2017 has been a good year for Stephen King. “The Mist” television series had come and went, The Dark Tower was an idea that should’ve been taken care of more sufficiently, ”Mr. Mercedes” has been going strong on AT&T’s Audience Network, the great It is captivating audiences in theaters (with the second chapter set to be released in 2019), there’s a Netflix original coming up based on King’s short story, “1922,” and an interesting TV series has been announced for 2018 called “Castle Rock.” Along with his adaptations going strong, King has been killing it with his criticisms of Donald Trump on Twitter, even getting himself blocked by the POTUS, which gives King that much approbation in my opinion.
Who’d have thought that Stephen King would still be relevant in today’s bevy of horror films? Although I think King has heaps of stories that can be easily adapted to the screen, it would have seemed audiences today wouldn’t enjoy the types of stories he has churned out over the years, choosing to see these cheap jump-scare, teenie-bopper flicks. But It has proven audiences are smarter than that and choose to see something more than a scare fest—they truly do want to see something much deeper and meaningful.
With all that said, cinema and network television are not the only forms of media to see these worthy films. The advent of Netflix Originals is what’s taking the world by storm, rolling out a well-rounded cluster of films and on-going series (which have seasons released all at once). With already a multitude of Marvel Studios superhero series earning high praise, there have also been some strong docu-dramas and full-length movies receiving the same acclaim. Continuing that strong current of films is the Stephen King adaptation of his 1992 novel of the same name, Gerald’s Game.
Let me synopsize…
The announcement of this film took me by surprise a bit, for I hadn’t heard anything about it besides the little tidbit of info a few years ago where some movie article mentioned it might be made into a movie. Knowing the source material, I really didn’t think it’d make a good movie, maybe even being perceived as boring if filmmakers tried to adapt it.
Here in this Netflix film, released on September 29th of this year, the story is set up well enough, modernizing it for today’s audiences and making it believable for everyone to suspend disbelief. For instance, would a couple just leave their front door wide open when going inside to start a bit of intimacy? Maybe, I guess…if you know there isn’t a soul around for miles and miles. But there aren’t too many other scenes where you’d sit there and say, “I can’t believe that can happen!” The story gets going right away, with Gugino’s character stuck in her predicament, her husband dead at the foot of the bed, all with her mind playing tricks as she slowly starts to unravel while trying to find a way to save herself.
Without giving away too much, I felt the technique of bringing second images of Jessie and Gerald to life as sort of the two sides of her conscience was a lot better than the idea of just having a voiceover to hear her thoughts, which is mainly what you’d read in King’s novel—that works in a book, but not so much in a movie. Jessie remembering her childhood in the form of flashbacks helped with her character’s development and I found the story interesting as well.
With the flashback scenes diving into Jessie’s past, it gave the story added depth as it had with the novel. It explained Jessie’s weakness in how she’d gotten herself in the situation she was in as well as helping her overcome it. Additionally, these scenes takes us away from the boring claustrophobic atmosphere some audiences may think of when the story takes place in a small setting the whole time.
Director Mike Flanagan does a fine job of helming this feature, as well as presenting it to us as a true adaptation. Flanagan co-wrote the script with Jeff Howard and did the right thing by not deviating too far from the source material. In fact, the only variations I’d noticed in the story is the modernization of certain aspects, such as cell phones and the inclusion of Viagra. Other than that, everything here is taken straight from the book.
Back to the dual roles of each main actor, having them play the two sides to Jessie’s conscience really needed two people with great acting chops. Carla Gugino and Bruce Greenwood fill those roles perfectly, showing us what the imprisoned Jessie is thinking and planning, as well as giving her ideas on how to cope with her situation in both good and bad ways. They come across as the angel and devil on Jessie’s shoulders, which was pretty ingenious on the filmmakers’ parts.
As a side note, those who get squeamish when viewing gory effects may want to turn away from the screen occasionally—especially during the climax at the lake house. But—Who knows?—the story may be a life lesson to those who may be stuck in this situation where they find themselves handcuffed to bed posts and need to get themselves out.
So…what’s my final “bit” on Gerald’s Game?
From start to finish, I was engrossed and taken back to the days when I was reading this book. The acting from both Gugino and Greenwood were great, giving just the right balance needed between the two. In fact, it was more understandable on how everything went down than what had transpired in the book, particularly the feelings the characters had for one another. The night scenes that Gugino’s character had to go through were spooky and a bit terrifying, especially when you put yourself in her situation. The only part of the film that let me down was the conclusion of the story, which seemed out of place and almost felt like it was tacked on as an afterthought. But, as a whole, I loved this movie and felt it was worthy to be called a true Stephen King adaptation. If you’ve got the Netflix streaming service, please take a look at this film—you won’t be disappointed.
Thanks for reading.