Director: Mike Flanagan
Starring: Carla Gugino, Bruce Greenwood, Chiara Aurelia, Carel Struycken , Henry Thomas. USA. 1h 43m
Based on Gerald’s Game by Stephen King
Sometimes I read the synopsis of a film and then check the time and can’t fathom how someone can drag out something so simple for so long, reading about Gerald’s Game, a woman trapped along chained to a bed, the mind doth boggle how i can last for nearly two hours, but this movie is amazing in the details and revelations that incur during Jessie’s surprise and accidental incarceration.
Jessie (Gugino) and her husband Gerald (Greenwood) travel to a remote beach house to rekindle their marriage, with a bit of kink, after running into a stray dog, Jessie puts some food out for the dog incase it’s still in the area and notices that a door has been left open. Focusing on the fun she slips into a something more comfortable and Gerald pops two viagra, handcuffs his wife to the bed and dies from a heart attack.
Jessie goes into panic mode as she’s now tied to a bed with no means of getting help, then her husband stands up and starts talking with her, but it’s not him, it’s a figment of her imagination, something she discovers when the stray dog appears and starts eating his corpse.
Jessie appears to herself, but unlike her husbands downtrodden approach her other self starts giving her helpful advice, together she starts to piece together her dark past and eventually starts working on the impossible, how on earth does she get free? Just when Jessie thinks shes experiences everything she can, one more mysterious character appears from the dark corners of the room, the Midnight Man, this sinister character haunts her every night but what’s the mystery behind him?
A lot of staple Stephen King elements feature in this story, a car accident, someone being bed ridden, a woman dealing with her past, but it’s put together in such a brilliant way by the intenvite director Mike Flanagan, who manages to really capture the moment, he seems to sympathise with all of the characters and really emphasises a realistic nature in all of them, something he’s displayed a lot of talent with his back catalogue but it’s easily reached his peak with this, one of the best King adaptations for some time, I can only pray that more people take this project on board and pay better respect to Kings novels. During the daytime despite her anxiety Jessie manages to get through her days, arguing with her husbands spectre, but Flanagan doesn’t fall into the trap of making the atmosphere change to reflect the mood, after all everything that’s going on is inside Jessie. At times both her other self and dead Gerald are talking at her, like the devil and angel on her shoulder, despite being handcuffed to a bed she still has choices and hope.
The people who were supposed to protect you from the monsters turned out to be monsters themselves…
The true star of the movie is Carla Gugino, despite her limited range within the movie she does give a compelling performance, with the switches between the current incarceration and her childhood the film slowly tells both stories, keeping a high level of suspense and thrills, strangely it never gets boring.
While tracing her life back to a terrible moment in her childhood Jessie character is acted by Chiara Aurelia, while being young a free she beautifully details Jessies first step into being restrained although while aged 12 her handcuffs are guilt.
This heartfelt story, while horrific has a high level of mystery and sentimental twangs, that I find it more of a dark drama with a heavy foreboding feeling hanging over it. For the most part it’s pretty easy to sit back and watch until the last act where things get gruesome, and then a huge twist is carefully laid out. Overall it’s unsettling but manages a tiny bit of black humor.
King has a knack of ending his stories in bizarre ways, if you know the story then don’t expect anything all that different from the book and I would suggest that maybe you cut off the film 10 minutes before the very end, But strangely Flanagan works with the terrible ending, maybe a sense of honouring the book, but his alters it in a minor way and makes it work.
It’s not a full on hardcore horror filled with scary monsters, ghosts and/or blood but it works on the psyche over time, especially the huntingly creepy Midnight Man and is a brillant gripping drama or pair of drama’s that work so well, there’s never a dull moment.
Rating 6 /10