New King adaptation offers panic and horror abound

A stagnant marriage and an attempt to liven up the bedroom leads to every person’s worst nightmare in director Mike Flanagan’s latest, an adaptation of Stephen King’s disquieting novel.

In the film, Jessie (Carla Gugino) and her older husband Gerald (Bruce Greenwood) escape to their cabin for the weekend, only for Gerald to suffer a heart attack after he has handcuffed his wife to the bedposts. The ensuing hundred minutes is full of panic, anxiety and another addition to Flanagan’s rapidly expanding resumé that proves single-handedly that he is the best director working in horror.

Don’t let the thriller premise fool you, this is a horror film through-and-through. With Jessie’s captivity restricted to her bed, Flanagan uses inventive tricks and his main character’s state of mind to explore her own past horrors along with the ever-looming threat of hungry dogs, the spectre of death and personal secrets she isn’t able to face herself. It is refreshing to have a film that treats its heroine with enough dignity and respect that transforms Jessie from the typical scream queen into someone who deserves not just to survive, but to finally begin living her life.

As the film escalates it is hard to keep still, as what is shown painstakingly attempts to make you lose your lunch with a particular moment that is, without a doubt, the most intense scene of the entire year.

The film is grounded in its surreal aspects by a no-holds-barred performance by Gugino that is fearful and determined, always making the most of her limited movement by way of painful screams and exasperated ramblings. What surprises most of the film is just how weird and experimental it can get. The images crafted by Flanagan’s regular cinematographer Michael Fimognari are inherently off-putting but also provide tiny moments of quiet beauty that aids in propelling the very dark (almost physically upsetting) plot further than you could expect.

Once again partnering with Netflix as with his previous film Hush, Flanagan has cornered the market on film bound, experiential horror that has no qualms with going as far as it can to make you squirm in your seat.

Gerald’s Game is the director still at the top of his game crafting an adaptation that takes the show away from King as the cast and filmmaker have stamped a unique and surreal stamp on the material that is essential horror.