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Soundtrack review: Heathers (TV) (Chris Alan Lee – 2018)

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Soundtrack review: Heathers (TV) (Chris Alan Lee – 2018)

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“Heathers” is an American black comedy television series, created by Jason Micallef, that is set to premiere on October 25, 2018, on Paramount Network. Its first season, a modern-day reboot of the 1989 film of the same name written by Daniel Waters, follows high school student Veronica Sawyer (played by Grace Victoria Cox) and her conflicts with a self-titled clique consisting of three fellow students who share the name Heather. The series has been intended to be an anthology, with each season taking place in an entirely different setting. The TV show was plagued with issues related to its content. The score was written by Chris Alan Lee.

I reviewed recently the extended version of the original movie score by David Newman and I liked it. This my first contact with the music of Chris Alan Lee and two minutes in I was frantically looking for other scores he’d written. I couldn’t help it, this is the way I function: I get fired up instantly when I run into a certain retro inspired sound. The 80s and early 90s atmospheric electronic vibe will always get to me and make me forget anything else in that moment. I grew up on TV shows from those years, a lot of them shows with teenagers and with the exception of “21 Jump Street” (and this one came out in 2018) there were no score releases of those ambiguous but hypnotic light electronic compositions. So I am getting my fix from this short lived “Heathers” show that fortunately got a timely release. OK, the music of “Heathers” is not as playful as, say, that of “Beverly Hills 90210” as the mood is a bit darker, reminding me of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer”, the movie. It’s dark atmospheric though and this often is my poison.

Chris Alan Lee creates his own sound though as regardless of his inspirations his music gets experimental and sharp; he seasons those atmospheric inserts with rhythmic electronic inserts to tone down the reflective qualities of the score; things are happening in this story and this needs to transpire in the music as well. Naturally I am more drawn to a purely ambient piece like “I am suicide”. It is but an exception as the rest of the score could count as a weird hybrid between “The terminator” and 80s slasher film music. Either way, it’s nostalgic and a familiar place for me to visit as it takes me back to many of the things I enjoyed growing up.

“Heathers” is ultimately atmospheric and hypnotic. There are the occasional rough edges but when the score gets into full 80s gear, it’s good. If my review seems a bit chaotic it is because it mirrors the music which can be dark sci-fi one time and funky electronic techno another time, like in “This is Lizzy OMG U never buy me anything (and yes, this is an actual cue title). What stays constant throughout the score is the late 80s, early 90s vibe, regardless of the pace and construction of the cues. I enjoyed “Heathers” because I am so connected to that period in time and if you share this affinity you will find these atmospheric tones seductive.

Cue rating: 75 / 100

Highlights:
American Carousel of Tragedy
I Am Suicide
This is Lizzy OMG U Never Buy Me Anything
Moby Dick
The Royal Murder
The Devil’s Jizz

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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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