THE STORY – A woman accidentally kills her husband during a kinky game. Handcuffed to her bed with no hope of rescue, she begins hearing voices and seeing strange visions.
THE CAST – Carla Gugino & Bruce Greenwood
THE TEAM – Mike Flanagan (Director/Writer) & Jeff Howard (Writer)
THE RUNNING TIME – 103 Minutes
By Daniel H.
Mike Flanagan, director of the fantastically frightening “Hush”, returns for yet another story about a woman trapped in a house. This time it’s an adaptation of Stephen King’s “Gerald’s Game.” Though not a horror film, this movie lingers in the terror of being stuck. Not just being stuck in the house, but stuck in a bad marriage, and stuck with bad memories.
“Gerald’s Game” starts off simply enough: Tom and Jessie (Bruce Greenwood and Carla Gugino) arrive at their lake house to spend time together, and to hopefully reconnect. The couple is clearly a little estranged. Tom decides to try and spice things up with a little game: handcuffing Jessie to the bed. Initially, things are fine as they get started, but soon Jessie becomes very uneasy with the situation. She kicks Tom off of her and tells him to take the cuffs off. Before he does, however, he has a heart attack. As you can tell, the rest of the movie is with Jessie, who is now handcuffed to a bed and can’t get out.
Delivering a masterful performance, this movie lies largely on the shoulders of Carla Gugino. Her portrayal is layered, it’s emotional, and it’s grounded. As Jessie lays in the bed, her mind races and her thoughts come to life. Visualizations of Tom and another Jessie appear, almost as the angel and demon on her shoulder. Tom berates her and tells her what she’s doing wrong. Jessie works to help her, gathering her thoughts. The writing is strong and the tension is thick.
Flanagan is able to handle the tension in such a brilliant way. He doesn’t resort to easy jump scares. The score doesn’t wind up the tension in an obvious way. Instead, he lets the story do that for him. There’s a moment when something comes out of the shadows. There isn’t unnecessary fanfare. The moment is creepy and tense all on its own. This is a huge help to the film. It’s effortless.
Throughout the film, as Jessie’s thoughts reel, her past comes to torment her as well. She revisits horrible secrets that she’s kept hidden her whole life. The moments are dark and horrible, but they’re filled with emotion. Though this is a small movie about a woman trapped in a room, it never feels too small or boring. It’s very well written.
I won’t get into spoilers, but my only real problem with this film is the ending. “Gerald’s Game” ends with a very bizarre choice, that I’m sure is the fault of the source material, not the film itself. Things that seemed to be figments of her imagination appear to be real, but that doesn’t really make any sense at all and is completely unnecessary to the rest of the film. I was much more pleased with the simple film about a woman stuck in a room confronting her past. Still, though it leaves you on a weird note, it certainly doesn’t tarnish the rest of the great film.
This is the type of film that works perfectly on Netflix. It’s small and intimate. Easily accessible to watch when you want something creepy on a Friday night. The performances and writing are so strong that it’s the atmosphere that scares you more than anything. “Gerald’s Game” is a great, tense film that doesn’t pander or belittle you. It’ll make you squirm in all the best ways.
THE FINAL SCORE
THE GOOD – Well crafted, naturally tense thriller with an incredible performance from Carla Gugino.
THE BAD – A very odd and out of place ending knocks the movie down a few pegs.