Welcome to Day 3 of Stephen King Movies & Day 1 of Mike Flanagan Movies! I love King & recently did a Stephen King Week on my blog and last year I did a Mike Flanagan Week for October Horror Month. And now they’re together! How cool is that?!
The last two days I’ve posted reviews of It (2017), Cell & 1922. Today I’m reviewing Mike Flanagan’s adaptation of King’s Gerald’s Game. I’ll continue with Mike Flanagan movies the next few days with reviews of
Before I Wake, Ouija: Origin Of Evil, and reblogs of Absentia & Hush (but not Oculus, since I didn’t like that one so much). 😉
Let’s talk about Gerald’s Game…
Gerald’s Game (2017)
Directed by Mike Flanagan
Based on Gerald’s Game by Stephen King
Starring: Carla Gugino, Chiara Aurelia, Bruce Greenwood, Carel Struycken, Henry Thomas, Kate Siegel
Plot Synopsis: (via IMDB)
While trying to spice up their marriage in their remote lake house, Jessie must fight to survive when her husband dies unexpectedly, leaving her handcuffed to their bed frame.
I think I kind of loved this movie. Oh man, it makes me so happy when a Stephen King film adaptation is done well since there are quite a few dodgy ones. I did a ranked list of My Top Ten Stephen King Movies (all 43 that I’ve seen) in September. I’ve just added Gerald’s Game & 1922 to that list. You can have a look at their placement if you want but I’ll say that 1922 is pretty low while Gerald’s Game is ranked much higher than I thought it would be before watching it. Maybe I enjoyed it so much since my expectations are usually quite low for King films?
I did read Gerald’s Game but it’s one I read years ago so didn’t remember all the smaller details. I prefer it that way – I remembered it as the movie unfolded but didn’t know beforehand some of what would happen. From what I remember of the book, I liked it fine but it was a bit long. That’s the genius of Stephen King, though – who else could write a full length novel where the main character is handcuffed to a bed for 95% of it?! For a 1 hour & 43 minute movie, it worked perfectly and I was gripped the entire time. I didn’t even mess around on my phone once during the whole thing! I only do that at home, FYI – People who use phones in cinemas are wankers.
The plot synopsis probably doesn’t sound all that appealing but it’s really a great psychological character study of someone facing their inner demons & with a far more feminist theme than I realized when I read the book years ago (I was probably too young). Or maybe the movie just does a great job getting its themes across? I do think this is easily one of the best King film adaptations as far as staying faithful to the book’s central idea and really bringing these characters to life. I know King doesn’t like some of the films (such as Kubrick’s The Shining) but I’d imagine he’s very happy with this one? As for Mike Flanagan movies, I’ve now watched all his biggest ones but I wouldn’t say I’ve absolutely loved any of them. Gerald’s Game is now my definite favorite of his. Way to go, Mike Flanagan! You’ve made a fantastic Stephen King movie.
I won’t go into the film’s story too much for anyone unfamiliar with it. If you’re planning on watching it, I think it would be best if you know nothing beforehand. I think this movie has been a pleasant surprise for those wondering how they’ve made an entire story of a woman stuck to a bed. I’ll talk about the acting instead. Carla Gugino is brilliant! I’ve liked her ever since that Son In Law movie she did with Pauly Shore. Haha! There goes my movie blog street cred. I’ve just said “Pauly Shore” on my blog! Seriously, though – this had to be a very tough role and she carries the whole film splendidly. Bruce Greenwood, whose role is bigger than you might think considering that he dies right away, does well with a character we can’t quite trust while Henry Thomas is creepy as f*^k (I’m trying to not connect this film in my mind to E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial! Dammit – why did they have to make Elliott so creepy?!). The young girl, Chiara Aurelia, is also very strong. I remembered very little of her role & that backstory from the book. I really liked her character & her important connection to Gugino. Okay – I just looked into it & they made Aurelia’s role bigger in the film. Wise choice, Flanagan! Especially the ending bit involving her. I’ll say her story is a theme that upsets me and one that King addresses quite often but it’s very relevant at this point in time as it’s being openly discussed more than ever. For the film to come full circle in that way was a brilliant change to make. You know what? I think this may be one of those rare occasions where the movie is better than the book, at least based on what I’ve just read online of the “book to movie comparisons” in order to refresh my memory.
I do wonder if I should re-read this book as well as Dolores Claiborne, which came out the same year & which I now barely remember at all. I read this about Gerald’s Game at Wikipedia:
“Originally the book was intended to be a companion piece to King’s novel Dolores Claiborne, with the connecting theme of two women in crisis caught in the path of an eclipse, though this aspect was greatly reduced by the time the books were published.”
I can confirm this for King fans: there’s a Dolores Claiborne reference in the film as well as several other nods to other works by King. Thank you, Mike Flanagan! You know how to keep King fans happy. I loved the references. And I admit that I love when King does his “strong women” stories. I wonder why he so often revisits these sort of themes? He must have had some good female role models in his life. It’s not something I can say I even noticed when reading his books starting from the age of about 13 but it’s something I appreciate now as a grown-up (well, physically grown-up… maybe not mentally!). In fact, I don’t think it’s something I even gave much thought until after watching Gerald’s Game and noticing the Dolores Claiborne connection. It got me to thinking about other King stories involving strong women who often have to deal with various forms of abuse. A similar favorite of mine was Rose Madder, which doesn’t seem to get mentioned often. Lisey’s Story is another one I liked a lot that didn’t seem to be one of King’s more popular books. And I can think of quite a few King short stories, such as A Good Marriage, with the same themes & strong female characters. Yeah, I think I need to revisit Dolores Claiborne as I’d probably appreciate it more at my age now.
I obviously liked Gerald’s Game a lot. Is it perfect? I suppose it has its flaws plus I think the somewhat jarring ending, if you haven’t read the story, may not work for everyone as it sort of seems to be from out of left field. It probably worked better in the book (I think it’s difficult to put some of the weirder aspects of King’s stories on screen). Or maybe it didn’t work better in the book – it seems to be a contentious ending from what I read online. Either way, all the inner torment leading up to the finale was done perfectly by Flanagan & by Gugino. I must say that this is a King story I never really expected to be adapted and am pretty amazed that such a good film has come out of it. I’m not entirely sure how non-King fans would feel about it & I admit that I may be rating it slightly too highly since I’m a huge King fan. But good King movies make me so happy! Oh, and for the faint-hearted: prepare yourself for one big gross-out moment. Yiiiiikes. And I knew it was coming! But don’t let that scare you off – It’s just one small moment that’s part of a strong psychological horror movie that delves into some disturbing themes.
My Rating: 8/10