Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross bring even more depth to their collaboration with their score for David Fincher's Gone Girl. This is some of the most disturbing music of Reznor's career, which is saying something -- and all the more impressive considering it's part of a film with such mainstream appeal. Their music for Fincher's adaptation of Gillian Flynn's best-selling novel explores a relationship gone horribly wrong, subject matter that allows the duo to take a more emotive approach than they did on either The Social Network or The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. They express the story's domestic dysfunction and emotional corruption via chilly detachment, saccharine veneers, and fraying tension. Aloof pieces like "Clue One" and "Perpetual" recall the pair's previous scores, but many of these tracks deliver more nuance. "Empty Places" hones its strings to knife-like points, while "Procedural"'s throbbing arpeggios evoke John Carpenter and Oneohtrix Point Never. Meanwhile, the deceptively smooth "Appearances" and "Sugar Storm" add a poisonous sweetness that is complicated by "Just Like You," a delicate piano piece that teeters between genuine and contrived romance. Elsewhere, the unease that suffuses all of Gone Girl surfaces on cues like "Something Disposable" and "Secrets," where distortion gnaws at the tracks' foundations. Ross and Reznor aren't afraid of turning up the volume to suffocating levels on the terrifying "Consummation," which creeps up on listeners and smothers them with seething strings and electronics (and is a testament to the album's masterfully unsettling sound design). Gone Girl is all the more fascinating when its motifs start bleeding into each other. "Like Home"'s glowing synths exude a scented candle coziness that soon becomes toxic; "The Way He Looks at Me" devolves into ugly sputtering somewhere between demonic possession and malfunctioning machinery; and "Technically, Missing" unites precise electronics and glowering guitars into something subtly but relentlessly diabolical. These complicated combinations of sounds and feelings suggest that Reznor and Ross are nearly as skilled at emotional manipulation as the film's characters, and Gone Girl's ambiguity and dread make it their most haunting work yet. ~ Heather Phares
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