Many movies rely on songs to set the mood, and there are some that are relied upon a lot – what we like to call ‘Soundtrack Staples’. This haunting tune from Australia’s Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, Red Right Hand, has become a creepy classic – but it didn’t start its soundtrack life that way…
It may never have been your traditional type of “hit”, only reaching number 62 in the Australian charts, however Nick Cave isn’t really about traditional types of hits. Well, unless he’s hanging out with Kyles, and even then, “traditional”?
Let Love In track Red Right Hand has, however, become a go-to song when a darker vibe is required on a soundtrack. While we only usually delve into movie soundtracks here, the song has also provided theme song duties for television’s Jack Irish and Peaky Blinders, as well as a memorable appearance in a Duane Barry episode of The X-Files.
The latter show has led to several cover versions appearing, including from the likes of Arctic Monkeys, PJ Harvey, Iggy Pop, Laura Marling and Jarvis Cocker.
As for the title of the song, Cave drew inspiration from John Milton’s epic poem Paradise Lost, which refers to the vengeful hand of God: “What if the breath that kindled those grim fires / Awaked, should blow them into sevenfold rage / And plunge us in the flames; or from above / Should intermitted vengeance arm again / His red right hand to plague us?”.
Here’s the suitably black and white clip for the single edit of Red Right Hand…
Dumb and Dumber (1994)
Yes, this very silly flick starring Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels was the first to give Red Right Hand a movie home, soundtracking a scene wherein Lloyd basically gets rolled by a mobility scooter-bound older lady.
Scream (1996)/Scream 2 (1997)/Scream 3 (2000)
Where many peoples’ minds will first wander when thinking of Red Right Hand in a movie context, the original version appeared on the score of the first Scream, while a DJ Spooky mix popped up in Scream 2, and a different Cave version – Red Right Hand 2 – made it into Scream 3.
Box of Moon Light (1996)
We must admit to having never heard of this road trip dramedy until now, but when it stars John Turturro, Sam Rockwell and Catherine Keener and features a soundtrack boasting Wall of Voodoo and Bauhaus’ Peter Murphy as well as Nick and his Bad Seeds, we’ll definitely be hunting it down.
Tell Me Something (1999)
Red Right Hand knows no language barriers, bumping up against songs from Enya and Placebo in this South Korean crime/horror/thriller.
A rather faithful cover of RRH from Pete Yorn accompanied the adventures of the titular horny red dude.
Cirque du Freak: The Vampire’s Assistant (2009)
Darren Shan’s fantasy books came alive in movie form, complete with a decent dose of Red Right Hand to give the right edge to… ah, a grave-digging scene at night. Yes, that took imagination, didn’t it?
Slash (2013)/Slash 2 (2014)/Slash 3 (2015)
This trilogy of Scream-inspired fan flicks – so RRH had to be included – made it to YouTube, unmade it to YouTube, then reappeared again later on YouTube. Director Jack Stanis made the first when he was 14. Overachiever much?! If you have the time, here’s the entire first instalment.
Red Right Hand came home for this Aussie comedy-tinged romantic thriller role-reversal tale starring Kaarin Farfax, John Jarratt and Alan Finney.