Posts Tagged ‘Gerald’s Game’

I did not expect to do a review today. I didn’t even expect to see a new movie this weekend! But then I found out that the fourth or fifth Stephen King film to come out this year (he really is in the middle of an adaptation renaissance) was out on Netflix, I was like, “I gotta watch this. I gotta watch this, and I gotta review it.” So I watched 1922. And what did I think?

Well, it was nothing like I expected. I’ll give it that much.

1922 follows a farmer who plots with his son to murder his wife after she threatens to force them to leave their farm and move to the city, and the consequences of their plans. It’s based on a novella that I’ve only read half of (I was just coming off a huge Stephen King binge, and at the end of those, I just get sick of his style), and I honestly didn’t know it was being adapted into a movie until I saw the trailer last month. I wasn’t too excited, because while the trailer was good, I felt a lot more hype for movies like It and Gerald’s Game. Who knows? Maybe it would blow me away.

Too bad I found it average.

I think the film’s biggest problem is its first half hour, in which the farmer and his son kill the wife (spoilers). They cram that whole thing into about twenty minutes or half hour, from the introduction to the main characters to the murder. Now, usually movies about murdering someone take more time to do that, introduce the characters and then get to the murder. This gives the filmmakers time to introduce us to the characters so that we, the audience, can connect and empathize with them. This time is also used to explain why the characters feel murder is necessary to accomplish their goals. Otherwise the audience won’t understand, and that takes them out of the story.

However, 1922‘s filmmakers are in such a rush to get to the actual murder, they skip over all that. Instead, they use narration and jumpy shots of the characters thinking or pacing or staring into space to try to get all that across, and it’s done poorly. There’s a phrase we writers use: “show, don’t tell,” and that applies to movies too. We only get so much interaction between the characters during this time, in favor of the jumpy shots and narration, and by the time we get to the commitment to murder, we’re just like, “Wait, I have a hundred questions and points I’d like to bring up! I seriously don’t get why this murder needs to happen!”

After that first half hour though, the film does even out, becoming a much better horror film. The pacing becomes much more even, and they dispose of the jumpy shots. It actually makes for a really well-plotted thriller, in which we really see how this murder, as well as some of the consequences–expected and otherwise–psychologically damage the farmer and his son. The actors do a good job of making their characters seem real, and the use of the supernatural in this film isn’t too over-the-top or distracting. It’s actually pretty creepy at times.

Still, there’s nothing during the time after the first half hour of the film that makes the film extraordinary. No terrifying corn chase scene, no stalking of the main characters that makes you feel a chill. It’s just average psychological thrills and family drama, and we’ve seen a lot of it before in a hundred films, books, and TV shows.

Still, it’s better than the first half hour.

On a scale of 1 to 5, I give the film 1922 a 2.5. It’s a horror film, but there’s better material out there, Stephen King or otherwise. Go watch that instead.

 

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I’ll try to make the next blog post I put out either something about my life or about examining something in writing or horror that’s worthy of discussion. Until then, have some pleasant nightmares and a great weekend.

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I read the novel Gerald’s Game earlier this year just in preparation for this movie. I heard what it was about (see my summary below), and I was like, “Shit, I gotta read this.” And I did, and I found it really intense. It was filled with some of the usual Stephen King cliches, those quirky sentences and weird things he likes to do, but my God, it was intense. Nothing I couldn’t handle, but still very intense. I could understand why my mother found it so difficult to read she had to skip to the end just so she could sleep at night.

This evening, after a long training trip for work and after hearing that this Netflix Original was really good according to early reviews, I sat down in my hotel room to watch the film. And I can say without hesitation, this was an amazing psychological thriller, scarier than It, even. And unlike It, I would not recommend my mother see this one.

Gerald’s Game follows Jessie Burlingame, a housewife played by a convincing Carla Gugino, who goes with her husband Gerald, played by Bruce Greenwood, to their lakeside cabin for a weekend away. However when a kinky sex game goes wrong, leaving Gerald dead and Jessie handcuffed to the bed, struggling to survive as the stress causes her mind to unwind and her worst nightmares to come to life.

So like I said, this film is great, with Conjuring-level frights at certain points. The filmmakers used camera angles, light, colors, and especially sound to highlight the horror of the situation. The sound is noteworthy, because it’s used so sparingly once the movie really gets started. After Gerald dies, Jesse starts screaming, and there’s background music, but the shot changes to outside, and all we hear is birdsong and some muffled screaming. This highlights all the more how this could actually happen in the real world. It’s beautiful.

I also like some of the changes made from book to movie. The writers and directors managed to translate what some might correctly term as an unfilmable story very well to the screen by changing some of the weirder elements of the story, namely all the voices in Jessie’s head brought out by the stress with their own distinctive personalities, into just three personalities: a more ballsy version of herself, Gerald, and her father. They also switched from having Jessie being in nothing but panties to wearing a slip, saving this film from being just titillating torture porn. And they actually manage to get in some slightly funny moments to make sure the story doesn’t get too dark (or maybe I’m laughing at weird stuff to relieve myself of tension).

But the best part is definitely the climax. My God, did that scene make me cringe! That could not have been easy to film (on so many levels), but it pays off so well. I actually cringed in my seat and let out exclamations of disgust and horror after seeing that scene.

There were only a few things I didn’t care for. In one scene, Jessie’s narrating a dream she had at one point as a child, and I feel like that would’ve been better shown than told (I sound like a high school English class typing that, but I don’t care, it’s true). There’s also a lot of dialogue in the film that, while it would fit in a King novel, never would fit in real life, let alone in a movie. And while the way the story is wrapped up kind of works in the novel, I feel like it might’ve been done better if it was done differently in the movie. It’s not bad, it’s actually decent, but it could’ve been done differently and possibly much better.

Also, that ending forgot about the dog. Just saying.

All in all though, this is a fantastic movie, a psychological thriller that scares, grosses out, and even manages to integrate themes of misogyny and the effects of sexual abuse into the story without feeling forced. Heck, it’s even got some dark humor at times…if you see it as humor. I could honestly see this film getting some academic examinations in the future just based on how well it’s done. It’s that good a film.

On a scale of 1 to 5, I’m giving Gerald’s Game a well-deserved 4.7 out of 5. Unless you’re my mother, go to Netflix, eat some popcorn, and go to bed with your arms close to your chest because you’re afraid you’ll wake up with your arms cuffed to the bedposts. I know I will, especially that last part.

Goodnight Followers of Fear, and pleasant nightmares!