- “Groundhog Slay”
- “It’s a Miserable Life”
- “Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call – Hell”
Part 4, while it didn’t work all the time, at least swung for the fences. This, to continue the analogy, is like a bunt attempt that takes a weird bounce and hits you in the groin. It’s so wrong-headed that it almost becomes a joke, and those three titles above will give you something of a clue of what we’re dealing with here.
At least it has a relatively strong cast for the fifth instalment of a now-straight-to-video franchise. Craig Sheffer is Detective Joseph Thorne, and he is crooked as hell. He steals drugs from crime scenes, steals money from the evidence locker to buys prostitutes with, and shakes down dealers for cocaine. Oh, and he never goes home to see his wife and child (or his parents at their rest home), just in case you needed any more evidence! His partner is Det. Tony Nenonen (Nicholas Turturro), and the two of them are investigating an occult-themed murder, finding a very familiar looking box at the crime scene. As well as a candle with a kid’s finger inside it, which is a pretty simple but cool-looking effect.
We’re occasionally treated to a voiceover from Sheffer, and as he’s picking up a prostitute, he tells us that he’s doing it to save his marriage. I’m sure your wife agrees! So, he and the young lady Daphne (played by Sasha Barrese, who’s been in all three “Hangover” movies) do cocaine and have sex, and while she’s asleep he pops into the bathroom and opens the box…and nothing much seems to happen. What gives? Thorne leaves Daphne asleep and goes to work, only to get a call from her at his desk, screaming and crying, and when he returns to the hotel he finds her brutally murdered body.
As if to ensure a bad ending for him, Thorne then asks Nenonen for help while at the same time planting evidence at the crime scene implicating his partner, you know, just in case. But, he figures he ought to try and find the kid that used to be attached to the finger, and discovers it’s maybe linked to a shady character called “The Engineer”. So he beats the crap out of his drug dealer, raids a tattoo / body modification parlour…at the same time the Engineer is aware of him, and does stuff like send a videotape with the murder of the dealer (from just after Thorne left) that mysteriously gets wiped when he tries to show it to the other cops. He also starts hallucinating a nightmarish creature with no facial features at all, which seems to be following him round – I feel like people deal badly with hallucinations in movies. I reckon Thorne would have done LSD before, can he not just calm the hell down and realise what it really is?
Luckily, everyone notices he’s going a bit crazy and sends him to see a psychiatrist, Dr Gregory (the great James Remar). Rather coincidentally, when Gregory was a cop, he worked a case involving the Engineer too, and knows about the Lament Configuration. Are you beginning to smell a rat yet?
There’s a pretty bizarre scene, when he’s following up a lead that takes him to a gambling den out in the wilderness called the Crossroads. It’s entirely populated by guys in huge cowboy hats, and as he asks too many questions a couple of cowboy kung-fu experts beat the crap out of him in the woods outside. I feel like this had some significance in an earlier draft, because I haven’t got a bloody clue. Perhaps they were offered a good deal on a hundred big hats and worked out a scene to use them in? Perhaps the scriptwriter had seen “Twin Peaks” the week before?
One person you may notice I’ve not mentioned yet is Pinhead. After the ridiculous state of affairs in part 4, where they took the film off the director and edited it so he’d be in it earlier and more often, part 5 barely features him at all. He’s got maybe 3 minutes of screen time – it turns out this is due to the script originally having nothing to do with Hellraiser at all. To save money, they had minimal rewrites done to a script they already owned, and even though the movie would make more sense without him in it, here I am, 16 years later, reviewing it purely based on its name.
As I’m sure you’ve guessed by now, this is a morality tale with a supernatural twist, where Thorne is being punished for his life of poor choices and weaknesses. One would think Pinhead would approve of the unleashing of all of man’s basest desires, what with him being a demon who entices people to his S&M hell dimension, but it turns out his job is educating people on the errors of their ways, acting as a sort of supernatural Judge and Jury. This is, of course, absolutely ludicrous, but let’s say that you’re in a forgiving mood and can pretend this isn’t a “Hellraiser” movie. Is it any good then?
No. It’s got a very devoted fanbase, surprisingly, but those people are all wrong. It’s basically “Bad Lieutenant” retold as an episode of “The Twilight Zone”, but nowhere near as good as either of those things. I feel like its extremely simple and obvious “twist” would be cool if you discovered it as a teenager, when you’re still trying to figure the world out, but if you’re an adult who’s actually had to deal with the real world, then this doesn’t seem that clever or bold. If I’d wanted to watch a middling episode of a basic cable cop show, I’d have done so, to be honest.
Without wanting to spoil anything (although god knows why anyone would want to watch this) I don’t even think it works on its own terms. Who kidnapped his parents, exactly? I feel there’s a fairly crude Christian message at the heart of this, which would appear to be borne out by writer / director Scott Derrickson being an Evangelical. No problem with that, people should be free to worship or not worship as they see fit, and Christianity has produced some of the world’s greatest art…don’t think Caravaggio will be knocked off his pedestal by “Hellraiser 5” any time soon though.
The gulf of ambition and quality between the first four and this is extraordinary, and I don’t think it’s going to get any better. Part 6 is a similar beast, an unrelated script very slightly rewritten to include Pinhead, and I don’t think anyone was giving a damn by the time parts 7, 8 and 9 rolled round.
Rating: thumbs down