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Film / Hellraiser: Inferno

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Inferno is the fifth Hellraiser film, directed by Scott Derrickson and released in 2000.

Joseph Thorne (Craig Sheffer) is a corrupt detective, who is obsessed with puzzles and riddles. During an investigation, he comes across a familiar puzzle box. After solving it, he starts experiencing weird things while searching for a Serial Killer called "The Engineer".

Beware of spoilers. This movie depends on a major Twist Ending.


Inferno has the examples of:

  • All Just a Dream: There is an extended sequence halfway through the film where Joseph takes a rest on his bed as his wife comforts him, only to be informed by the Engineer that he's going after Joseph's parents and Joseph rushes to their rescue. Joseph fails to save them and his surroundings turn nightmarish, after which he wakes up with his wife beside him and the sequence starting all over again with a different outcome.
    • On a larger scale, it is left ambiguous if almost everything that happens in the movie after Joseph activates the Lament configuration is just one lengthy dream, after which Joseph woke up, went to work, and then killed himself for real, or if he was in Hell all along, and the "waking up" and the "suicide" merely restarted the infernal line of events that are supposed to torture him.
  • All Psychology Is Freudian: Subverted. As Detective Joseph Thorne gets more obsessed with the case, his captain orders him to see the precinct's psychiatrist. Joseph notes to his partner that he'll be off to talk about his childhood, but the psychiatrist's sessions are in fact very informal and he spends more time informing Joseph about the Cenobites.
  • And I Must Scream: Joseph is stuck in his own personal Hell for all eternity, in a nightmarish, endless loop where he hunts himself and his friends and family are brutally murdered. When he eats his own gun to "kill" himself as he realizes this he wakes up right back at the start of the loop. The movie even ends with Joseph screaming in hopeless despair.
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  • Arc Words: During his pursuit of the serial killer, Joseph keeps hearing the phrase "Hunt the Engineer, and the Engineer hunts you." This is because they're the same person.
  • Asshole Victim:
    • Joseph's snitch Bernie is strongly implied to be a pedophile and becomes the third of the Engineer's victims.
    • Joseph himself, as he is indeed quite an asshole for being a drug-using dirty cop who tampers and steals evidence, ruins other people's lives as he cheats on his wife, roughs up suspects and even blackmails his own partner. So, the fact that he is ultimately trapped in a Self-Inflicted Hell is a fitting punishment.
  • Ate His Gun: When Joseph realizes that the loop is restarting again with the murder of the hooker, he puts his sidearm in his mouth and blows his brains out. Subverted as it turns out suicide is not even an option — the loop just resets to its starting point again.
  • Bad Humor Truck: Joseph's informant is a sleazy ex-con ice cream man who has covered the inside of his truck with pornographic images.
  • Big "NO!": Used in the ending, when Pinhead informs Joseph what he's done and Joseph finally realizes his fate.
  • Blown Across the Room: Joseph's shotgun has this effect repeatedly during the final battle against the Engineer's various victims. Probably justified since he is in Hell at this point, so the laws of physics would work differently.
  • Calling Me a Logarithm: When Joseph notes to Nenonen that his name is a palindrome, he angrily retorts with "What did you call me?"
  • Children Are Innocent: The Engineer's victim is just an innocent kid whom Joseph desperately tries to save before it's completely destroyed. Not only that, the child is the literal embodiment of Joseph's childhood innocence before he became a narcissistic asshole as an adult. The Engineer, Joseph's savage hedonistic side, pretty literally mutilates and destroys that innocence. Pinhead notes in his role as the psychologist that he admires that trait in children and is genuinely disgusted at Joseph when he gives him his karmic punishment.
  • Creepy Twins: The Wire Twins Cenobites, who also appeared as elderly human sisters. They were infinitely creepier than the bondage model Cenobite versions.
  • Criminal Mind Games: The Engineer serial killer is constantly leaving messages to Detective Joseph Thorne as he kills the people around him and leaves behind the severed fingers of his child victim. This is because Joseph is actually both the cop and the murderer. "Hunt the Engineer and the Engineer hunts you".
  • Dark Is Not Evil: Pinhead is revealed to be punishing Joseph for his misdeeds.
  • Death of a Child: Joseph's case is to look for a missing child who is slowly being killed by the Engineer by cutting off the boy's fingers one by one and Joseph's daughter is frozen to death right in front of him. Neither of them were real however, but part of Joseph's torture in Hell.
  • Defective Detective: Det Joseph Thorne is a workaholic additionally obsessed with mysteries, puzzles and games of all types. When he does have time to go home to his beloved wife and kids, he often spends that time with a prostitute.
  • Dirty Cop: Detective Joseph Thorne. He cheats on his wife with prostitutes, neglects his family, brutalizes his informant, steals evidence, does drugs, frames his partner...
  • Disposable Sex Worker: Joseph has sex with a hooker whom he picks up from the streets in a motel room, but the next day she calls him up at work and he witnesses her being murdered. With his partner's help he cleans up the evidence so he can track down the real killer. Subverted when it turns out he's been in Hell all along. The real hooker is likely still alive and Joseph himself simply disappeared.
  • Downer Ending: Joseph has condemned himself to Hell for eternity and is stuck in an endless loop where he hunts himself and watches people get butchered around him.
  • The Dreaded: The Engineer is a near-legendary figure in the criminal world and tales of his insane depravities abound. Every time Joseph asks around for information on him, his informants recoil in terror.
  • Endless Corridor: When Joseph visits the hospital, reality turns nightmarish and the hallway briefly extends out before him indefinately.
  • Enemy Without: The Engineer turns out to be a representation of the darker side of Joseph's personality, a remorseless hedonist.
  • Equal-Opportunity Evil: One of the Engineer's associates is a menacing, six-shooter wielding cowboy whose enforcers are a pair of Asian martial artists. Likewise, at least one African-American can be seen playing Poker in the cowboy's gambling hall.
  • Eyeless Face:
    • The Engineer killer has only a mouth and nose — his face is blank where eyes should be. It's actually a mask used by Joseph's evil side.
    • The Wire Twins Cenobites also seem to be lacking eyes, as well as the Chatterer.
  • Everyone Has Standards: Naturally, Pinhead and crew are disgusted by Joseph’s selfish actions and where they led him.
  • Eye Scream:
    • Near the beginning in Joseph's nightmare, Pinhead suddenly appears and tears out Joseph's eyes just before he wakes up.
    • A twisted vision of Joseph's mother attacks him with her eyes gouged out.
  • Fan Disservice: The makeout scene Joseph has with the Wire Twins clearly invokes this. They're mutilated, eyeless Cenobites in bondage-type clothing and give him an erotic massage by burrowing their hands into his chest. Joseph is partly turned on and partly appalled.
  • Fingore: The Engineer serial killer is keeping a young boy captive and cuts off his fingers one by one so he can leave them behind as calling cards at his crime scenes. It's later revealed that the boy is the lead detective's mangled spirit, being destroyed by his own dark side, the killer.
  • Ghost Butler: When Joseph visits his parents at the hospital he somehow walks into his childhood bedroom, only for the door to magically shut itself behind him. He has to listen to his parents being tortured and murdered on the other side.
  • Gory Discretion Shot: Joseph witnesses his parents being murdered in another room and blood seeping through underneath the door until it's quiet.
  • "Groundhog Day" Loop: It's implied at the end that this happens to Joseph, forced to relive the same sequence of events forever.
  • Hell: Like Hellbound, this movie also directly depicts Hell, although in a variation. It adapts itself to the person who is being punished. Almost the entire film, which is set in Los Angeles, actually took place in Joseph's own personal hell as he was being tortured mentally instead of physically by the Cenobites. He's stuck chasing the personification of his own dark side who goes around murdering all of Joseph's loved ones for all eternity with the reminder of what he once was before falling into hedonism.
  • Hope Spot: After Pinhead informs Joseph about how his flesh destroyed his spirit and Joseph's evil side kills him, Joseph wakes up in the motel again with the hooker still alive. For a short while it seems like all is well and Pinhead just taught Joseph a lesson to better himself, but the hooker is again murdered and Joseph's fate dawns on him.
  • The Informant: Detective Joseph has an ex-con snitch named Bernie running an icecream truck, whom he abuses for information on the Engineer. Then again, Bernie is implied to have been sent to prison for being a pedophile. The Engineer tortures and murders the informant on camera to spite Joseph.
  • Jerkass: Joseph is a complete prick, abusing everyone around him, ignoring his family and living like a hedonist. This ends up being his own undoing as he condemns himself to Hell.
  • The Killer in Me: Detective Joseph Thorne turns out to be the Engineer, the very serial killer he's been hunting throughout the film and also the child victim. Both are physical aspects of Joseph himself created by Pinhead: the killer is Joseph's savage hedonistic side and the boy is Joseph's childhood innocence. It's capped off with the evil one slitting the kid's throat, signifying how Joseph destroyed himself through his own mistakes.
  • Literally Shattered Lives: Joseph arrives home to find his wife and child strung up and frozen to death in his living room. He grabs his daughter's hand, only for it to break off and eventually shatter their entire bodies.
  • Nightmare Face: Joseph keeps seeing visions where random people's faces momentarily transform into eyeless Cenobite faces.
  • Overly-Long Tongue: When the Wire Twins Cenobites make out with Joseph, they lick him with unnaturally long tongues.
  • Pay Evil unto Evil: Pinhead is revealed to have put Joseph into an endless cycle of torment as punishment for his misdeeds.
  • Private Eye Monologue: While only being a police detective, Joseph has a noirish-style internal monologue while working the Engineer case. It's a recap of his personal failures as he's looking back on how he wound up in hell.
  • Psycho Psychologist: Subverted. The precinct psychiatrist Dr. Paul Gregory initially reveals himself as the Engineer killer when Joseph finds his wife and child frozen to death in his home. It's actually Pinhead in disguise and is further implied to have made up the doctor's identity to begin with, as he is the one to inform Joseph of the Lament Configuration's origins.
  • Psychological Horror: The gore and Pinhead and the Cenobites' presence is toned down considerably. The horror focuses instead on the psychological descent of a flawed character subjected to nightmarish visions and seeing his reality crumble around him.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Pinhead appears as a neutral arbiter and delivers an epic one, condemning Joseph to Hell, informing him how he destroyed his own innocence and abused everyone around him, which has now become reality through Joseph's dark side killing his younger self. He is then punished accordingly for his sins for all of eternity.
  • Self-Inflicted Hell: As Pinhead explains, Joseph has built his own Hell by hurting and abusing everyone around him. He'll be stuck in an endless loop where he hunts his own dark side and has to watch his friends and family be butchered in front of him.
  • Self-Made Orphan: The Engineer's offscreen mutilation and murder of Joseph's parents becomes even scarier in hindsight when the Engineer is revealed to be the actual physical incarnation of the worst parts of Joseph's own soul.
  • Serial Killer: The Engineer is an eyeless serial killer who is going after the people around Joseph and playing an extensive cat and mouse game with him.
  • Smart People Play Chess: The movie opens with Joseph playing speed chess against a friend of his to show his intelligence. On top of that he has a phone conversation halfway through without interrupting his game and goes right back to playing a basketball game after he trumps his opponent.
  • Sound-Only Death: Joseph has to listen to his mother and father being murdered on the other side of a closed door, with blood seeping through on the floor.
  • Streetwalker: Joseph picks up a hooker from the streets to spend the night with.
  • Targeted to Hurt the Hero: Joseph's wife and daughter are both strung up and frozen to death by the serial killer in his home while Joseph was away. He rushes home to find their dead bodies and the killer present to taunt him.
  • Theme Serial Killer: The Engineer will murder people close to Joseph and then leave a finger behind from a boy he's keeping captive to complete a set of exactly 10 victims. All three of them are in fact the same person.
  • Tomato in the Mirror: Joseph turns out to be both the Engineer (his evil self who only worships the flesh) killer he's been hunting and the boy (Joseph's childlike innocence before he destroyed it) he's been trying to rescue.
  • Tragedy: This film is one of the few examples crossing over with Horror. Fundamentally it is the story of a man who receives unimaginable punishment due to his own sins and his abuse of everyone around him.
  • Through the Eyes of Madness: Joseph keeps seeing momentary visions of the Cenobites as people's faces randomly morph into nightmarish shapes. When Joseph confronts them they are perfectly normal however. The world around Joseph gradually becomes increasingly bizarre and nightmarish and it becomes unclear what is even happening for real. He's revealed at the end to not actually have been insane, but being tortured in hell for most of the movie.
  • Twincest: The Wire Twins Cenobites creep up on Joseph to have a deliberately disturbing make-out session with him and are seen feeling each other up in a later scene.
  • Twin Threesome Fantasy: The film has a disturbing version where two cenobites feel up Joseph... going as far as forcing their hands inside his skin.
  • Twist Ending: Joseph has been in a personal Hell ever since he opened the Lament Configuration and is stuck in an eternal loop. His investigation of the Engineer serial killer turns out to have been a search for his own depraved self and the victim was his childish innocence.
  • Villain Protagonist: Joseph is revealed over the course of the movie to be one, with Pinhead and the Cenobites showing him his sins and punishing him for them. He regrets what he has become by the end, but it ends up being far too late for him to redeem himself or repent.
  • Welcome to Hell: Said by Pinhead when he finishes his "The Reason You Suck" Speech to Joseph.
  • Wham Line: As Pinhead informs Joseph what has happened, he reveals it in one line:
    Pinhead: Welcome to Hell.
  • When You Coming Home, Dad?: Detective Joseph Thorne does seem to love his daughter if not his wife anymore, but he ignores both of them by claiming he's working a case when in fact he's visting hookers. At one point his daughter cries out that she just wants him to come home as he leaves to hunt the killer. It's Joseph's absence that causes the Engineer to murder his wife and child with no one to protect them.
  • Whip It Good: Deconstructed. Whips with hooks are used once as a weapon and once as a torture and murder weapon. In the former case, it is used to strike out and proves completely impractical; it injures the recipient, but has no stopping power. Despite striking first, the character with the barbed whip is immediately killed. The second time, it is only used as a murder weapon after the victim is helpless, when all the terrible harm the lash can do is shown.