Ben Lovett’s frankly fantastic score for the new Hellraiser does the one thing that we were all hoping it would; it brings back Christopher Young’s themes, and not just for cameo appearances. They’re all back in force and are just as magnificently terrifying as always, with Lovett’s excellent musical style here successfully blending more modernised instrumentation with that epic choral Hellraiser sound that we all know and love, to some truly amazing results.
A soundtrack to a reboot movie, especially one to a franchise that has such deep thematic roots as Hellraiser does, is always going to be a bit of a risky one. So easy to misstep, so reluctant to admit it. We’ve had a fair few reboot/sequel scores across a multitude of famous franchises over the years, some much more successful than others, and so as soon as a composer is announced, those ever-burning questions begin to crop up; will the new composer use the original themes or not, will they be fully-fledged orchestral appearances or simple quiet cameos, will they be “re-invented” in favour of a more “modern” approach that always seems to forget what made the original themes memorable in the first place… the list goes ever on, and as you can probably tell from the above there, it’s not all gone well. Suffice to say then, the wait for the score to the new Hellraiser reboot movie was a bit of an apprehensive time for me. I’d only been introduced to Christopher Young’s iconic Hellraiser themes just a few weeks ago, but already (as you can probably tell from my previous two reviews) I hold them in very high regard, and so awaited the reboot score with baited breath to see how well those incredible themes had been treated, if at all. Cautiously optimistic, but admittedly worried too. Now that the album is finally here though, it’s got to be said – simply, I needn’t have worried. Young’s themes reprise in glorious form here (ALL of them), are treated with the utmost respect and overall, make for a damned entertaining horror score by Lovett, as you’ll soon see.
Let’s take a look at opening track “Blood Box”. It’s likely the first track that anyone checking the soundtrack album out will hear, and so it’s got to be the one that sells you on the score, at least on a basic level. A hint of low-pitched strings opens the piece, with some rather intriguing sounding, distorted synth-esque instrumentation then playing, establishing quite an 80s-y horror music style overall. Good start. Then, loudly dramatic electronics burst into the fray, building to a rapid crescendo with bursts of higher-pitched, almost scream-like electronics taking over for the next minute or so. The music has now shifted into a more jumpscare-esque, modernised approach to horror, which isn’t so great. However, it’s the back half where things then get interesting; here the music quietens with the strings from earlier returning, and then, a few seconds later, several echoing, ghostly but unmistakable notes from Christopher Young’s resurrection theme (from the original Hellraiser) begin to whisper through, together with a rapid heartbeat-like percussive backdrop and moodily morose vocals. The opening notes of the iconic motif then fade through the rather eerie instrumentation here through several reprisals, before just fading quietly away. All-in, it’s a pretty solid start to the score; in just three minutes you’ve got the atmosphere, you’ve got interesting instrumentation, and a few quiet hints toward iconic themes to entice you further into the album. To tempt you, even.
With the stylistic stage set, “Mansion Party” then delves into the classical era (at least to start) with a quietly moody piano, before than rapidly returning the track to the modern era as dubstep-esque percussive beats start to play in the background, resulting in a striking mishmash of musical genres that works surprisingly well, all to represent the enigmatic lifestyle of millionaire Roland Voight in the film. As the cue continues however horror then starts to creep into the music, with quiet, ominous electronics fading into view as the classical piano starts to disappear, then resulting in quite an unnerving conclusion to the two minute setpiece. “Audience With God” then continues in this quietly moody vein, with downtrodden strings and a rather morose piano taking centre stage for the first two minutes. After this, the music then gives way to a dramatic rumble of percussion and increasingly foreboding brass, with loud choral vocals hinting briefly toward Christopher Young’s Hellraiser theme before the track comes to a crashing crescendo close. “Riley’s Temptation” and “Point Of No Return” then pull the score even further into classic Hellraiser-sounding territory, with the former holding a music box as its stylistic centrepiece and the latter utilising strings in an almost waltz-like manner rather akin to that of “Resurrection” from the original 1987 score.
With the album now edging ever closer to the Hellraiser sound we know and love, “Forbidden Evocation” echoes a few further ghostly notes from Young’s resurrection theme with the music box in tow, with a particularly frightening crescendo then being reached a few seconds later. “March Of The Cenobites” is the moment we’ve all been waiting for though; the track opens quietly, with a rumble of percussion then hinting toward a dramatic moment with ominous choral vocals and increasingly frenetic strings. At just over eighty seconds in this crescendo then reaches its peak, with the orchestra proudly presenting a loud, thunderously godlike rendition of Young’s Hellbound theme from Hellraiser II. It really feels like the album so far has been steadily building up to this moment with its various stylistic and thematic hints, and oh man, was it worth it. The theme receives several proudly emphatic renditions here with the choral vocals held triumphantly high, and even though it doesn’t stick around for too long (just under a minute) it plays long enough to stick, and shows above all else that the new composer is utterly unafraid to utilise Young’s iconic themes, which is really great to see (and hear!).
With the thematic lid now firmly blown off, “Puzzles Of The Past” delves deep into Christopher Young territory. It opens quietly and ominously with moody strings before, somewhat oddly, Tiffany’s theme from Hellraiser II then starts to play on gently pensive woodwinds. In this new film however, Lovett appears to have instead attributed this character motif to generally represent the “mystery”, if you will, of the Cenobites themselves. The quietly mysterious tone pushed forward by that motivic appearance is then amplified considerably by quietly wondrous renditions of both the Hellbound and Hellraiser themes, before the now richly thematic three minute cue draws to a gentle close. “What Is This Thing?” then develops the mystery further with low-pitched strings, eerie background electronics and a serene piano playing in the opening minute, before a deep percussive “heartbeat” then repeats to close out the cue. “Seduction & Destruction” as you might imagine then takes a much faster pace, with horror-like strings rapidly crescendoing near the start, followed swiftly by loudly jumpscare-inducing electronics and the ever deep, pounding percussive “heartbeat” from the previous cue that’s now in full-on chase mode.
The back half of “Torment Of Desire” appears to introduce what sounds like a brand new theme, with a rather classical-sounding piano and moody yet also rather hopeful strings playing the new “motif”. I say it in that quotation mark manner however as honestly, I’m struggling to hear much if any new thematic material in this score, and even this one I’m questioning. This track does sound vaguely theme-like, but it could be me just grasping at thematic straws, seeing patterns in nothing. That does bring me onto another point as well if we’re being honest; while I do absolutely adore Lovett’s reprisals of Young’s iconic Hellraiser themes here, I wouldn’t mind some new ones as well. The best sequel soundtracks honour the old while also bringing interesting new to the table, and this score is simply doing a ton of old, which while amazing (don’t get me wrong), you know – a bit of new wouldn’t go amiss either. Moving on though – atmosphere is the centrepiece of “Perpetual Tempest”, with some particularly unnerving strings taking centre stage for much of the two minute cue. “Hail To The Priest” then starts off quietly and builds over the course of its three minute runtime to a particularly dramatic, horror-like crescendo, with some creepily choral vocals and increasingly ominous strings weaved throughout.
“Cenobite Invasion” is where things really kick off, with the heartbeat-esque percussive tone from earlier cues returning in the first few seconds together with frenetic strings and emphatically choral vocals. With a very Hellraiser-y stylistic stage set, Christopher Young’s epic main theme from the original film then finally rears its head for a full, loud and almost celebratory rendition with the orchestra holding it proudly high. It’s an exquisite musical moment indeed, and much like with the Hellbound theme earlier the composer happily gives the motif the full appearance it deserves here, to truly spectacular, fist-pump-inducing results. “Pleasures Of Power” then briefly reprises the scream-like electronics from the album’s opening track before descending into frantic action territory for a good chunk of its runtime, only slowing down towards its end with “Nefarious Exchange” then picking up the increasingly atmospheric pace. Here slow, moodily malevolent strings and a worrisome piano establish quite a sinister tone, with Young’s Hellraiser theme then sounding ominously through on strings at the halfway mark and a jumpscare-esque rapid crescendo closing the cue out a little while later.
“Such Sights To Show You” is a bold track title, and having now listened to it more than a few times I can confirm – it certainly lives up to it. Loud bursts of brass and percussion open the piece, with strings then rapidly building in the foreground until a near-deafening choral crescendo once again plays the main Hellraiser theme in all its unapologetically epic glory. It just… it just sounds amazing, even through the more modern orchestral/electronics musical blend here. Moody strings then continue to reprise the iconic theme throughout the rest of this two and a half minute genuine piece of excellence. “Riley’s Choice” then slows things down for a few minutes with quietly ponderous strings and gently ethereal vocals setting an almost regretful, morose tone, but this doesn’t hold the score down for long as standout cue “Apotheosis” then enters the fray. It starts off quietly and almost ambiently, with choral vocals then switching this up dramatically as a rather ethereal rendition of Tiffany’s theme (I guess now the “mystery of the Cenobites” theme) starts to play, getting louder and bolder until, of all things, the Cenobites theme from Hellraiser II then steps grandly onto centre stage. From here the choral vocals become much louder and more dramatic together with grandiose brass and enthusiastic percussion, building to an almost triumphant finishing crescendo. As if that wasn’t enough, Lovett then has one final treat in store with “Hellraiser (2022) End Titles Suite”, which plays a slow, almost restful strings-based rendition of Young’s Hellraiser theme to ease us gently out of the album.
Overall then, as you’ve probably already guessed I’m pretty damned impressed with Ben Lovett’s score for the new Hellraiser movie. It is not easy at all to score a reboot of an iconic franchise, especially one with as deep musical roots as that of Hellraiser, but Lovett has managed it very well indeed. His musical style does an excellent job of bridging old and new here, with a blend of modern-sounding electronics and percussion being present and utilised effectively across the score, while also giving way to the Christopher Young-esque loud, emphatic orchestra and dramatic choral elements in the important movie moments where they’re needed. Speaking of bridging old and new as well, it’s great to see (well… hear!) that not only does Lovett not shy away from using Young’s iconic themes for the franchise, he actually weaves them impeccably well throughout the album in a manner that modernises the motifs in style, without forgetting what made them iconic in the first place (i.e. “re-inventing” them as we’ve heard so many times before), allowing them multiple full and flourishing renditions.
That being said though, there is pretty heavily reliance on Christopher Young throughout this album (like, literally every theme reprises from Hellraiser and Hellraiser II) which while amazing, doesn’t exactly allow much in the way of new thematic material. I certainly struggled to pick out any new themes… at all, which is a bit of a shame as often the best sequel soundtracks come from blending iconic old with excellent new. Still, I guess it could also be argued that this album has all the thematic material it really needs with Young’s themes here, and I would be hard pressed to argue with that.
All-in then, Ben Lovett has done a pretty fantastic job with the music for the new Hellraiser here, and I for one look forward to any and all sequels that will hopefully come our way.
LATER EDIT: Just on the above there, I’ve recently been informed by the composer himself that the score actually has two new themes; one for Voight, that’s first established in “Audience With God” and continued with “Torment Of Desire” (which in fairness I managed to pick up on just a little) and a melodic one for Riley, which debuts in “Riley’s Temptation” and continues throughout cues “New Blood”, “Perpetual Tempest” and concludes with “Riley’s Choice”. Be sure to keep an ear out for those as well (I know I certainly will!).
Standout Cue: 22. Apotheosis
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