Gerald’s Game

A kinky couple (Carla Gugino and Bruce Greenwood) drive to an isolated cabin where he has a heart attack while she’s handcuffed to the bed, in this Netflix adaptation of a Stephen King novel thought unfilmable. And proves that it is.

“I knew we needed a safeword.”

Maybe a great filmmaker could adapt this static, solo piece, but probably not the director of Ouija: Origin of Evil. Movies don’t come much more stripped down than a woman in a slip chained to a bed, and the story unfolds almost entirely in her mind. She’s visited by ghosts from her past who spend the film bickering around her, like some bizarre mashup of Resolution and Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

This makes for a potentially interesting companion piece to Misery, which asked “How do I get out of this room?” where this asks “How do I get out of my head?” Except Misery was also steeped in psychological subtext, a movie about an artist trapped by his own creation. Gerald’s Game is entirely without subtext, since Mike Flanagan has the ghost characters explain the significance of every beat at length.

Near Miss-ery.

He also uses shaking noises instead of music, a strange choice since a score can do so much of your heavy lifting (again see Misery). This is presumably designed to emphasise the protagonist’s silence and trauma, another overly literal decision by the man who thought a film called Doctor Sleep should put people to sleep.

Flanagan retreads the abusive father theme from Oculus and Doctor Sleep with Henry “Elliot from E.T.” Thomas again (that alien was a terrible judge of character), utilising a strong central performance by Gugino, a horrific piece of gore and that Stephen King staple: a very hungry dog. But the arduous ghost chat, exposition-dump ending and lack of integration between the two make this 2017 effort frustrating compared to the Pixar version.

 

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