Gerald’s Game Based on the novel by Stephen King
Written by Jeff Howard and Mike Flanagan
Directed by Mike Flanagan
Starring Carla Gugino, Bruce Greenwood, Carel Struycken, Henry Thomas, Kate Siegel Netflix
Released date: September 29, 2017
The new film Gerald’s Game marks the fourth Stephen King adaptation of 2017. This summer’s The Dark Tower was universally panned and flopped at the box office, yet It, conversely, is currently breaking box office records. Mr. Mercedes is a television series on a new platform, AT&T’s Audience Network, while Gerald’s Game landed on Netflix right before Halloween season officially begins. King’s novel Gerald’s Game was published in May 1992 and remained one of the author’s lesser-known works until Netflix optioned it. Directed by Mike Flanagan, one of horror’s up and coming auteurs, who co-wrote the screenplay with collaborator Jeff Howard, the results are a tour-de-force of filmmaking and acting that needs to be watched, albeit from between the fingers of your hand covering your face.
I never read King’s novel (I’m a Dark Tower-guy, walking the Beam with Roland the Gunslinger, and I love his short-story compendiums). The previews and posters for this adaptation gave hints to what was to come, but thankfully did not give too much away, so if you don’t know anything about the story, you’re better off. All I’ll give you of the plot is this: Julie and Gerald (Carla Gugino and Bruce Greenwood) are a married couple looking to rekindle the lost flame. They drive up to a secluded house, she slides into beautiful new lingerie, he pops a Viagra, and pulls out the handcuffs. Gerald’s games are about to begin.
This is all set up within the first 10-15 minutes. The games go awry and soon Julie is left in a situation mirroring Hell on Earth with her mind playing tricks on her and demons from past and present torturing her. Flanagan keeps everything confined, and as the viewer you are immersed in Julie’s claustrophobia. You hear the sounds as loudly as she does, and dare I say you start to go crazy with her. It’s so rare to watch a film and be physically and mentally affected like this. Two weeks ago, I saw Darren Aronofsky’s controversial film mother! and someone threw a full soda at the screen and stormed out. That film got to people, but it was due to shock value and sheer audaciousness. Flanagan’s film digs deep inside the viewer’s psyche. What would you do in Julie’s situation? How far would you go? Would you… could you survive?
Carla Gugino is an actress I’ve enjoyed watching for many years. I first watched her on the Michael J. Fox sitcom Spin City, and she’s starred in some of my favorite genre films, Sin City and Watchmen. While she’s been a star on the big and small screen nearly 30 years, THIS is where she will indefinitely leave her mark on Hollywood. With streaming services dominating the landscape, the Oscars this year saw streaming sites like Amazon and Netflix take home major awards. Carla Gugino delivers an Oscar caliber and Oscar worthy performance here. She is on screen nearly the entire film and gives a fierce and haunting performance. Bruce Greenwood is excellent as well and a Best Supporting Actor award is not out of the realm of possibility.
There are scenes… one in particular, but many overall, that can and may cause physical trauma to the audience. I cannot recall a time where I screamed at my TV screen before watching this. Sure, I’ve been jumped-scared, but this was a prolonged “fist in my mouth to muffle the noise” scream. A scream like you’re slowly pulling off a duct tape band-aid. And in case you think my positive review is a visceral reaction to some gross-out special effects, I need it on record that I was hypnotically enthralled by Gugino and the sheer minimalism of the whole project. This was tension personified, a taut psychological thriller that wrings every emotion out of you. Gerald’s Game is a film that requires post-viewing decompression.
Mike Flanagan has been my favorite horror directors since I first watched Absentia (2011) back when it was on Netflix. That film was recommended by my friend Chris who sold me on it by saying it had no cliches. With Flanagan’s next projects — Oculus, (2013), Hush (2016), and Ouija: Origin of Evil, the director has continued to perfect his unique craft in modern horror. No one in the medium blends the tropes of horror fiction with the horrors of the real world better. 2017 is striving to be a year where genre finally breaks the Oscars’ glass ceiling. Films like Jordan Peele’s Get Out and Andy Muschietti’s adaptation of It have garnered huge box office returns coupled with near-universal critical praise. Add Gerald’s Game to that list. It is as good an acted and directed genre thriller as I’ve seen in years.
Rating: 5/5… a must-see, but not for the squeamish.
Gerald’s Game | Official Trailer [HD] | Netflix
Breaking free will require more than keeping her sanity. Based on a novel by Stephen King, Gerald’s Game is now streaming exclusively on Netflix.