This September was the resurgence of Stephen King. Early in the month his beloved classic It made it to the screen after a long gestation and blossomed into a box office juggernaut that was both critically and commercially beloved. On the second to last day of the month, another long gestating King project made its debut, Gerald’s Game. Horror wunderkind, Mike Flanagan, brings his passion project to the screen after amassing a small filmography of expertly crafted genre films. Whether it is supernatural horror like Ouija: Origin of Evil or Oculus, or the home invasion thriller Hush, Flanagan has become one of the most consistent voices working in the medium. Gerald’s Game is a perfect match of filmmaker to material. Flanagan is a master of single location tension. He understands horror’s intrinsic need for the audience to have a grounded sense of the temporal and spatial relationship of the environment. Carla Gugino (Jessie) and Bruce Greenwood (Gerald) play a wealthy couple who go on a remote weekend getaway to reignite and hopefully save their pallid marriage. When Gerald pushes the bounds of their intimacy by handcuffing Jessie to the bed to enact a fantasy of his, Jessie, for reasons that are revealed, tries but can’t reciprocate his advances. Then, Gerald suffers a Viagra-induced heart attack with Jessie still cuffed to the bed. Stranded in the emptiness of a remote Alabama lake house, Flanagan finds claustrophobia in the abundance of space. The room begins to shrink, condensing upon Jessie as her mind begins to navigate a minefield of repressed memories from childhood and marital dissatisfaction. Jessie begins to envision versions of herself and versions of her husband that she keeps in constant dialogue with. Aside from her clear severance from mental stability, Jessie is forced to face the very real threat of the dog that has already started to feast on the decomposing flesh of her husband’s corpse. The reality of prolonged constriction is doled out in excruciating detail. Flanagan focuses on the body’s need for sleep, but then the punishing toll it takes on the extremities after resting in suspension for extended amounts of time. While the terror of the situation is rendered in palpably tense detail, it is the realities of her past that surface as the true threat. Similar to the way It used the stories of domestic abuse and bullying to become the actualization of a societal threat, Gerald’s Game lingers on moments of abuse that are wrenching to watch. Being cuffed to the bed forces Jessie to confront the demons that she has harbored by herself for years. This is what Gugino is exceedingly good at portraying. Jessie is a character that is burdened by a life of victimization, but she has never considered herself a victim. Instead, she sees herself as a survivor that sweeps her emotions under the rug hoping that they never surface. It is this confrontation that Gugino understands so well. In the hands of a lesser actress and a less thoughtful director, Jessie’s past becomes exploitation, but Flanagan approaches the material with the care and empathy that show he isn’t just a director looking to shock an audience. Greenwood, who looks insanely good for a 61-year-old man, is perfect at alternating between tender and animalistic. In death, Gerald becomes the actualization of the true threat she always thought of him as. Greenwood plays this with quiet and unnerving calm. Flanagan guides the audience on a tricky and emotionally fraught journey that, unfortunately due to the source material, is underplayed by a coda that seems to come out of nowhere reminding the viewer that monsters are indeed real. The first four-fifths of the film is so immaculately rendered that it can’t be undone by an ending that could never feel naturalistic. Gerald’s Game features the most raw and unsettling moment of body horror of the year. Flanagan plays out this moment of mutilation in lingering and painstakingly painteresque details. I felt myself reacting on a guttural level in a way that I don’t think I ever have to a moment of gore. It is drawn out, methodically marching towards an intensity of presentation that is both shocking and seemingly grounded in realism. Flanagan gives no reprieve, he forces this moment on the viewer, reveling in his ability to unsettle, and it is a wonder to behold this kind of excess in the hands of a true artist’s control. Flanagan becomes an artist that is more in control of his craft with every film. Gerald’s Game isn’t a masterpiece because it is weighed down by the trappings of the final throws of the source material, but for much of the runtime it makes a pretty compelling case for being one. There will be a day where a Mike Flanagan film will go down, not as just a horror classic, but as a classic outside of the bounds of genre. This isn’t that day, but I’m pretty sure it is right around the corner and Gerald’s Game is a solid placeholder until that time. See larger image Gerald’s Game Now a Netflix movie directed by Mike Flanagan (Oculus, Hush) and starring Carla Gugino and Bruce Greenwood.Master storyteller Stephen King presents this classic, terrifying #1 New York Times bestseller. When a game of seduction between a husband and wife ends in death, the nightmare has only begun…“And now the voice which spoke belonged to no one but herself. Oh my God, it said. Oh my God, I am all alone out here. I am all alone.”Once again, Jessie Burlingame has been talked into submitting to her husband Gerald’s kinky sex games—something that she’s frankly had enough of, and they never held much charm for her to begin with. So much for a “romantic getaway” at their secluded summer home. After Jessie is handcuffed to the bedposts—and Gerald crosses a line with his wife—the day ends with deadly consequences. Now Jessie is utterly trapped in an isolated lakeside house that has become her prison—and comes face-to-face with her deepest, darkest fears and memories. Her only company is that of the various voices filling her mind…as well as the shadows of nightfall that may conceal an imagined or very real threat right there with her… Kindle Edition: Check Amazon for Pricing Digital Only Share this:TweetShare on TumblrLike this:Like Loading... Related Leave a Reply Cancel ReplyYou must be logged in to post a comment.