Gerald’s Game (2017)

<strong class="MovieTitle">Gerald’s Game</strong> (2017)

(Netflix Streaming, August 2018) I first read Stephen King’s Gerald’s Game decades ago, but I was able to remember a surprising amount of it while watching its straight-to-Netflix adaptation. Thanks to writer/director Mike Flanagan (following up on a series of increasingly successful horror movies), the adaptation is surprisingly faithful, a feat made even more amazing given that the novel is as interior-driven as anything else in King’s biography. After all, how can you portray a woman being chained to a bed and left alone with her husband’s corpse for days? What Flanagan does, aside from the obvious use of flashbacks, is to literalize the heroine’s fantasies and delirious visions: Suddenly, the deceased husband gets up, talks to her and gets her to express her feelings. And then, later, there are other, more tangible horrors: A dog, then something else… And still, throughout, the terrors of being left to die alone. The thirst, the cold, the isolation. Carla Gugino is near a career-best performance in the lead role, being on-screen for almost the entire duration of Gerald’s Game and being asked to carry a wide range of emotions. Bruce Greenwood does get a mention for his not-so-brief time playing a not-so-good husband. The film is so close to the novel that it does share a few issues later on, namely the collision of a good-enough premise with a serial killer story that doesn’t entirely serve the rest of the plot. I was dubious about it when I read the novel so long ago and I’m still dubious about it now. Still, it’s the kind of thing that doesn’t add much, so what is left of Gerald’s Game is still remarkable. Flanagan has done much with little (the film has only barely a dozen roles in a largely single location), delivering quality chills and thrills in a compelling package. This is probably his best film yet, and it suggests even better things in the future.

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