captain and they struggle and Tony tell him he needs help but Thorne ignores him and drives off. He goes to the address on the card and finds a telescope trained on a window across the street. Tony is chained to a chair and the hell face killer is whipping him to death with a chain then he puts a severed finger in Tony’s mouth. A telephone in the room rings. It is the Engineer and he tells Thorne to go home.
At home he finds his wife and daughter chained to a revolving wooden pillar, freezing to death asking him when he’s coming home and why he lies to them. Also there is Dr. Gregory. He reaches out to his daughter but they both crack and crumble away. Then Gregory tells Thorne that they got a match on the fingerprint from the finger in Tony’s mouth. It’s Thorne’s fingerprint. Gregory tells him when he said go home he didn’t mean here but his first home.
Gregory offers to help him understand. Thorne says “you’re the Engineer” and Gregory smiles and transforms into Pinhead who tells him he must go back home. He goes a through door and is back the strange bedroom now we find out it was his bedroom and the 7-year-old Thorne is there. Downstairs his parents are a young couple. In the kitchen his Mom makes brownies. Time shakes up the house and ages everything including his mother who has bloody holes where eyes should be and she comes at him with a knife until he shoots her and has to do the same when his father attacks. Next Daphne attacks then Tony until he shoots both of them and then it’s Bernie attacking him and getting shot.
There are cenobites in the corridors of the building. In one room he see himself standing inside, then he is standing inside. A boy with several missing finger is on a chair in front of him. The hell face killer appears and Thorne takes his gun out and hell face rips off his mask to reveal he is Thorne only he’s Thorne’s hungers and desires and the boy is his spirit. His flesh is killing his spirit, Pinhead tells him before hooks on chain tear him apart.
And he wakes up the hotel bathroom with Daphne sleeping on the bed outside. He thinks it was just a dream when Daphne calls screaming and in despair Thorne shoots himself in the head. Then wakes up in the hotel bathroom again knowing he’s in hell and there’s no escape.
I know some people who loved the original film will not accept this film but I like that they tried to do something else without burdening itself with trying to recreate the original film’s tone or stay in the same continuity. Another thing people may dislike is that this film is not straightforward and I’m not all that confident I fully understand it myself. It is diffcult to even figure when we really entered the hell vision being controlled by Pinhead, was after he opened the box or is everything from the start a trip through Thorne’s hell? Is Thorne really a killer or are the brutal murders a symbol.of the way he abuses those he knows? Is it Thorne that Gregory is talking about when he mentions the cop who got obsessed with finding the Engineer until he went crazy and shot himself? Why did Thorne go to a remote poker club and get beat up by Asian cowboys? It can be infuriating to not have clear-cut answers.
One of the best things about the film are the performances of Craig Sheffer and Nicolas Turturro, playing the experienced dirty cop and the idealistic rookie who learns fast.This film really does make nice use of sound to convey the bloody murders with a brutality that would be difficult and expensive to show and feels gorier than it really is. I think this is a good film and I would still have enjoyed it if it had no connection to the Hellraiser series. If you haven’t watched it already give it a go. And then come back tell me what it was about.