Mike Flanagan’s Adaptation of Stephen King’s ‘Gerald’s Game’ Is an Expertly Crafted Psychological Thriller
It has arguably been a renaissance year for Stephen King. Several works from the famed horror author have been adapted for the screen in recent months, including Spike TV’s lackluster “Mist” and the weaker “The Dark Tower” adaptations. Of course, the most notable being the Warner Bros. September release of “It,” which has smashed box office records, winning over fans and critics alike. However, it is Mike Flanagan’s adaptation of one of King’s lesser-known novels, “Gerald’s Game” that marks the sharpest of the crop.
The film is one of two King adaption’s to hit Netflix in the next few weeks – the second being “1922,” which arrives on the streaming giant in October. As for the case of “Game,” brilliant story, crisp execution, and top-notch acting work in a perfect trifecta to craft an enthralling and enticing finished product.
At the center of the film is Jessie (wonderfully played by Carla Gugino, who convincingly goes through every emotion in the wheelhouse), a determined, yet damaged woman destined to rekindle her marriage to Gerald (Bruce Greenwood). Together the couple embarks on a little vacation to their remote lake house where things quickly steam-up. Reluctant at first, Jessie submissively goes along with her husband’s sexual desires to cuff her to the bedposts. But once he suffers a fatal heart attack after the cuffs are tightened, she is left there helpless – forced to fight against time, a ravenous dog, and a deranged entity known as the midnight man.
It takes much skill to pull off a single location and keep it refreshing throughout the entire runtime, but luckily director Mike Flanagan is an pundit in grabbing the audience by the throat and never letting go until the end credits roll. This isn’t the director’s first time expertly handling a single location thriller. His previous film, “Hush,” which took place at a remote cottage, premiered at South By Southwest in 2016 and landed right on Netflix shortly thereafter.
The picture is a true calling card for Flanagan, who is constantly billed as one of the top emerging genre filmmakers. But after his successful bout with “Gerald’s Game” it is evident that the auteur has cemented his status as a top player – even going as far as to say he a modern-day Hitchcock.
Alone on the bed, Jessie begins to slip into slight insanity. Receiving visitors in the form of her nagging husband who critiques her every attempt to escape the metal handcuffs – she often converses with a vision of herself, cross-checking every idea that pops into her mind. Combined with images of her haunting past, this proves to be the ultimate test.
As compelling as his leading lady counterpart, Greenwood portrays an eerie antagonist. As he performs an impressive single take monologue about the process of death and being visited by the midnight man (a spirit who comes to collect one’s valuable belongings after passing over), Greenwood manages to balance his performance finely. The actor walks the line of being a caring and empathetic husband juxtapositioned against a harsh attitude of a man who pushes and questions his wife’s every decision. As he lies next to her, his power is displayed through his spine-tingling words.
Flanagan frames Jessie’s insanity with grueling precision as characters from her subconscious constantly enter and exit the frame – never letting up. The film winds up with every given shot and doesn’t release the viewer from its clutch until its chilling and rather unexpected ending.
“Gerald’s Game” premieres on Netflix Sept. 29.