An enjoyable Netflix evening with Stephen King stuff done well.
Director: Mike Flanagan (Before I Wake)
Screenplay: Flanagan, Jeff Howard (Don’t Look Back) from Stephen King
Cast: Carla Gugino (San Andreas), Bruce Greenwood (Star Trek)
Runtime: 1h 43m
By: John DeSando
“The people who were supposed to protect you from the monsters turned out to be monsters themselves...” Young Jessie (Chiara Aurelia)
The monsters, originally created by the inimitable Steven King and now helmed by Mile Flanagan, are there in Gerald’s Game—the harried mother and impotent father with a dog who eats Kobe beef for an appetizer. Jessie (a superb Carla Gugino) and husband Gerald (Bruce Greenwood) go to the lake house to spice up their marriage. I know—don’t go to lake houses without major security!
What ensues in less than two hours is no less than an excellent psychological thriller that relies as much on that dog and handcuffs as it does Jessie’s haunting memories of her father’s abuse. After being locked on the bed frame, she watches her husband die and herself be tortured to the extreme by trying to get out of the cuffs and away from the dog and her nightmares.
Production designer Patrick M. Sullivan, Jr. and cinematographer Michael Fimognari have created a closed space in the bedroom to make it seem a prison. Yet, they allow enough space for escape to be possible, both physically and psychologically.
Horror tropes are ever present but not as dominating as the deconstruction of Jessie’s past and personality on the way to exorcising mental demons coming at her from her past and her Viagra-pumped husband. Although Gerald’s dark participation in Jess’s trauma in not fully treated, enough pain is distributed to guess at his contributions.
The film balances the rough state of Jessie’s imprisonment with her horrific history enough to provide satisfying nerve-shattering scares with quality psychological unburdening. Add a little Hitchcockian suspense and twists, and you have an enjoyable Netflixian evening.
“This monster was real, real as they come. As real as the cuffs, as the dog.” Jessie
John DeSando, a Los Angeles Press Club first-place winner for National Entertainment Journalism, hosts WCBE’s It’s Movie Time and co-hosts Cinema Classics. Contact him at JohnDeSando62@gmail.com