Film Corner: Hellraiser 5

Hellraiser 5: Inferno

Kissmate continues his Hellraiser watch-a-thon:

This movie falls into a particular category of films. The category of "say too much and it's spoiled" or "the best way to experience is knowing nothing beforehand". Of course, that makes this hard to write about, so here's my only warning: If you have wanted to watch this movie before, stop reading. Go watch it. Come back and continue reading. Furthermore, if at any point in this write-up you become interested in watching this film, stop reading at that point. Go watch and come back. You have been warned. For those leaving the reading, I give it a sweet 9/10! This has to be one of my favorite Hellraiser movies so far! For those staying, let's get started, shall we?


We start the first scene with our protagonist, Detective Joe Thorne, playing chess against a professor while a fast-paced basketball game continues in the background, and gives us our "music". After winning (and gloating), Joe goes into the locker room to get dressed, suited up for work, and take a little bump of cocaine! Coke was the number one drug in the 1980s after all. Can't forget it! Oh wait, this movie happened in 2000. (Ana's note: But it sure does FEEL like a classic 1980s flick, and I mean that as a compliment.)

He narrates noir-style about how he's always loved puzzles as a child and had a real knack for solving them. "I learned that careful examination of how and what and why would inevitably lead to understanding, even to control." Ah, proving yet again: ACAB. But, unlike copaganda, this movie wants us to agree that he's a bastard! We're taken out of the way to see his failures, shortcomings, and misdeeds. When he wins at chess, he smugly announces his win and pockets the old man's money. He tries to engage with his cop-partner with word puzzles that mostly go over his partner's head, and feels superior every time he stumps his partner. At a crime scene, he secretly takes the dead man's cash from his wallet and steals cocaine from a secret book stash. And you should hear the slimy way he justifies picking up sex workers off the street while his wife is none the wiser! In short, there is NO way in which Detective Joe Thorne is not a bastard!

Getting back to the narrative, Joe is called to a crime scene where a man named Jay Cho has been murdered with giant hooks and chains. Ring any bells? Joe pokes around, uses some slight of hand to steal the cocaine vial, and notices the Puzzle Box underneath a lit candle. Inside the candle looks to be a child's finger! Set inside the wax! Seemingly no reason for it! As Joe mentions it, the camera zooms in on his face and I swear I was waiting for the NCIS or any of the CSI theme songs to start up. It felt like the perfect commercial cutaway! Instead, we see Joe rummaging through Jay Cho's personal effects. He takes $300 cash and the Puzzle Box before heading home.

His daughter lays asleep in her bed and we see his wife tried to wait up for him, but he just got home so darned late. His wife asks if he's home for the night, but Joe just leaves saying that he caught a case. He starts narrating as he drives. "I believe in loyalty and fidelity. I understand the concept. My parents have been married for 40 years. But I live in a different world. Most marriages fail. Most men just leave. I know that would kill her. But if she doesn't know, if doing this keeps me coming back, then who's to say what's right and what's wrong?" Joe picks up a sex worker named Daphne off a corner and takes her to a hotel. He shows off his magic slight-of-hand by making money and coke appear out of thin air. She's all for it as she stays with him all night long.

As she rests post-coitus, Joe heads to the bathroom with the Puzzle Box and opens it quite easily. He walks out of the bathroom to...not the motel room, but a child's room? A child cries out for help and he can't help but go look for them. But instead of a child, he finds two Cenobite Ladies named the Wire Twins out in the hallway. They lightly push him against a wall and make out with him, even pushing their hands underneath his chest skin and rubbing his muscles directly! Of all the scenes in this series, this one has felt the most pornographic and sinful. Especially since he's not experiencing any pain from the bloody muscle-rubbing; it's all pleasure! But Joe hears the child cry for help again and breaks free of the twins to rush to help the child. On the stairs, he's met with a Torso-Only Chatterer coming to gnaw on his ankles! Joe manages to dodge all three and runs to the front door to safety! He hears the child cry for help one last time, but he puts his survival above all else. Joe opens the front door and finds Pinhead! Pins grabs at Joe's face, we hear a ripping, and-

Joe wakes up on the bathroom floor of the motel, with not a scratch on him or hair out of place. The Puzzle Box lays before him, and Daphne lays on the bed asleep. Everyone is untouched and unharmed. Odd. Usually when the Puzzle Box is opened, one is ripped apart with hooks and chains, like what we saw with Jay Cho. But Joe goes to work and goes about his morning like usual.

At work, he learns that the child's finger in the candle wax came from a living child. He worries over the case some more before getting a call on his private number. Daphne begs him for help over the phone before being killed brutally. Joe rushes over to the motel room to check on her, and sees her hanging in the shower with her throat slit open. Joe tells his partner, Tony, that he stayed with the woman last night and did cocaine with her. His prints are all over the room and on her. He begs Tony to help him clean the room before calling the body in. Tony is hesitant, but ends up helping anyway. Joe, to make sure that he has all the pieces in his hand, plants Tony's pen and cigarettes in the room secretly. As Tony calls the murder in, Joe sees another finger in the shower. A child's finger with no stiffness.

Joe goes to check on the prints that were found on the Puzzle Box. One set belonged to Jay Cho, but the other is a hard find. Joe forces the AFIS technician to run under his own specific parameters to get quicker results. There's 7 million print cards and AFIS can only go through so many at a time, but we immediately get results! The most accurate match is a piercing artist named Leon, who works at the Stigmata Studio. Joe heads to Leon's workplace and grills him for info. Leon is pressured into giving up that the Engineer, an underground Mob Boss known only by his pseudonym, owns the Puzzle Box. Cho stole the Box when he couldn't afford the Engineer's price. Joe promises he'll find the Engineer with or without Leon's help. "Hunt for the Engineer and the Engineer will hunt you," Leon mutters.

Detective Joe leaves Stigmata Studio, feeling he found enough here to go forward. He goes to his cocaine hook-up named Bernie who runs an ice cream truck. They have a lovely chat until Joe mentions the Engineer. Bernie looks confused and says he doesn't know an Engineer. Joe doesn't believe him, so he slaps Bernie around and threatens to take away his van and therefore entire operation. Suddenly, Bernie knows a lot about the Engineer! Mostly just stories, nothing anyone can say for certain is true, but it's more than nothing! It's genuinely unclear if Bernie was lying before or if he's only just now "remembered" the information. Is it being fed to him supernaturally?

We learn that a pimp named Terry who worked for the Engineer received a girl from him and Terry fell in love. Terry wanted to marry the girl, but the Engineer said no. Terry defied him by eloping with her to a cabin in the woods to start a new life together. But one day, Terry came home and found his girl was gone. Terry got pissed and tried to hunt the Engineer down. "Hunt for the Engineer, and the Engineer will hunt you." Terry never found the Engineer, but the Engineer left behind little presents to let Terry know that the Engineer still had his girl: locks of hair, jewelry she wore, and even body parts. One day, Terry came home and saw his girl sleeping in bed like she never left. When he moved the covers back, there was only a note where the body should be and her head on the pillows. "You win, Terry. I kept what I needed. The rest is yours." Joe tells Bernie to keep his eyes and ears out for fresh information about the Engineer's location, and to get someone to tell him where the Engineer is by the end of the day. Joe hurts him one more time, and walks out of the ice cream van.

Joe and Partner Tony have a drink in the bar to cool off from the day's stress. Tony starts asking for any information that Joe might have found out, but Joe gets a little defensive. "What's really on your mind?" Tony mentions that he feels bad wiping prints at a crime scene and wants to come clean to the captain. Joe, anticipating this move, asks Tony where his pen and cigarettes are. Tony gets confused, but Joe tells him that they were at the crime scene, so probably already in the evidence files. Joe threatens to tell the captain that Tony is the one who slept with the dead sex worker, but if Tony does as he's told then Joe will vouch that Tony was just shaken by what he saw at the scene and forgot those items while they searched the motel. Blackmailing your partner: always a good idea!

Tony rightfully calls Joe a scum bag and walks out of the bar. A child walks into the bar and hands Joe an unmarked tape. Joe puts it into the nearest VCR he can find and hits play. On the tape, Bernie is shown being whipped bloody by the hooks that Leon had in his office. A faceless Cenobite with only a mouth and black tongue was doing the whipping, and we see it lick a child's finger before putting it in the cash register of the ice cream van. Joe tries to show the tape to his boss and partner, but now there's nothing there save static. Joe tries to convince them that something was there, but his boss stops him and tells him to visit the department counselor, and this request is not optional. Joe is reluctant, but does so.

The counselor, Dr. Gregory, is a former episcopal priest that asks a lot of simple questions that shake Joe. The line that really hits home is "Close-up magic. I bet your daughter loves that." Joe never thought to use those little slight-of-hand tricks to entertain his child. He says he uses them to entertain himself, but there's also the sex workers he uses it for. Never with his wife and daughter? How odd. This further proves Joe is a self-absorbed asshole. He asks to reschedule the meeting, and the good doctor agrees. Joe rifles through missing kids' files in hopes it'll bring something up, but the only thing that happens is someone being arrested has the appearance of the faceless-licker! When Joe catches up to him, it was all a trick of the mind: the guy's face is fine! But we do get word of the ice cream truck's whereabouts.

Tony is waiting for Joe and says it's just as he described it. Joe tells everyone to get out as he goes through Bernie's phone. Terry left a voice message telling him to meet up at the end of Old Mining Road. Tony mentions that they haven't found the finger, but Joe opens the cash register and shows everyone where it was. At Tony's questioning glance, Joe exclaims that he saw it on the videotape. You know, the one that no one else saw because it magically deleted itself. Tony looks worried as Joe starts getting more tense.

They head to the Old Mining Road and come across a Western-themed casino where the room is smoky and everyone is wearing cowboy get-up. No one speaks and the only sound is chips hitting the table. I have a hankering for beans and beer while watching Maverick. Joe offers to play poker while asking about a name he's heard. Sure enough, the owner of the name comes forward. Mr. Parmagi is a tall man that comes off as very intimidating. He's calm and unwavering while Joe seems unhinged in comparison. Parmagi tells Joe that he's not the Engineer, but he knows Joe is caught up in one of the Engineer's games. Joe sees a faceless-licker walk out of the room and runs after him. After getting lost in the woods and running past a Chatterer-Torso, Joe meets two of Parmagi's guards that kick his ass.

Parmagi approaches and Joe stubbornly tells them that he's going to find that child. "I suspect that's the object of the game," Parmagi says and returns Joe's gun to him peacefully. Tony finds Joe one second later and gets him out of there at top speed. He even turns the sirens on to keep Joe awake, but Joe tells him to take him back to the squad. Joe bangs on Doctor Gregory's door saying they need to talk. Joe swears he's going insane and is even afraid to sit down. He starts talking about how he heard of the Engineer when he was first on the force, but thought it was a campfire story to scare the rookies. But today, he started hearing his name again. Joe demands to hear what the doctor knows. Doctor Gregory tells him a story which boils down to: a cop tried to hunt the Engineer and committed suicide at his desk when he couldn't take it anymore. What was important was that the detective had the Puzzle Box with him when he perished.

Doctor Gregory laments that he never got to see the Box himself, so Joe places the Box in front of him. Doctor Gregory admits he's done some research on the Box and says it's the Lament Configuration and that, when opened, the person who opens it is dragged into Hell. Joe: "Oh, they didn't drag me into Hell." Joe says that he's been seeing the Cenobites ever since he opened the Box, but he's not been dragged anywhere. Doctor Gregory tells him that maybe they really are here in the real world with them, since the Box summons the Cenobites to get you. "I believe in this Box."

Joe leaves on that note and heads home, suddenly very worried about his family. His wife tends to his wounds but a phone call interrupts his thoughts. His wife answers and manages to only get the briefest of info. Something about how his mother and father had a visitor that was an engineer? Joe gives his wife a revolver to protect herself and their daughter as he runs out to try to stop the Engineer from doing whatever he plans to do with Joe's parents.

He runs into the nursing home with a great urgency that the lady behind the desk can't seem to notice or match. Even pulling his badge out doesn't work as she still tries to get him to sign in the visitor books. As Joe makes his way to their room, his head spins into giving him double vision. A patient becomes two women walking by him! A man in a wheelchair with hooks in his cheeks wheels past while giggling with a child's voice. When Joe does make it to his parents' side, his mother doesn't even look up at him or welcome him. She asks why Joe never visits anymore, tells him that his father gets worse every day, and how they hate it here. His father is bedridden with tubes in his throat to help him breathe, so he's not much help.

Joe looks his parents over and seems happy that they're both okay, but is on alert when he hears a child begging for help. Joe's mother practically orders him to put "that thing away" when he draws his gun, but he pays no mind as he bursts into a nearby room. We're in the childhood room again? Pale white walls and washed-out colors surround Joe before the door closes and locks. He hears the brutal murder of his mother and possibly father on the other side, but he's unable to help. He bangs against the door, trying to break it down, and then-

Joe opens his eyes to a ringing telephone. He's at his home, with his wife tending to his wounds. His wife answers the phone and manages to only get the briefest of info. Something about how his mother and father had a visitor that was an engineer?

Instead of doing as before, he leaps out of bed and races down to the nursing home. He even races past the desk lady and the guard with his gun out, which proves to be a bad idea: just as he gets to his parents' door, the guard demands he drops his weapon. Realizing that he's maybe a touch out of line here, Joe follows orders and tells them gently that he's a detective and he's looking for the Thornes. The lady tells us that they've been missing since dinner and they called the police an hour ago. Joe enters the room and searches for anything out of place. All he finds is a bed covered in blood and a gift-wrapped box with two child's fingers and a note with an address inside.

As Joe leaves the scene, Tony catches up to him. Joe tries to ask him for help, but Tony says that the captain wants to see him. See, the only person who even thinks it's this "Engineer" is Joe. The only other connection to every other murder is Joe himself. He knew all the victims and had info on Bernie's crime scene that he "found" on a blank tape. Either Joe is losing his hold on reality and is committing crimes without realizing it, or Joe is just a normal murderer and his "losing hold of reality" is an act to cover his crimes. Either way, Tony's been told to bring him in. Joe refuses and starts asking the classic "Do you really think I'd kill those people?" question, which leaves Tony to answer with the equally classic "Maybe? maybe not? does it matter what I think?" answer. Joe fist-fights Tony off him and drives off, now feeling truly alone. He heads for the address the Engineer gave him and bee-lines for the room.

Inside are painted-over windows, a locked-in-place telescope, and a phone. Joe watches the faceless-licker kill a helpless Tony and stuff a child's finger in his mouth. The phone rings with the Engineer on the other end. "Six murders. Six fingers. Four more to go." Joe begs him to just say what he wants. "I want you to go home." Joe rushes to his wife and daughter, but it's too late. They're frozen to a pillar and dying slowly. Joe tries to go to them, but they break apart at his touch and shatter. Doctor Gregory walks out, with his cross pin now turned upside down. "It takes hours to die from exposure. Hours, in which no one came home."

The doctor says that they ran the fingerprint from the finger in Tony's mouth (the first one that wasn't burned) and found a match. The child is Joseph Thorne, our protagonist. It's his fingerprint, but how could it be his finger? Joe laughs in his despair and confusion with at least one thing becoming clear: "You're the Engineer." Doctor Gregory smiles and replies, "It's a good a name as any." The doctor shifts before Joe, turning into Pinhead. "I am not the killer. To find him, you must go back to where it started. Go home." Pinhead disappears.

Joe takes his shotgun and blasts his way through a door. The room is the childhood room again, but now there's a boy named Joseph. His mother calls for him and the boy walks downstairs. Joe follows, scared and confused at witnessing his childhood playing out before him. His father sleeps in front of the television while his mother bakes brownies. As Joe tries to call out to his young mother, the house shakes and begins falling apart, aging. The boy fades away while the mother stays, older now. Her eyes are gouged out and bloody. As she attacks Joe, his father appears the same way. Joe is forced to kill these facsimiles to protect himself, but it's clear he's upset by his actions.

As Joe stumbles to the open window in the bathroom to close it, he's jumped on by Daphne. She's sporting her slit throat and bloodied underwear, so she looks exactly like her corpse. Joe kills this facsimile too, not as fazed. Then Tony is in the hallway with literal daggers in his back. Joe looks so guilty as Tony accuses him of lost trust, but he goes down with one more shotgun blast. Bernie, the ice cream truck driver informant, gets his hits in too. Joe still tries to apologize, but his shotgun speaks a little louder. The Cenobites he passes to the final door don't even reach for him as he opens it. He's defenseless, out of ammo, and freaked. But at least he can save the boy, right?

In the final room, a dark room of inky blackness, Joe finds a small boy that looks familiar. Is it his younger self? The faceless-licker walks forward and exposes his real face: Joe's face. Joe was the killer. It's a cerebral twist that Pinhead explains to Joe. His fleshly desires and sinful actions have been destroying his innocence and spirit. There's no God's Rules here that he broke. There's no Holy Scriptures that he failed to read or keep. Joe was a person who took a love of puzzles, games, and riddles and twisted it into ways he could extort, abuse, and control others. Because he was a terrible person, he's now going through this version of Hell, one made just for him by him. Joe perishes by his own hands, by his own twisted hooks. He's ripped apart as the killer version of himself watches with hatred in his eyes.

Joe wakes up on the bathroom floor of the motel room with the Puzzle Box only inches away. He gets up and checks on Daphne in bed. "C'mon, haven't I earned my money?" she mumbles sleepily. Joe smiles a little, happy to see she's okay, and walks out with an apology. He goes to work with a new outlook on life and a new appreciation of what he has. Joe jokes around with his coworkers before answering his phone. Daphne is on the other end. She begs and pleads for her life as she's being killed, just like in the beginning. Instead of reliving another 24-48 hours of Hell, a horrified Joe takes out his gun and commits suicide in front of everyone, not caring who sees.

He wakes up on the bathroom floor of the motel room with the Puzzle Box only inches away. Joe doesn't walk out to Daphne this time. He walks out to his childhood bedroom and sits on the bed as his narration closes us out: "I lived in a world of facts, of a reality that I thought I understood. I believed I was the center of the design and I was certain that I knew all the answers. But now I face the truth about what I've done to hurt those around me, and in hurting them, what I've done to myself. I've confronted my own demons, and now the only thing I know for certain is that I will live with them forever." The End. Not For Him, But For Us.

There are a LOT of levels going on here! Lots of symbolism and different ways to take this and UGH it's so good! The movie did good by making sure we weren't on Joe's side from the beginning. He was an asshole who was a controlling prick and had no business being that way, and unapologetic up until the end. Any information about any of the crimes is given to us after he opens the Puzzle Box, meaning that it was all in his head / in Hell rather than in reality / Earth. The symbolism is a touch on the nose, but it gives us insight into how Joe feels about others or even how they feel about Joe. Pinhead wasn't really a huge part of this movie, but that's okay in my opinion. Pinhead isn't the slasher villain we come to see; he's not like Freddy Krueger or Chucky. He's more like a dungeon master or a dominant, making sure everything is going according to plan and hurting in just the right ways. I like him better as the Engineer rather than an active role.

I have a theory that after a lot of torture and realizing where he went wrong, Joe wanted to punish himself in a unique and terrible way. Pinhead did say it was a Hell of Joe's own making. That can have a lot of meanings! Anyway, my rating stays high at 9, and I hope you all had as much fun as I did!


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