Mike Flanagan delivered his first Stephen King adaptation with Gerald’s Game, and it’s a fantastic nerve-shredding examination of self, secrets, and survival.
Jessie (Carla Gugino) and Gerald (Bruce Greenwood) head to their remote lake house to work on their relationship, after years of marriage things have gotten a little tired and stale, and they plan on trying a few new things to keep their marriage and sex life alive.
Gerald wants to spice things up with some cuffs but after an argument and a troubling personal reveal, he suffers a heart attack, leaving Jessie alone, cuffed to the bed frame with no way out. Her past comes back to haunt her as she tries to figure out a way to get free of her bonds, as mental and physical dangers begin to threaten her.
The front door has been left open, and there’s the threat of a hungry stray dog, a horrific incident from her past, as well as imaginary terrors lurking in the dark even as she finds consolation in talking to herself and her dead husband.
This is one of King’s novels that upon reading you think that it can’t be filmed, there is no way to do it justice, but Flanagan delivers a fantastic film with a bravura performance by Gugino at its center.
Everything is thought out, planned, and each moment, each character, real or imagined, has its place and its purpose. It also allows some Flanagan regulars to pop up, like Henry Thomas and Kate Siegel.
Crisply told Flanagan’s style and attention to detail is on full display here, though there are none of his familiar tropes at play here, like the shadow figure in the background that the main character doesn’t see, the clashing siblings (though a crumbling marital relationship also is a good way of illustrating character flaws, faults and dynamics).
And yes, there’s even some gore to be had as the stray dog stakes out his claim in the room and the dead meat on the floor. Not to mention the extremes Jessie goes to to get free of her bonds.
As mentioned previously, Flanagan has a knack for writing strong characters and horrifying situations, and his love of King’s work is front and center in this film (including a great Dark Tower reference), and there’s a little nod to the recurring book in the Flanagan-verse as we get a glimpse of a hardcover copy of Midnight Mass.
Flanagan along with Jordan Peele has become one of those names that I will trust as soon as I hear they are attached to a project. I can’t wait to see what he does next, I know Flanagan has some more Netflix series coming our way. He’s also working on adapting his next Stephen King project, Revival. Can’t wait to see what he does with that, and what familiar faces pop up in that.