Courtesy of Netflix
Stephen King seems to be having quite the year. If a killer clown devouring children didn’t do the trick for you, then perhaps a slightly more thematic thriller will. Mike Flanagan (director of one of my favorite films last year: “Hush”) is taking on yet another adaptation in “Gerald’s Game.” A film that might feel overstuffed, but manages to stake its own claim in Netflix cinema. The film features Carla Gugino as Jessie and the irreplaceable Bruce Greenwood as Gerald. A couple who are trying to spice up their marriage, and in an effort to do so head out to their remote lake house, hoping to jolt their love for each other back to life. The films initial twenty minutes is one with white knuckle suspense, because the two converge in a rodeo of wits and insults about their marriage; as Gerald handcuffs Jessie to their bed post, and begins to act out one of his many fantasies. Maybe it was the extra stress, or the little blue pill to help his performance, but Gerald drops dead minutes after the couple bicker about what’s happening with them. Leaving Jessie marooned inside a house, handcuffed to a bed, with not a soul to hear her scream.
While the film does implore flashback sequences to help fill out the runtime, most of this thing is focused on Gugino, who really sells the premise with her sheer amount of terror. Flanagan is quick to employ one of his trademark signatures: inner monologues with imaginary friends. So now we have Greenwood with a sinister sneer and Gugino, in pure badass form, giving Jessie proper advice of how to successfully escape her situation. It doesn’t help matters that a hungry street canine wanders in the house and starts picking of the flesh of Gerald’s lifeless corpse. Yummy.
The main problem is this “game” feels a tad overstuffed. After the first twenty minutes or so, “Gerald’s Game” becomes a less than enthusiastic game of chess. It barely manages to squeak past the 100 minute mark, when a slimmer, more lean, 85 minutes would’ve done the trick (part of the reason “Hush” was so refreshing last year.) Still, they’re many cringeworthy moments of gooey mayhem, and strong uses of imagery and color to convey the emotional trauma of Jessie’s troubled childhood to make it worth a click. And aside from a crypt keeper subplot, which involves a monster like creature named “Moonface,” most of the film makes sense. It’s not until the last five minutes of this film is where we are reminded it’s a King adaptation. The man never knows when to end his stories and the final minutes of the picture left me confused. Honestly, you’re probably better of shutting this down after the initial climax and leaving the conclusion open to imagination.
“Gerald’s Game” isn’t brilliant, but a somber attempt at giving your Netflix cue a bit more life. B