Unreleased Hellraiser Score – Coil
Coil’s discarded industrial score for Clive Barker’s retina-searing classic, Hellraiser was described as ‘bowel-churning’ by the director.
Published on September 11, 2013 | Filed under Audiodrome: Music in Film

Based upon his novella, The Hellbound Heart, Clive Barker’s startling directorial feature debut Hellraiser, is one of the most visceral, provocative and downright disturbing horror titles of all time. Produced in the mid eighties, at a time when audiences where inundated with – and rapidly losing interest in – stringently conventional slasher movies, Hellraiser was like nothing ever seen before and, perhaps due to its teen-friendly contemporaries, really stands out as one of the most shocking titles from this era. With its blushless exploration of adult themes such as sado-masochism, eroticism, pain/pleasure thresholds, and imagery of grisly body-modification and skinless resurrections, the film marked Barker as an extraordinarily singular voice in horror.

The deliciously gothic, full-blooded score by Christopher Young, underpins the chilling desires of Barker’s characters, enhances the oh-so sombre tone and elevates the fiendish Ceneobites to something resembling divinity. If Barker had had his way however, Hellraiser could have been a very different film indeed. Originally commissioning British industrial outfit Coil to score the film, Barker believed he had found the perfect – in his own words, ‘bowel-churning’ – music to accompany his retina-searing, sadistic imagery. With previous releases like How to Destroy Angels, Horse Rotavator and Scatology, Coil (AKA John Balance and Peter Christopherson) had already begun to garner a reputation as conjurers of dark and disturbing sounds which, in their own words, acted as “ritual music for the accumulation of male sexual energy.” Contrary to popular belief, their score for Hellraiser – all throbbing synths, discordant music box melodies, ominous drones and cranking, clattering noisescapes – wasn’t rejected because it proved too disturbing and ‘intense’ for studio honchos, but because it wasn’t quite ‘commercial’ enough. Funny that, given that Hellraiser is essentially the rather non-commercial story of unsavory individuals who seek the most extreme forms of self-gratifying pleasure before losing their lives (and souls) to a group of sinister, monastic figures from another dimension with an extreme penchant for ritualistic self-mutilation and body modification.


Fun Fact: According to various online sources, the band were responsible for introducing Barker to the body-piercing magazines he was inspired by when creating the unique look for the lead Cenobite, Pinhead.

While arguably not as intense as some of the band’s other work, their music for Hellraiser is still an unnervingly dark and twisted sonic odyssey. With infernal industrial percussion, battered pianos, creepy (though slightly dated) synth work and a cacophony of clanking mechanical noises, it slips as insidiously under the skin as much as Barker’s festering, wet imagery. Haunting melodies lurk amidst the wreckage and they work to quietly worm their way into your subconscious. Moody piano, bass vocalisations which sound like they emanate from imposing, hooded figures, weird croaking and rasping, and sharp objects being scrapped along jagged surfaces are but some of the joys skulking throughout this audible nightmare.

The Unreleased Themes for Hellraiser: The Consequences Of Raising Hell, was released by Coil in 1987 and appeared on vinyl, cassette and CD. The CD version contains the discarded Hellraiser tracks – several variations of the main theme, the box theme and the cheerily titled No New World and Attack of the Sennapods, while the other formats also include ‘music for commercials’ – uncharacteristically ambient and somewhat brief tracks with a distinct Brian Eno edge.

It’s a frequently chilling listen.

As a special treat, I’ll leave you with two tracks – The Main Title – which throbs like so much blood pulsing out of a fresh wound, churned on by militant drum bursts and sneering synth work – and the deranged music box tinkling of The Box Theme. One can only imagine what a fascinating, and probably incredibly nightmarish experience it would be, to watch Hellraiser set to this score.

“No tears, please. It’s a waste of good suffering.”

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The Main Title

Here is the Music Player. You need to installl flash player to show this cool thing!

The Box Theme

James is the author of Dario Argento (Kamera Books) and a monograph on The Company of Wolves (part of Auteur’s Devil’s Advocates series). He currently contributes to Exquisite Terror and Diabolique, and has also written for Film Ireland, Eye for Film, Little White Lies and The Quietus.
James Gracey