GERALD’S GAME. (2017) A STEPHEN KING FILM REVIEWED BY SANDRA HARRIS.

GERALD’S GAME. (2017) BASED ON THE 1992 BOOK BY STEPHEN KING. CO-WRITTEN, EDITED AND DIRECTED BY MIKE FLANAGAN.

STARRING CARLA GUGINO, BRUCE GREENWOOD, HENRY THOMAS, KATE SIEGEL, CHIARA AURELIA AND CAREL STRUYCKEN.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

Question: What is a woman…?

Answer: A life support system for a cunt…

Wow. I loved this Stephen King movie adaptation of the supposedly ‘unfilmable’ book, GERALD’S GAME. I found it on Netflix during a routine scroll-down and was happily immersed within five minutes.

I love films about troubled marriages, having had my own share of rubbish relationships, and it’s obvious fairly early on that rich couple Jessie and Gerald Burlingame are heading off for some kind of make-or-break romantic weekend away at their super-isolated country house in Alabama.

Gerald, a good ten or fifteen years older than his wife, is some kind of executive business hot-shot, and he’s told his office people he’ll be out of touch for a few days. They have no children, and Jessie has only a few friends but they’re not really close, so there’ll be no-one to disturb them for these few days.

Carla Gugino as Jessie Burlingame is a truly beautiful woman in the Rachel Weisz mode, the kind of delicious, red-lipped, smoky-eyed brunette, perfectly proportioned, who makes us washed-out blondes all look like a sack of crap.

Gerald is clearly lucky to have her, as she seems to be a lovely sweet person as well, but Gerald isn’t entirely happy with their sex life- they currently have none- and he’s hoping that this weekend will rekindle something in them that’s been missing.

Two hundred dollar steaks are his idea of a culinary aphrodisiac, and a prologue to the nookie. Then follows the sex, and a smugly smirking Gerald, hepped up on Viagra, whips out the handcuffs, and not the furry novelty kind either, but the real thing. Sheriff issue handcuffs, lol. ‘Put your hands on the car, boy, or I’ll pepper yo’ ass with buckshot six ways till Sunday,’ and that kind of thing.

Jessie is a little weirded out by the metal love cuffs, but Gerald has made it clear he needs to try out some new stuff, so she feels obliged to go along with him, to save their marriage, see? But only up to a point. When she tells Gerald she’s had enough of his shit, much to Gerald’s angry mortification, something thoroughly unexpected happens that leaves Jessie fighting for her life.

They’ve left the back door open in their eagerness to get to the bedroom. But that’s okay, isn’t it? I mean, the place is in the middle of nowhere, right, and there isn’t a living soul for miles around, which was probably what Gerald, the sneaky sod, had in mind when he was whisking his gorgeous missus away on a dirty weekend for a spot of how’s-yer-favver, lol.

Jessie is in an exceedingly vulnerable position in their lavish holiday home. A stray dog, a stray escaped lunatic and some very disobedient memories from her troubled childhood that just won’t stay buried are some of the things that walk right up to her and get in her face while she’s a sitting duck, trapped in a SAW-style how-far-will-you-go-to-survive-type situation.

Well, they’re the only things that walk up to her, but, trust me, they’re enough. I had a sleepless night over this film, I can tell you. The horrific topic of child sexual abuse is handled very well here, by the way, showing us that the demons that come out of our closets at night are not the only monsters we have to fear.  

The ‘Crypt Keeper’ or grave robber in the film was inspired by none other than Wisconsin serial murderer Ed Gein, the gift that just keeps giving as far as cinema is concerned. PSYCHO, TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE, THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS were all inspired by Ed, who liked to gut people and make furniture and ornaments out of their skin.

He’s possibly the spookiest of all the ‘famous’ serial killers, is Ed. Anyone who’s as much at home rootling about in a cemetery as in his house, as comfortable around the dead as the living, has the power to make other, so-called ‘normal’ people feel very uncomfortable.

He’s one of the few major serial killers of the twentieth century who doesn’t seem to be the subject of a Netflix documentary. I’d love to think there was one in the pipeline. Ed’s a fascinating, if gruesome, study. We’d all have nightmares after watching his story.

You’ll be rushing to research the condition of ‘acromegaly’ after watching GERALD’S GAME, and, just to warn you, there’s a scene in the film that would take the actual skin off your hand. Shit. I meant to say it would put the heart crossways in you. Forget I said that other thing, would you? The film also covers the grisly but extremely interesting topic of how long can you go without water/food, etc., before you die…?

You’ll be reminded very much of one of King’s other book-to-film adaptations, DOLORES CLAIBORNE, when you watch this film. It seems like a lot of strange, unasked-for things can happen during a total eclipse of the heart, sorry, I mean the sun. I went all Bonnie Tyler there for a minute.

Do the normal laws of God and Man not apply during this short but eerie time-span when the sun is obscured by the moon and dark shadows fall across the earth? ‘Keep watching, Mouse, keep watching!’ ‘Husbands die every day, Dolores.’ We don’t go all out for eclipses over here. Maybe it’s just as well…

‘You’re not real! You’re made of moonlight.’

PS, you might have seen on social media recently that the Bed, which is one of the three main stars of GERALD’S GAME, has finally married the Handcuffs, also an important player in the tightly-knit cast. After meeting on the set of the film and enjoying a whirlwind romance, the couple gave birth during the summer to Baby Futon, an adorable cherub who, according to her mother, the Handcuffs, is the living image of her father, the Bed. The couple have decided jointly that the Handcuffs will stay home and take care of Baby Futon, while Daddy Bed tries out for a part in the new John Lennon retrospective, A Bed for all Reasons.

‘We couldn’t be happier,’ gushed the couple from their new Hollywood home when I caught up with them during a Zoom chat yesterday. ‘We’ll always think fondly of GERALD’S GAME, as obviously that’s how we met. We’ve asked Carla and Bruce to be godparents, but we haven’t heard back from them yet. Of course, they’re very busy with their various careers. Um, did we mention that we couldn’t be happier…?’

Aw, it’s too sweet…

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, poet, short story writer and film and book blogger. She has studied Creative Writing and Vampirology. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, women’s fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:

http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B015GDE5RO

Her debut romantic fiction novel, ‘THIRTEEN STOPS,’ is out now from Poolbeg Books:

The sequel, ‘THIRTEEN STOPS LATER,’ is out now from Poolbeg Books:

THINGS HEARD AND SEEN. (2021) A NETFLIX HORROR FILM REVIEWED BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

THINGS HEARD AND SEEN. (2021) BASED ON THE BOOK ‘ALL THINGS CEASE TO APPEAR,’ BY ELIZABETH BRUNDAGE. DIRECTED BY SHARI SPRINGER BERMAN AND ROBERT PULCINI.

STARRING AMANDA ‘MEAN GIRLS’ SEYFRIED, JAMES NORTON, RHEA SEEHORN, KAREN ALLEN AND F. MURRAY ABRAHAM.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

I had two things to say about this movie and a quick glance on Wikipedia informs me that they have both been said before. Well, ain’t that a kick in the head? I’m going to say them anyway, because they’re the two things that actually strike me most about the film.

Firstly, this movie would probably have worked much better without the supernatural element, because the ghost story is woefully weak and the story about the car-crash marriage is strong and could have been even stronger if it wasn’t trying to squash in a ghost story as well.

Secondly, the movie is very similar to Robert Zemeckis’s excellent oeuvre, WHAT LIES BENEATH, from 2000, one of my favourite films of all time. Harrison Ford and Michelle Pfeiffer absolutely smash it as the cheating, charming gaslighting research scientist/college professor and his wife, who’s being haunted by the ghost of someone intimately known to her husband, if you catch my drift.

The wife is dead-set on bringing the mystery to light. When Michelle PFeiffer says to Harrison Ford: ‘That girl must be brought up,’ the hairs on the back of my neck stand up. The husband in WHAT LIES BENEATH is unwilling for his ghastly-slash-ghostly secrets to come under scrutiny, because of the obviously negative repercussions for himself and his nice cosy set-up and career success.

So, he decides to get rid of the one person who knows his secret and is standing in the way of his keeping hold of the reins of his lovely, well-respected rich scientist life. And if that one person in his way can also be shown to be a tiny bit unstable and have a history of seeing things that aren’t there, well, so much the better for Mr. Professor…

THINGS HEARD AND SEEN has a very similar plot and is a very similar film, although the 2000 movie does the ghost story better. It’s 1979. Catherine and George Claire move with their little daughter Franny from their Manhattan apartment to a huge old farm in upstate New York. George, an art professor, is taking up a position in the college there and he’s extremely happy with his promotion.

Their lovely new house has a ‘troubled history.’ You know what that means. Folks died horribly there in the past, lol, and their spirits are not at rest. Not that there’s anything to ‘lol’ about in people dying horribly, haha. Ooops, I did it again…

Anyway, George is confident, handsome, ambitious, superior, smug, and a lying, cheating bastard to boot. He can- and does- charm the knickers off his female students, who all think that Professor Claire is just the swoonsomest swooner that ever swooned, snigger. They think he’s ‘the most,’ which folks may or may not have continued saying into the ‘80s, I just don’t know.

Catherine, on the other hand, doesn’t seem to be George’s biggest fan, for some reason. She’s jumpy, edgy, tearful, snappy and struggles with bulimia. She doesn’t seem to have a passion in life the way George is passionate about art. As she and George seem to have gotten married and pregnant straight out of school, maybe she hasn’t had a chance to find out what her true passion in life is yet, besides, of course, her child.

Added to this, she’s ‘seeing things’ around the house, shadows, people, ghosts and suchlike, but she can’t tell George about it because he’s grossly insensitive to her ‘vibes,’ and says he doesn’t want her ruining the new house on everyone by saying it’s haunted. The ghost story really needed to be sharper and more clear-cut, rather than a bit fuzzy and confusing the way it is.

George quickly finds himself a nice bit of stuff to keep him warm on the winter nights, because he’s not getting any nookie at home, what with Franny being in their bed nearly every night.

Catherine is stuck at home with the baby twenty-four-seven, with no-one to talk to but the two young lads who come to do jobs around the place. Even when the Claires get invited out to parties as a couple, George turns into a big, weed-smoking, drunk-driving jerk, so maybe they’d be better off staying at home.

Then comes the revelation that George has committed an illegal act to get the cushy position he’s in now at Saginaw College. It wasn’t hard to guess what happened in the plot from here, but there’s at least one thing in the last twenty minutes of the film that will probably surprise you, so do watch it to the end, even if you think you’ve already guessed the ending.

I liked F. Murray Abraham (SCARFACE, AMADEUS) as the cuddly and genial head of the college’s art history department, Floyd DeBeers- great name!- though I knew exactly what was going to happen to him the minute he said that he was going to have to inform the college of George’s pretty major deliberate act of deception. That isn’t the only thing that George has told lies about, either, so stay tuned.

Karen Allen, a classy lassy probably better known as Indiana Jones’s love interest, Marion Ravenwood, in the action-adventure films RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK (1981) and INDIANA JONES AND THE KINGDOM OF THE CRYSTAL SKULL (2008), has a small role in the film as a new acquaintance of the Claires’. There’s that Harrison Ford connection again! 

As I’ve said, the ghost story is as weak as piss, excuse my language, but the toxic marriage story is gripping, and could have been even gripping-er, which isn’t a word at all, if they’d just concentrated on that and nowt else. WHAT LIES BENEATH did it first and also did it better, but THINGS HEARD AND SEEN is worth a watch too, if only for comparative purposes.

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, poet, short story writer and film and book blogger. She has studied Creative Writing and Vampirology. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, women’s fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:

http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B015GDE5RO

Her debut romantic fiction novel, ‘THIRTEEN STOPS,’ is out now from Poolbeg Books:

The sequel, ‘THIRTEEN STOPS LATER,’ is out now from Poolbeg Books: