Ger­ald’s Game is lat­est King hit

The long­stand­ing master of hor­ror’s new of­fer­ing is a wor­thy ad­di­tion, writes

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Much like the so­lar eclipse that forms a vi­tal part of Ger­ald’s Game’s nar­ra­tive, Stephen King’s dom­i­nance of pop­u­lar cul­ture seems to come in cy­cles.

There was a flood of cheap movie adap­ta­tions in the mid-1980s (with Stand By Me and The Run­ning Man the cin­e­matic high points), the qual­ity dra­mas of the mid to late 1990s (with The Shaw­shank Redemp­tion and The Green Mile at the fore­front) and the one-two punch of 1408 and The Mist in 2007.

A decade later, we’re in the grip of an­other King re­nais­sance, with It dom­i­nat­ing the global box of­fice, The Dark Tower an ob­ject les­son in how not to han­dle a book adap­ta­tion and TV se­ries of The Mist and Mr Mercedes de­but­ing to mixed re­views.

Our own Me­lanie Lynskey is set to star in next year’s King-in­spired show Cas­tle Rock, while, later this month, Thomas Jane and Molly Parker head Net­flix’s fea­ture-length ver­sion of the 2010 novella 1922.

In the mean­time, the stream­ing net­work cur­rently has per­haps the most com­pelling and in­trigu­ing King movie of the year.

Based on the Maine hor­rormeis­ter’s 1992 sus­pense novel (which he ded­i­cated to his wife Tabitha and her five sis­ters), Ger­ald’s Game is the story of Jessie (Carla Gug­ino) and Ger­ald Burlingame (Bruce Greenwood).

Ger­ald has planned a coun­try­side week­end in an at­tempt to res­ur­rect his tired mar­riage. The cabin is looking spic and span, the fridge is stocked with the finest Kobe rib-eye and he’s packed the hand­cuffs.

For her part, Jessie has bought a new camisole and an open mind, al­though her ini­tial in­trigue turns to dis­com­fort when Ger­ald be­gins play­ing out a fan­tasy she’s not all that keen on.

‘‘I was ex­pect­ing some­thing a lit­tle more nov­elty,’’ she says of the cuffs. ‘‘These are the real deal,’’ he replies with some­what un­nerv­ing pride, adding that ‘‘other­wise they would break if we go too hard’’.

But that’s when things take an un­ex­pected and deadly turn. Hav­ing popped a lit­tle blue pill, Ger­ald be­gins clutch­ing his chest and falls hard on the wooden floor. Ini­tially the shack­led Jessie thinks he might be jok­ing, but the grow­ing pool of blood tells its own tale.

Im­me­di­ately recognising her plight, Jessie be­gins to imag­ine the pos­si­ble out­comes and ques­tion how she came to be here in the first place. But as she al­lows her­self to con­front her fears, could her long-re­pressed mem­o­ries be the ones that save her?

Us­ing a com­bi­na­tion of con­ceits bor­rowed from Mis­ery, Apt Pupil and Cujo, writer-di­rec­tor Mike Flanagan’s ( Ocu­lus, Ouija: Ori­gin of Evil) im­pres­sively shot adap­ta­tion works best in the first-half, as Jessie wres­tles with her demons des­per­ately attempts to find a way to es­cape her bonds.

That these scenes com­pel is a re­sult of Flanagan’s use of in­ven­tive cam­era work, clever edit­ing and a ter­rific per­for­mance from Carla Gug­ino ( San An­dreas, Watch­men). In vir­tu­ally ev­ery scene, she’s out­stand­ing as a woman ex­pe­ri­ence a dark night of the soul and em­pow­er­ing mo­ment all at once.

Im­por­tantly she never al­lows the char­ac­ter to be a vic­tim – like James Caan’s trapped au­thor in Mis­ery, she’s de­ter­mined to find a so­lu­tion to her predica­ment, no mat­ter the per­sonal toll.

While the late twist may be a fan­tas­ti­cal leap too far for some, Ger­ald’s Game is a wor­thy ad­di­tion to the up­per ech­e­lons of King mul­ti­me­dia.

Us­ing a com­bi­na­tion of con­ceits bor­rowed from Mis­ery, Apt Pupil and Cujo, writer-di­rec­tor Mike Flanagan’s im­pres­sively shot adap­ta­tion works best in the first half.

In vir­tu­ally ev­ery scene, Carla Gug­ino is out­stand­ing.

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