While everyone's busy talking about that other Stephen King adaptation that is breaking all the records and making all the money...I'm over here discussing a much quieter one that resonated a bit more with me with its basic survival premise and underlying sexual trauma stuff. Join me...won't you...as we talk about a seemingly un-adaptable story from King's vast library that finally got the adaptation that it was waiting for. Let us discuss...Gerald's Game.
Gerald's Game, the book...came out back in 1992 during a period of King's career when his film adaptations were pretty much coming to a quiet halt. I mean...don't get me wrong, King was still horror royalty...as he still is to this day. But, back in the 80's...you couldn't go anywhere without bumping into some kind of television or movie adaptation of one of his works. I believe...the 90's were relegated to TV and straight-to-video stuff. Rarely, did we get some kind of gem during that particular decade. But...you could pretty much argue that the 90's sucked for the genre all around. Not really King's fault. I never read Gerald's Game, personally...but, I knew of its controversial story because my best friend's mom was a hardcore King fan growing up...and she would always talk about his books. I just knew that Gerald's Game involved a naked chick handcuffed to a bed...and my adolescent mind was kind of drawn to that particular detail. I kind of recoiled from the story...once my friend's mom told us about some of the more brutal details. So, yeah...I knew that the book was around. I'm just not one of those guys whose enjoyment of the film is dependent solely on how faithful or not it is to the book. Just wanted to give you, the faithful reader, a good idea of where I was coming from...before I went into my actual review of the film.
Ok...now that we got all of that stuff out of the way...let us proceed with the HOLY GODDAMN! portion of this review. Because...HOLY GODDAMN! Mike Flanagan's Gerald's Game...is a small masterpiece of a King adaptation, in my humble opinion. Not that my humble opinion should make or break your decision to watch the film. But...if you've been reading FD for awhile now...then you should understand my word to be gospel by now. Especially when I care enough to write a review about a film that pretty much blew me away.
I jest, of course. My word is about as gospel as any other hack that writes a horror film blog. But...I will say that I've been doing this for awhile now...so, that says something...yeah?
Anyway...I got pretty goddamn interested in Gerald's Game once I knew that Flanagan was a part of the film. If you've been reading FD for awhile...then you might be aware of my secret love affair with his previous work. The man knows how to create horror out of thin air...and he tells his stories with such a unique voice. Even his low points tend to surpass other filmmakers' material based on ingenuity and atmosphere, alone. Flanagan has said that the original source material has always been a favorite of his...and to adapt it into a film has always been a passion project of his. A Mike Flanagan passion project?? Are you fucking kidding me??? I mean...I was already sold on that concept alone. Never mind that this was THE Gerald's Game...from all those years back that I heard of from my best friend's mom. This was required viewing, as far as I was concerned.
If you are unfamiliar with the source material...then I have good news...the premise is pretty simple. A couple have escaped for the weekend to a secluded lake house out in the middle of nowhere in which to save their marriage by engaging in all kinds of kinky sexy time. However, shit pretty much goes south after the husband strikes a weird rapey tone chaining wifey to the bed with a pair of industrial strength handcuffs...because, well...he doesn't want the cheaper ones to break. I'm sure you've seen the trailer already...and if you click on the IMDb page...the synopsis lays out the set up...so, if you want to go into the film cold...then, please click away now. Otherwise...I will tell you that the basic catalyst of the story involves the titular Gerald Burlingame having a massive heart attack after he handcuffs his wife, Jessie to the bedposts in such a way that she wouldn't be able to escape during their rapey sex play. You see...Jessie is now chained to the bed with no way out. And what's worse...is that there's a ravenous stray dog that finds its way into the house...not to mention no food...or water. What starts off as a "romantic" getaway...quickly turns into a race for survival.
|Carla Gugino (Jessie) and Bruce Greenwood (Gerald) making some "sexy" time.|
Now...what makes this film extraordinary is the absolutely stellar performance from Carla Gugino as "Jessie". A kind-hearted soul who just wants to save her marriage with "Gerald", who is played by veteran actor Bruce Greenwood. He's so good. I feel like he always plays the douche in everything he's in. Here...his douchery is exceptional. But...Gugino is the one who really shines in this film. She is everything. There is a scene later on that legit made me fucking turn away and wince in horror. I haven't done that shit in forever...and only really did it here because I was so invested in the character of "Jessie". And when the film starts delving into much deeper topics...it turns into a film of redemption and empowerment. Hallmarks that King's stories are pretty well known for. The underdog...overcoming the odds to beat his or her own demons. Oh...speaking of demons...Carel Struycken ("The Fireman" from Twin Peaks and "Lurch" from Addams Family!) shows up as The fucking Moonlight Man. There's this licking scene that sent me over the edge...in a very Zelda from Pet Sematary kind of way. Really creepy stuff in that regard. Oh...and then there's the fucking stomach-turning Henry Thomas shit that gets under your skin in the worst of ways during an eclipse throw back as Jessie slips into deep thought. Holy fuck was that stuff hard to watch.
Mike Flanagan does such expert work of keeping everything moving forward and making that pit in your stomach that he initially created ache that much more when he wants to. He is such a master storyteller and an adept filmmaker and gets precisely what he wants from his performers. The film is shot gorgeously by his usual DP Michael Fimognari and the FX work is super effective, for the most part. But...goddamn...the performances, man. That's what truly makes this film sing.
I would say...the only thing that might turn viewers a little cool...is the ending. The little twist involving one of the characters that I mentioned up above. While, apparently, it is ripped straight from the original book...it might be a tad much for some. For me...I felt it was the only sensible resolution for Jessie's character...and it was a satisfying climax for this Deviant. Especially considering EVERYTHING this poor girl has endured. It was her peace. No one gets out of this one unscathed. Even the fortunate ones...are forever changed.
Mike Flanagan is an individual who remains at the top of my list of genre filmmakers that I adore...and Gerald's Game is a great film that will, hopefully, catapult his talent into more challenging territories and further elevate his craft. The film is now available on Netflix...and will stay with you after the credits roll, if you allow it. SEE IT NOW! Not IT...I mean...go see Gerald's Game. Well...go see IT, too...because that one's good...but, definitely see Gerald's Game...because that one's great. Ok...whatever...I'm out!
|Shout out to Chiara Aurelia, who plays "Young Jessie". Poor, poor girl :(|
Thanks for reading,