Inferno is unique in the Hellraiser series in that it underplays the high level of gore of the earlier films. Many scenes cut away before the moment of violence.
Detective Joseph Thorne, a shady LA detective inconsiderate to those around him, investigates the murder of Jay Cho, who was killed by hooked chains after solving the Lament Configuration, which Joseph finds under a candle with the finger of a child in it. After cheating on his wife Melanie with a hooker named Daphne, Joseph solves the Lament Configuration in a motel and seems to have a dream where he meets the Wire Twin Cenobites, a second Chatterer Cenobite (who has no legs), and finally Pinhead, who tears his face apart before he wakes up to find it a dream.
When Joseph goes to the police station, he receives a call from Daphne, who is being attacked. Joseph and his partner Tony Nenonen investigate and find her dead, killed with a weapon made from hooks of body piercing, and another child's finger that analysis shows was cut off while alive. A fingerprint on the Lament Configuration matches that of a man named Leon. When Joseph questions him, he says he is working for a violent serial killer called the Engineer.
Joseph begins looking for the Engineer. A kid gives him a tape, showing the Engineer (who has a strange, Cenobite-like mask on) killing Bernie, Joseph's snitch. When others examine the tape, it seems to be erased, but Bernie is found dead in his ice cream truck with another finger of the kid, whom Joseph is determined to find. Dr. Paul Gregory, a psychiatrist, seems to know a lot about the Engineer, as well as the Lament Configuration. Due to his connection to the victims, he is suspected to be the killer.
After Joseph returns home, he receives a phone call from his mother, saying that the Engineer is in their room, while unaware that he is a serial killer. Joseph has never been to see his mother or his father, who is extremely ill, further showing how neglective he is. When he gets there, they are alive and there is no sign of the Engineer. He walks into a room resembling his childhood home before waking up in his house. Afterward the next events repeat, with the phone call about the Engineer in his mother and father's room. This time, when Joseph arrives, his parents are dead, and two more fingers are at the scene.
Joseph looks through a window and sees Tony being murdered by the Engineer. He receives a phone call telling him to go home. Joseph arrives to see his wife and daughter dead, crumbling into pieces. Paul Gregory appears, it having been him who made the call and intending for Joseph to go to his childhood home. He is seemingly revealed as the Engineer, and reveals his true identity to be Pinhead. Joseph goes to his childhood home, where he views a flashback to when he was a kid. He is then attacked by everyone who the Engineer killed, and shoots them all. He then enters a dark room, and finds the kid whose fingers were cut off, and discovers that it is him. The Engineer removes his mask to reveal he is also Joseph.
Pinhead explains that Joseph is in hell since he solved the box, that the kid represents his soul and the Engineer represents his flesh, damaging his soul. The kid has one finger left for one more death; Pinhead tears Joseph apart with his hooked chains. He wakes up on the floor of the motel, and thinks the whole thing a dream until Daphne calls him at the police station, and he realizes the whole ordeal is starting over again, so he shoots himself in the mouth and wakes up on the hotel floor again, and realizes he is doomed to repeat this moment and face his demons for eternity.
- Craig Sheffer as Detective Joseph Thorne
- Nicholas Turturro as Detetive Tony Nenonen
- James Remar as Dr. Paul Gregory
- Doug Bradley as Pinhead
- Nicholas Sadler as Bernie
- Noelle Evans as Melanie Thorne
- Lindsay Taylor as Chloe
- Matt George as Leon Gaultier
- Michael Shamus Wiles as Mr. Parmagi
- Sasha Barrese as Daphne Sharp
- Kathryn Joosten as Mother
- Jessica Elliot as Young Joseph's Mother
- Carmen Argenziano as Captain
Craig Sheffer, who plays the Detective Joseph Thorne, also starred in the lead role of Clive Barker's 1990 horror film Nightbreed.
The straight to DVD/video release suffered from mixed reviews from both critics and fans alike, with Barker claiming non involvement with the picture. Some praised the movie for relying on psychological terror and not relying overtly on consistent gore and the presence of Pinhead (Doug Bradley), with the character acting instead as a demonic moral judge, and his screen time cut back to even less of that of the original picture as opposed to its subsequent sequels.
- This is the first film (not counting the back of the cases) to mention the name "Lament Configuration".