An independent, low-budget spy thriller written and directed by John Chi, Tentacle 8 (2014) features a plot involving various branches of the U.S. intelligence community (including the very secretive group, Tentacle 8) become worried about what each other are up to after a computer virus wipes out a bunch of important records. A National Security Agency code analyst (played by Brett Rickaby) becomes involved – as the prime suspect responsible for the data loss – and he has to stay one step ahead of various pursuers. The movie has been criticised for its slow pace, convoluted storyline and incomprehensible plot; one critic likened Tentacle 8 to the BBC’s 1970s TV mini-series adaptation of John Le Carré’s Cold War spy story, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, starring Alec Guinness (a programme that, at the time, I found completely unfathomable but also completely mesmerising). But the movie’s labyrinthine and baffling plot has been cited as both positive and negative aspects for audiences.
The music is scored by Swedish-born composer Max Blomgren. Although Blomgren’s name may not be immediately recognisable, he has been involved in film music for a number of years including high-profile film projects such as Resident Evil: Apocalypse, The Exorcism of Emily Rose, Drag Me To Hell and Creation (as synths performer). He has also had “Additional Music” credits on Christopher Young-scored films such as Ghost Rider and Priest. Tentacle 8 represents an early opportunity for Blomgren to score a feature film and, although the film’s emphasis is firmly skewed to being a dialogue-heavy rather than action-rich film, Blomgren rises to the challenge admirably, composing a score that contains some very beautiful music. Tentacle 8 opens with “Towers Falling”, a powerful piece for strings that’s full of solemnity; an elegiac work that’s reminiscent of the composers from the Baltic region of Europe, particularly the beautiful works of Estonian composer Arvo Pärt. Perhaps written for the events of 9/11 (this tragic event is featured towards the end of the film), “Towers Falling” is a strong start to the album and, although the album doesn’t reach the same heights again, the relatively slow tempo of the piece is maintained throughout the majority of the remainder of the score.
The next cue, “Eye of The Storm”, continues with the focus on strings but here the music is less solemn in nature. Higher register strings and the introduction of saxophone and piano brightens the music somewhat, alluding to (it seems) the romantic aspect of the plot. This romantic quality is not overstated but rather it’s hinted at, suggested, pointing perhaps at the uncertainty of his CIA-affiliated love interest’s motives. A thematic motif emerges here, played in the strings and saxophone, which recurs at several points throughout the score: most notably in the final track, “Fathers and Sons” where strings and now piano take up the theme, contributing to the track’s reflective tone, tinged with a sadness and which also ends the score in an uplifting – though not happy – manner.
Although there’s a distinct feel running through the score there are opportunities for Blomgren to vary things a little. Low rumbling strings play alongside sustained low synths at the opening of “Tentacle 8”, where dissonant and pitch-bending strings contribute to a level of uneasiness and threatening atmospherics that’s not to be found elsewhere in the score. However, this doesn’t last long as the theme from “Eye of The Storm” emerges from this uneasy soundscape, pulling the music to a powerful crescendo. The cue then ends with a statement of a related motif by a small ensemble of strings before the track fades away without any real resolution. And, “Ciphercode” features various percussion rhythms and plucked harp patterns to provide a race-against-time tension piece (reinforced by the inclusion of a ticking clock-like motif). The contents of the album is rounded off with a seductive jazzy night club piece, “Rainy Wednesday” (written by Chris de Silva) and one of Rachmaninoff’s piano preludes (Op. 23, played by Joohyun Park). Both tracks appear within the body of the album and are a bit distracting, especially the former track as it sits between “Tentacle 8” and “Ciphercode”. As I don’t think that the score is chronological order, it may have been better to have kept both “Rainy Wednesday” and “Prelude In D, Op. 23, No. 4” until the end of the album.
Overall, Tentacle 8 is a solid score. It does tend to be on the slow side but that’s because of the film’s plot. But Blomgren’s music is always interesting to listen to despite the slow pace. The opening track alone makes this album worth hearing. There is a definite sense of the composer’s origins running through the score, with the simple but powerful string writing and that’s a definite plus. Here’s hoping that the composer gets some projects in the future where he can flex his muscles. Tentacle 8 is available as a digital download at the usual online stores and clips can be heard HERE.
- Towers Falling (2:38)
- Eye of The Storm (5:19)
- Nothing Left To Protect (5:37)
- Prelude In D, Op. 23, No. 4 (composed by Sergei Rachmaninoff) (4:05)
- No Place For A Lady Like You (3:17)
- Where The Lakes Are Like Mirrors (4:24)
- Tentacle 8 (4:52)
- Rainy Wednesday (composed by Chris de Silva) (4:17)
- Ciphercode (3:30)
- Fathers and Sons (6:40)
Running Time: 44:39
Max Blomgren (2014)