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Soundtrack review: Nerve (Rob Simonsen – 2016)

Film scores

Soundtrack review: Nerve (Rob Simonsen – 2016)


“Nerve” is a 2016 American crime techno-thriller survival film directed by Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman and written by Jessica Sharzer, based on the 2012 novel of the same name. The film stars Emma Roberts, Dave Franco and Juliette Lewis, and revolves around an online objective truth or dare video game, which allows people to enlist as “players” or “watchers” as the game intensifies. The score was written by Rob Simonsen and I could fill this review only with me expectations for it; it comes from one of my favorite composers from the past couple of years, it’s billed as synth wave which is my favorite musical genre and the cover has that awesome and nostalgic purple neon. I am sold.
“Game on”, the opening cue throws a big bucket of nostalgia in my face. Arcade game sounds, 80s retro disco everything bundled in two minutes of pure joy and delight. I feel like grooving, shaking, jumping and I am not that kind of guy. Ok so I feel like taking the joystick and simulating grooving and jumping. This is not “Tron: legacy” like electronic music; it’s darker and less dreamy and I love it. There are subtle choral inserts that work and relentless beats that make me feel like part of a computer game. Then the emotions come in “Staten Island” and Rob Simonsen completes right from the start the spectrum of musical elements and feelings I wanted to get from this score.
Nostalgic excitement aside, this is a great score for fans of the genre. I can almost hear the 80s imperfections in some cues the trembling of sound that usually came from a worn out audio tape. The composer does everything right. The use of the vocalizations is great and the cues are simple and sparkling. I am floating on an electric river as I listen to this score and I have black and purple flashes before my eyes. I can’t get enough of listening to “Nerve” and it will go right to my synth wave favorites playlist.  Ok maybe not synth wave since Rob Simonsen’s composition is darker and more aggressive and a bit more modern that that genre usually offers but nostalgia is through the roof.
“Night drive” is one of the most fascinating cues from the score. It’s like a mix tape of 80s and 90s playful goodness. A lot of the cues have surprising and rewarding constructions and I love taking this musical trip. It’s nostalgic, it’s ethereal, it’s dark and I am hooked. If you miss neon signs, wet dark alleys and obsessive beats and you want them blended with rave like intense cues (I’m looking at you, “New York F**king City), you will love this one. Great start to Lakeshore Records’ “Summer of synths”.
Cue rating: 93 / 100
Total minutes of excellence: 27 / 46
Album excellence: 58%

Game On
Staten Island
Dare Accepted
Player vs Player
Night Drive
Snitches Get Stitches

Mihnea Manduteanu

I have been listening to film music for 25 years and writing about it since 2014. I've written over 1000 reviews and I can't imagine myself doing anything else. I am also a member of IFMCA (International Film Music Critics Association).

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