Something of a return to form for the series after the meandering and directionless third entry, but still plenty of meandering. Still believe it must be considered a success on the strength of its visuals and ambition that, although not fully realized, provides a great space to navigate around them.
This certainly deserves credit for being altogether more ambitious, and arguably closer to Clive Barker's initial vision, than its immediate predecessor - and I've heard good things about the original script as well as aspects of the workprint - but after Miramax wrenched this from the director's hands and cut it to shreds in the editing room, what's left is a pretty sorry representation of the Pinhead character.
A kind of anthology movie that try to give some answer to the mystery of the puzzle box and about the family that created it. I actually liked it for it's ambition and at the attempt of a definitive end to the Pinhead monster and his minions, but the "middle story" is boring and only worth seeing due to Kim Myers. Doug Bradley is always watchable as the main villain and the make-up/mask work is exceptional as usual.
[Workprint Cut] The unofficial, fan-based attempt to reedit the footage into an intent director Alan Smithee* and the studio would disapprove of proves the old adage, You can't shine sh*t, but sometimes you can make a helluva sculpture. Hellraiser always had loftier intentions than budgets, and a three-century battle with cenobites ending IN SPACE is the loftiest. Curiously, the film feels like The Fountain.
While not as terrible as the 'directed by Alan Smithee' credit would lead one to believe this fourth entry in the series is indeed a hot mess. Film attempts a futuristic spaceship set bookend (never a good idea) with flashbacks to two earlier time periods yet fails to make the narrative anywhere near comprehensible. Earliest time period setting could have made for a novel entry but the film collapses with time.
Bad story as a whole, one hell of a dp, the only one who ever realized correctly the decadent cenobites, they should have stuck with one story or another, instead of four different stories, all incomplete. Man, there is some great effort here, kudos to Cottrell for a very disturbing performance which many will never see.
This movie is a good example to show film students in order to explain why things like flash-forwards within flash-backs and lack of plot points make bad movies. Apparently an ambitious intention, the result is a mess that is nonsensical during its action and boring during its development. -- PolarisDiB