Gerald’s Game is latest King hit
The longstanding master of horror’s new offering is a worthy addition, writes
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.