Hellraiser (Christopher Young) [30th Anniversary Remaster] – Film Score Review

Baz Greenland reviews the 30th anniversary remastered release of Christopher Young's soundtrack to Hellraiser...

Composer: Christopher Young
Label: Lakeshore Records
Tracks: 14
Running time: 44 minutes

Thirty years ago, Clive Barker delivered a cinematic masterpiece in Hellraiser, a chilling, brutal and often terrifying piece of 1980’s horror. Composer Christopher Young was brought in to deliver the score after Barker’s first choice, industrial experimental band Coil, failed to deliver.

Now, on the film’s 30th anniversary, Young’s has overseen the remix and remastering of his original 24-track, 2 inch reel-to-reel analog tapes. The soundtrack has been available digitally and on CD since September 15th. A vinyl LP release, out today, will include:

  • The remixed and remastered from the Original 24 Track, 2 Inch Analog Master Session Tapes.
  • Gatefold Jacket with digitally restored original artwork and photography from the film’s archives.
  • 4-color printed disc sleeve features the long lost original theatrical sales sheet.

You can see the beautiful design below…

The soundtrack to Hellraiser is rather special indeed; it’s not just full of menace and darkness but an inherent romanticism that Christopher Young imbues into the score. It’s easy to throw the terms gothic and macabre to a horror movie soundtrack (when it’s done right of course) but this score is so much more; as dark and nasty as elements of the movie might be, it’s score is at times stunningly beautiful to listen to. Each of the 14 restored tracks are unique in their own right.

The opening track ‘Hellraiser’ immediately embraces that beauty with a stunning orchestral piece with a dark, fairy-tale like undertone, while ‘Resurrection’ has a lovely gothic feel over a simple but very effective piano piece. There is an almost Tim Burton-esque edge to it, feeling both tragic and fantastical as it builds and builds into something sinister and dramatic. As a piece of music, it was perhaps too big for the film itself but it makes for wonderful listening nonetheless.

‘Hellbound Heart’ continues that soft, gothic and beautiful quality, though it’s quieter and more sinister too than ‘Resurrection’. There remains a beautiful, romantic intensity to it. ‘The Lament Configuration’ is something altogether more creepy though, and the first moment where the soundtrack truly embraces its horror undertones. The clanging, industrial beat at the beginning creates a sense of unease that continues throughout the whole piece. The fairy-tale like nature of the earlier tracks blend in with the harsh sounds of this piece, making for something altogether eerie and off putting. It’s certainly the most unsettling piece of the album so far.

‘Reunion’ continues this darker, industrial feel with yet again a Burton-esque edge; a creepy orchestral movement that is forbidding and captures the horror of the film perfectly. ‘A Quick Death’ is more intense, the piano and orchestral beats again creating a sense of dread.

There is a beauty to the next track ‘Seduction and Pursuit’ as it returns to the fairy tale theme of earlier tracks but in a much more deranged and insidious way. The eerie, slowed down music box feel is replaced by the industrial clangs as the track builds to an intense, spine-tingling and frenzied explosion of horror; the discord of the soundtrack creating a sense of things spinning out of control. This relentless and uncomfortable feeling continues with ‘In Loves Name’, albeit with a slower, creepy haunting piece that hints at danger. It’s nearly the creepiest track on the whole album, the one lone horn at the end creating a sense of death approaching.

But it’s ‘The Cenobites’ that takes that crown and the music is as creepy as you remember; insidious, twisted, the twinkling music box style sped up amid industrial sounds and growls. The clicking sound as the music rises like the hum of an engine, sending a shiver down your spine. This isn’t a piece to sit back and listen to but as a musical representation of Pinhead’s Hellish cohorts, it absolutely delivers.

‘The Rat Slice Quartet’ is chilling too. The scene with the skinning of the rat in the movie was one of its nastiest moments and this piece captures the twisted horror of it all in an unsettling, orchestral movement that puts you on edge, building and building throughout. This is followed by ‘Re-Resurrection’, that returns to that gothic fairytale feel, with a twisted, romantic waltz-like theme.

‘Uncle Frank’ is brash, ominous and forbidding, almost biblical in tone; it’s a perfect melancholy orchestral piece that rises in tension into a dramatic, intense burst of terror ending on an ominous gothic bell. ‘Brought On By The Night’ is another sinister and beautiful piece, full of despair as it builds again to a nightmarish, intense ending, while the final track ‘Another Puzzle’ is pure gothic horror, a beautiful, romantic, macabre climax that is eerie, ethereal and powerful.

Soundtracks to horror movies are not always something you can enjoy outside the experience of the movie itself. Too often they’re intense, overpowering or just plain creepy. And while Young’s soundtrack to Hellraiser has all those elements, that macabre beauty makes it a joy too. His score is a tremendous achievement and a worthy addition to anyone’s cinematic soundtrack collection.

Hellraiser: 30th Anniversary Remastered Edition is now available from Lakeshore Records. Let us know what you think of it…

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