Tuesday, 2 January 2018

Gerald's Game (2017) - Horror Film Review

Gerald's Game was directed by Mike Flanagan (Oculus, Hush), if I had known this before hand I might have been quicker to watch this as Hush is a darn good movie. The other day I reviewed 1922 which was based on a novella Stephen King wrote, Gerald's Game is another adaptation of one of his stories.

Jessie (Carla Gugino - Sin City, Watchmen, Sucker Punch) and her older husband Gerald (Bruce Greenwood) have gone away to a remote house in the woods for a weekend of fun which they hope will save their dissolving marriage. Gerald has brought some handcuffs with which he cuffs his wife to an ornate bed as part of a sex game, finding she doesn't feel comfortable she asks him to release her and they get in a row. Unluckily for her Gerald has a fatal heart attack and dies, leaving her trapped. The stress of the situation, coupled with the fact a stray dog has started to eat her husband causes her to have a mental breakdown of sorts and she starts to hallucinate, discovering repressed childhood memories as she does so...

I had heard this was a good film but for the first third of this I really wasn't impressed. I found the whole situation to be pretty awkward and hard to watch, and found the whole hallucination angle to be pretty darn silly. It was the hallucinations themselves which saved the film though as it led to some beautifully framed flashback sequences to show sexual abuse she had suffered at the hands of her father as a girl during a solar eclipse. I also thought the supernatural elements were a decent touch at well. Each night a being who Jessie identifies as the 'moonlight man' visits her leading to some creepy moments when he appears deep in shadow.

There have been many films set in one location with a trapped character, Saw is one such obvious example, and this kind of follows a similar route in that the character has to explore their past to find the means to survive the present. I found the Jessie and Gerald of her mind to be a bit ridiculous at times, I guess it is a good way to show a character's internal thought process and I did enjoy this manifestation of that, but having an essentially 'evil' version of herself and Gerald made things a bit too comedic at times. The usual danger of having a 'trapped person' film is that there needs to be a steady flow of events happening to keep things interesting. With her visions a lot of the weight is lifted, too much it seems at times as it isn't long into her plight that she takes on the appearance of someone who has been chained up for much longer. I found the passing of time to be a poor part with Gerald's Game, though on the plus side we have the dog. The stray dog is constant throughout the film and was always there to be a threat, with it implied once it has gotten bored of eating her husband it will turn on her.

The acting is all of a high standard, Gugino had a lot of screen time to herself but fills it believably, Greenwood never really gets a chance to play a realistic character as most his time is spent as a hallucination, but he was also good. I think I was most impressed with the actors in the childhood sequence, Chiara Aurelia played young Jessie and was a child actor who shined with relation to the dark subject she had to be a part of. I also thought Henry Thomas was fantastic as her Dad, though some credit goes to the script, but his portrayal of the insidious manipulation of his daughter was spot on.

I made it a rule long ago, back when I first saw House IV in fact, never to eat food when watching a horror (an evil talking pizza will do that to you), I nearly broke that rule here and am I glad I didn't! The dog eating a corpse I could deal with, no matter how amplified the sound of its chewing and biting was, but later on there is an effect that I had to look away from at several points. I think that is the mark of good special effects if they succeed in turning stomachs with their display, it is the best effect of that type I have seen for that particular body part without going into any details.

By the end of Gerald's Game I was quite invested in what was happening, and it was interesting to see it carry on past the point I figured it would, leading up to a little twist that was on the border between ridiculous and awesome. While I didn't like the set-up and I didn't rate too highly the hallucination aspect this actually did something a little bit different to what I was expecting, helped in no part by the good acting all around.


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