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Soundtrack review: Flatliners (Nathan Barr – 2017)

Film scores

Soundtrack review: Flatliners (Nathan Barr – 2017)


“Flatliners” is a 2017 American science fiction psychological horror film directed by Niels Arden Oplev and written by Ben Ripley. The film is a sequel to the 1990 film of the same name, and stars Ellen Page, Diego Luna, Nina Dobrev, James Norton, Kiersey Clemons and Kiefer Sutherland (who also starred in the original), and follows five young medical students who attempt to conduct experiments that produce near-death experiences. Twenty-eight years after Nelson Wright survived his ordeal of experimenting on near-death experiences, a group of medical students attempt the same procedure with the help of theorist Courtney Holmes. But once they take their turns, side effects and secrets of the past come along to haunt them. Nathan Barr wrote the score.

“Flatliners” is one of the most exciting 90s movies for me and I was happy to see that they went for a sequel rather than a remake. The original score was written by James Newton Howard and it was creepy as hell. Sadly we only have bootlegs of it, I am still hoping for an official release. Nathan Barr picks up with a short tense opening in “Crash”. The main titles are dark industrial and electronic and with a rhythmic pulse that becomes addictive in no time. I can imagine the composer wanted to mimic the frantic beating of a heart as the excitement and fear for what comes next takes over either of the main characters.

The first few cues of the score are beautifully melodic; it’s often that in horror or disaster movies the beginning is idyllic so it will contrast with the tragedies that follow. I just love the sweet piano in “Enough suffering”; it’s another very short cue but it does enough to make an impression. It’s interesting how the composer went with very short, 1 minute long cues for anything other than the flatline experiences of the characters which run for 4 minutes. He keeps an enjoyably electronic tense atmosphere, nothing too scary but mysterious enough to make me want to hear more.

Then the first flatline cue comes, “Courney’s flatline” and the music explodes in a beautiful electronic orchestral tone before the frantic heartbeat pace returns. Nathan Barr also peppers strange sound effects throughout this cue. But for me the electronic orchestral motifs, a la “Tron: legacy” are what makes this cue really shine. The chaotic flatline experience is expressed musically through this back and forth between cold and melodic. “Lightstorm” continues with the epic, chorus included, and I am connected to the pace of this score. The romance is present in “Marlo and ray” and “What do you see in me” and I found in there the most delightful piano love motif which will also recur in the closing title “Forgiveness”.

I like it that instead of going for continuously tense as a lot of thrillers do these days, Nathan Barr goes for variation and emotion with melodic and orchestral electronic. I like the atmospheric sound of “Flatliners” both the scary and the quiet one. The synth pieces like “Shower curtain” and “Wild car ride” only add to my enjoyment of this score. I like the choices that Nathan Barr made for this score; he kept it lean and alert and the electronic moments were a welcomed bonus. “Flatliners” was an enjoyable thriller score and I can’t wait to experience it in the context of the movie as well.

Cue rating: 87 / 100

Total minutes of excellence: 18 / 44

Album excellence: 40%

Main Title
Enough Suffering
Courtney’s Flatline
Shower Curtain
Wild Car Ride
Marlo and Ray
What Do You See in Me?

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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