Just over thirty years ago I was flicking through the films and shows long players in HMV at the Trocadera in London’s Piccadilly Circus, and I came across an album by composer Christopher Young. It was HELLRAISER, now at the time I had not heard about the film or the score, what I did know was I had DEF CON 4 by Young and that was pretty good, so I got it. It was the UK pressing on Silva Screen so that was a label I knew also. The score for me is now an iconic horror soundtrack and one which I return to on a regular basis. The theme is haunting in a somewhat foreboding way and it is also one of Young’s most powerful themes for cinema. Last year the 3oth Anniversary edition of the score was released and of course I just had to get it, the work still sounds as fresh and vibrant as it did back when I first heard it and Young’s macabre sounding RESSURECTION theme is still as menacing and fearsome.
The film I think has also aged well and stood the test of time, it still attracts fans each time it is shown on TV or even when there has been a special screening in a cinema. Considering that this was a film that Young scored quite early on in his career it is a huge work, fully symphonic and filled to overflowing with so many complex musical compositions. I thought when I first heard the score immediately of Bernard Herrmann, Young’s style in my opinion was very similar to that of Herrmann, grandiose and driving with dark and tense undertones that conjured up a sense of fearfulness and virulence.
The music keeps the listener on the edge throughout, but although it is tense and jagged sounding for the most, the composer does weave into the score music that is slightly less unsettling. But it is the sinewy and spidery atonal sounding cues that are the ones that create the chills and the shivers, all the time Young builds the tension and creates the powerfully dark moments via crashing percussive elements.
Jagged rasping brass and ominous sounding strings. Add to this the mind blurring macabre music box sound that the composer creates for the score and you have one hell of a film score, and a score that just keeps giving because each time I hear it I find something that I am sure was not there before, half heard sounds, crashes, and flourishes, it seems that things get added to the score after each listen. I think THE CENOBITES is one of the most disconcerting tracks on the recording, there is so much going on, its like a chaotic jumble but at the same time it all makes sense, and still sends a bit of a cold shiver through me. Its as if it is all around you and there is no escape, everywhere you go you come face to face with something that you do not really want to be next to. But, this is done musically, Young creates an icy and unhospitable atmosphere via the various sounds he fashions for this sequence.
In tracks such as UNCLE FRANK we hear Young’s dark and fearful music which evokes the guttural but melodic style of Herrmann, HELLRAISER is now a classic film score, no doubt about this, all I can say is if you have never heard this score you have missed out on some of the best film music written for the horror genre. Young returned to score HELLRAISER ll, and even though this was a strong score, nothing I do not think will equal the original score, which is filled with menace, dread and a real atmosphere of evil. A must have for any film music connoisseur.