“Gerald’s Game” Movie Review

And so THIS is why I never want to get into kink. Ever. This psychological thriller drama made a splash at Fantastic Fest before premiering on Netflix on September 29th, 2017. It comes to us from Mike Flanagan, director of underrated gems such as Hush, Oculus, and Ouija: Origin of Evil. According to one source, he took a copy the book it was based upon to every pitch meeting on getting it made for about a decade. In an age where directors are unfamiliar or just indifferent to beloved materials, it’s refreshing to see his love for such a complex book. Adapted from the Stephen King novel of the same name, (his 5th adaptation this year) the 100 minute-long story follows Carla Gugino and Bruce Greenwood as Jessie and Gerald Burlingame. A wealthy but quiet couple, they decide to go to a cabin retreat in hopes of spicing up their sex life once more. After Gerald suffers a heart attack during their foreplay, Jessie is left handcuffed to the bed. And with no neighbors around, a hungry stray dog, and the cleaning crew not due for quite awhile, she begins to let the demons and voices inside her head take over. To date, I have read most of King’s novels and several of his short stories. Even when they’re not great, it’s impossible for him to write something bad. And while this isn’t one of his best novels, it’s still a great read for a rainy day. And I loved Hush, a very underrated and subversive home invasion thriller on Netflix, so I was very excited to see what Flanagan could put together. And with Gerald’s Game, he closes out his so-called “Controlled Space” trilogy of horror films with one of the finest and most faithful adaptations of Stephen King. What really makes the movie great is Carla Gugino’s lead performance as Jessie. Having enjoyed supporting roles in the past, I would go as far to say that this is one of the best female performances of the year. She is honestly Oscar-worthy; I don’t care if it’s for a movie on a streaming service, just give her a damn nomination. Bruce Greenwood is also excellent as her husband. While he looks charismatic, he exudes a fear of his masculinity being at risk. And after he dies, he comes back to Jessie as a voice inside her head and brings up questions of their emotionally distant relationship. And really, there are very few other actors in the movie. Carel Struckyen excels as a creepy creature illuminated by the moonlight, while Flanagan’s wife Katie Siegel and E.T.‘s Henry Thomas are great in a flashback as Jessie’s parents. Aside from that, the two leads carry the entire film on their two shoulders for its entire 100 minute-long runtime. Meanwhile, Gerald’s Game is very accomplished in its technical aspects and direction. Michael Fimongnari, who previously worked with Flanagan, gives long, uninterrupted takes cast in natural light. He makes sure to capture in the room that is necessary for survival, whether it’s a glass of water, the length/width of the bed, or objects on the dressers. In a way, it makes you long for Jessie to escape even sooner as you pick up smaller details that may or may not be consequential. Flanagan’s direction shouldn’t go unnoticed either, as he frames the characters in unorthodox situations. But, this being a Stephen King adaptation, one should know that there is more to the story than what the logline says. Inherently an allegory for female independence, the film shows us Jessie’s backstory of how she’s basically been a doormat her entire life. When we see flashbacks with her father as a 12-year-old girl and the ugly things we see, it’s kind of eye-opening. I am not naive enough to say that something like that has never happened in real life. And now with this present situation, she finds herself an opportunity to break free from her physical and mental captivity of masculinity. This all culminates in a graphic scene that is as disgusting as it is hard to look away from. My main issue with the movie, as I’m sure many other critics have pointed out, is that the ending is a tad flat. As mention before, it is very faithful to the book. But the problem is that it felt very blunt and obvious as compared to everything else that preceded it. If you try to be as faithful as possible to the source material, you’re going to also adapt its problems. Does that really detract from the movie as a whole? I don’t really think so. Despite a hiccup with its conclusion, Gerald’s Game is a riveting, minimalist thriller with fantastic performances and relevant commentary. Keep an eye out on my blog for a review of another piece of progressive horror filmmaking in the coming month. In the meantime, this film should keep you occupied and satisfied.

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