Gerald’s Game is one of the latest Netflix original films and is based on the novel of the same name by Stephen King. The film’s director Mike Flanagan is responsible for the modern horror classics Hush, Oculus and Ouija: Origin of Evil. The film stars Carla Gugino, Bruce Greenwood and Henry Thomas and according to IMDb the film’s plot is “While trying to spice up their marriage in their remote lake house, Jessie must fight to survive when her husband dies unexpectedly, leaving her handcuffed to their bed frame”.
This premise bears a resemblance to The Shallows, Jaume Collet-Serra’s shark thriller starring Blake Lively. That film has a lead female character who is stranded on a rock in the ocean. However, while The Shallows was a hugely enjoyable slice of B-Movie entertainment, Gerald’s Game is a far more complex, dark and powerful film.
First of all, Mike Flanagan’s direction is impeccable, emulating the thrillers of Alfred Hitchcock and Brian De Palma. The detail and precision of the camerawork and pacing builds the tension brilliantly and consistently leaves your heart in your mouth.
Similarly to The Shallows, Gerald’s Game boasts a superb showcase of the acting talents of its lead actress. Carla Gugino is wonderful in the lead role and deserves award recognition. She perfectly encapsulates the intense emotions of Jessie and is riveting and sympathetic. Bruce Greenwood is similarly brilliant as the titular Gerald, whose role is bigger than it might seem. Henry Thomas (E.T‘s Elliot) has a key role which is critical to Jessie’s journey.
The film tells a harrowing and unpleasant story very well. Flanagan has made changes from the novel in several key areas and these are well done and justified. The sub-genre of Women in Peril is a vast one, from Wait until Dark starring Audrey Hepburn to Everly with Salma Hayek. This film is more sensitive to the plight of it’s protagonist and doesn’t seem interested in tormenting her for the sake of entertainment. The terrifying scenario builds her character rather than debasing it. It’s masterfully done and genuinely moving as well.
The ending is likely to split viewers. It takes the story into a different and divisive direction but works in relation to Jessie’s character arc. A different twist ending seems like it might be on the cards, but thankfully it never came to fruition.
This is the best Netflix original film since Beasts of No Nation. The performances are exemplary and the direction is enormously impressive. Flanagan boldly commits to the scenario and does career best work. Stephen King is very popular at the moment due to the success of IT, and hopefully this film won’t be forgotten. It’s one of the finest King adaptations and says things about trauma that are admirable.
Gerald’s Game is available on Netflix now. Image source: BloodyDisgusting.com