David Fincher’s thriller GONE GIRL virtually tied with ANNABELLE, the horror movie prequel to THE CONJURING this past weekend at the box office. Both took in over 37 million, and both prove that the nation’s audiences love to sit on the edge of their seats at the Cineplex. And, not surprisingly, GONE GIRL has a lot in common with the horror genre too. In fact, if Fincher’s SEVEN brushes up against terror, his GONE GIRL could be considered such a genre entry as well. Here are five reasons that suggest so. (Note: there will be plot spoilers ahead so you have been warned!)
Its antagonist is monstrous
First and foremost, the antagonist in GONE GIRL goes way beyond the normal femme fatale one would find in a thriller. Amy Dunne (Rosamund Pike) has a lot in common with the dangerous female characters from film noir. She could be a Hitchcock blonde with her icy beauty and sophisticated allure. However, her diabolical agenda renders her less Tippi Hedren and more Hannibal Lecter. Amy’s actions go way beyond what passes for vengeance in most pulp fictions. She’s not just vile; she’s villainous. And her deeds are more than just self-preserving. They’re sociopathic.
Its main setting is a haunted house
David Fincher loves to work with the extraordinary cinematographer Jeff Cronenweth. In fact, Fincher’s recognizable signature - low, warm light and lots of shadows – is a staple of noir and horror. And in Fincher’s thrillers, Cronenweth is an absolute expert at making the maximum out of the mystery by painting the light with his disquieting darkness and eerily still camera work. The DP has proven in everything from FIGHT CLUB to GONE GIRL that he knows how to place suspect characters in suspicious settings, and make the modern world as scary as anything supernatural.
Just look at how he shot THE SOCIAL NETWORK. Cronenweth photographed the characters sitting at a boardroom table, practically static as they gave depositions, and made it look as dangerous and terrifying as anything Phillip Marlowe ever discovered in a darkened alley. In GONE GIRL, Cronenweth shoots the Dunne’s beige, bland suburban house like it’s a well-decorated prison. The home of hapless husband Nick Dunne (Ben Affleck) is vast, lonely and filled with secrets. Has track housing ever been so disturbing? Cronenweth’s shadowy geography kept Nick in the dark in GONE GIRL, both physical and metaphorically. And the audience too.
The creepy music would make Dracula feel right at home
Film composers Trent Reznor and Atticus Rose have collaborated with Fincher on two other occasions – THE SOCIAL NETWORK and THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO – and both times they produced moody scores that added to the eeriness of those edgy stories.
With their music for GONE GIRL, they’ve made even more out of such dismaying tones. The chords are sultry and yet foreboding throughout. It’s spooky in the film and as a stand-alone soundtrack as well. Such a score could easily accompany a modern vampire tale. And in many ways, that is exactly what GONE GIRL is.
The murder and mayhem is truly terrifying
Say what you will about the FRIDAY THE 13th franchise, but antagonist Jason Voorhees was basically a big, dumb killing machine. He was practically a shark in a hockey mask, driving forward from one inevitable bloodletting to the next. In GONE GIRL, Amy Dunne is so calculating, cold and vicious that she’d make a Manson girl blush. The death on display in GONE GIRL is simply shocking. And somewhere, Eli Roth and John Carpenter are covering their eyes behind their hands.
The lethal combination of sex and murder is a horror staple
The female vamp archetype has always driven screen thrillers. Bad girls like Barbara Stanwyck in DOUBLE INDEMNITY and Kathleen Turner in BODY HEAT made homicidal tendencies haute, hot and horrifying. But seldom has film noir seen a villain as unstoppable and ferocious as Amy Dunne. Her peer group is more like horror’s Freddie Krueger and Norman Bates. In fact, if the mother from “Aliens” had a showdown with the ‘Amazing Amy’, I’d bet on the 5’8” stunner vanquishing the space creature in a minute flat. That’s how horrid the antagonist of GONE GIRL is.
The movie title itself works on a couple of levels, and one clearly points to horror. Of course it refers to the so-called ‘disappearance’ of Amy Dunne since she is perceived to be a possible kidnap victim in the first hour of the film. More importantly however, the title points to how far Amy is from what everyone thought she was. Amy was never really the beautiful, erudite and loving woman that her husband, friends and family thought she was. Instead, she’s hovering on the fringes of societal norms as her humanity has long vanished. What’s left is an utter monster.