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Soundtrack review: Firestarter (Tangerine Dream – 1984)

Film scores

Soundtrack review: Firestarter (Tangerine Dream – 1984)

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“Firestarter” is a 1984 American science-fiction horror film based on Stephen King’s 1980 novel of the same name. The plot concerns a young girl who develops pyrokinesis and the secret government agency known as the Shop which seeks to control her. The film was directed by Mark L. Lester, and stars David Keith, Drew Barrymore, Martin Sheen, and George C. Scott. Andrew and Vicky McGee met while earning money as guinea pigs for an experiment at college. The experiment was shrouded in suspicion and mystery, and seemed to be related to psychic abilities. The two were married and had a daughter Charlie, who has the ability to start fires by merely thinking about it. Naturally, the government takes a great interest in Charlie, and operatives from the secret department known as “The Shop” want to quarantine and study her. Tangerine Dream wrote the score.

“Firestarter” is one of the movies I remember the most from my childhood; I think it was the second scary or supernatural movie I ever saw, after “Conan the Barbarian” and it made quite an impression because it didn’t have scary creatures or impressive special effects; it just had a story that fascinated me and I attribute to it the start of my obsession and fascination with the supernatural in human form. The idea of people with supernatural powers is still my favourite as from all the superhero and fantasy franchises I like “X-men” the best and in a way “Firestarter” was my first contact with this world. I remember the opening scenes vividly, when David Keith and Heather Locklear were laying in bed in the lab and I remember Drew Barrymore’s rage and confusion and I even remember the blood coming out of her father’s nose whenever he used his powers.

If the connection with the story and the movie wasn’t enough, there’s the score written by Tangerine Dream, one of the most iconic bands from my favourite genre, electronic music. This German group was one of the first I discovered at the end of the 80s when my passion for this kind of music started. Right from the opening cue “Crystal voice” I am hypnotised and enchanted by the mellow ambient electronic vibes, melodic and addictive. When the second cue “The run” starts I get instant flashbacks from the movie. I had forgotten the music of “Firestarter” up until now but it must have stuck with me anyway because the flashes and pulses of this cue bring back the images of father and daughter running, of sparks, of danger. Nostalgia is high with this scores on many levels.

My favourite piece from this electronic bonanza is “Charly the kid” as it hits my softest of synth wave spots with its warm melody that makes me think of good and innocence; in the past couple of years of revival of this genre I liked mostly the bands that wrote this brand of retro wave, the shinny melodic one, the one that makes me think of sunset and waves and glimmering waters. It’s an exception in this score as even if Tangerine Dream don’t go Terminator like dark they still keep the element of danger and mystery in the music.

The brand of electronic music that Tangerine Dream brought forth with “Firestarter” is actually more accessible to the general listening public than the usual electronic sound; it’s melodic, it’s more light than dark and it’s rhythmic enough at times to hum; “Shop territory” is as groovy as they come. There are exceptions, of course, like the barely intelligible “Between realities” but they don’t take away from the comfortable and enjoyable standalone listening experience. I was very happy to rediscover this score.

Cue rating: 91 / 100

Total minutes of excellence: 28 / 43

Album excellence: 67%

Highlights:
Crystal Voice
The Run
Testlab
Charly The Kid
Burning Force
Flash Final
Out Of The Heat

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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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1 Comments

  1. Andy 30th December 2017

    Tangerine Dream were asked to score Conan – but they said no.

    Reply

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