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:

THE HAUNTING OF HILL HOUSE: THE 2018 NETFLIX TV SERIES. ©

THE HAUNTING OF HILL HOUSE: THE TELEVISION SERIES. (2018) CREATED AND WRITTEN BY MIKE FLANAGAN. BASED ON THE BOOK BY SHIRLEY JACKSON.

STARRING CARLA GUGINO, TIMOTHY HUTTON, MICHIEL HUISMAN, ELIZABETH ANN REASER, OLIVER JACKSON-COHEN, KATE SIEGEL, VICTORIA PEDRETTI AND ANNABETH GISH.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

‘Whatever walked there, walked alone…’

Wow. This ten-part series makes for excellent television drama, but I suppose we’d better start by saying that it’s not as good as the original film of Shirley Jackson’s superb horror novel; how could it be? But it’s pretty damn good television viewing, even though it wasn’t as scary as I’d been led to believe and there’s an awful lot of talking and repetition in it.

It’s a ghost story, told in a non-linear fashion, so a bit you see in one episode might not make sense at all until another episode repeats the thing and explains it to you. Yes, that might be annoying for some, but the plot is really well written and complex and, even though it seems to have a million things to keep track of and an equal number of loose ends to tie up, it doesn’t do a bad job at all of tying everything up in a nice big bow at the end.

Okay, so it’s the summer of 1992 and the Crain family- the parents, Hugh and Olivia, and their five sprogs Stephen, Shirley, Theodora and twins Luke and Nell, come to live in the titular Hill House to do to it what the Americans call ‘flipping,’ that is, they’re going to do it up a bit and sell it on to make a fortune. That’s the plan, anyway.

But Hill House is haunted to buggery, as we all very well know, and it isn’t long before the house begins to exert its evil supernatural pull over the family Crain. Little Luke has an ‘imaginary’ friend called Abigail, who comes out of the nearby woods to play with him.

He is also haunted by a terrifyingly tall man with a walking stick, who floats a good twelve inches above the ground. His twin, Nell, is tormented by visitations from a scary-sounding someone she calls ‘the Bent-Neck Lady.

Theodora learns that she has a ‘psychic’ touch: if she touches something or someone, she can derive psychic information from it. She takes to wearing gloves every day, however, to prevent this from happening. Well, not everything she learns is necessarily welcome information, so you can’t really blame her, can you?

Dad is severely disturbed by the sounds of scraping, banging and tapping he hears in the basement he’s trying to de-mould, and as for Mom…! Mom probably has a sign tattooed across her forehead that only ghosts can see, a sign saying: ‘Haunt me, please!’

She’s a drippy, hippy-dippy spiritual type to begin with, gliding through the rooms in a succession of fabulous long nighties and robes, with her long dark hair streaming out behind her, but when the house starts to impact on her already fragile-seeming emotional state, she becomes a million times flightier.

She sees dead people and chats away to them as if they’re real, and she’s extremely susceptible to the ghosts’ warped mind games, being highly suggestible when they plant ideas of evil-doing in her increasingly damaged mind.

Something happens in the house in 1992 that sees the family (well, nearly all the family) fleeing for their lives, like the family in THE AMITYVILLE HORROR. The story moves back-and-forth over the ten episodes between the past and the present, and it won’t be until the very last few frames in the very last episode that we discover just what happened in that cursed house that fateful summer.

The Crain siblings are very messed-up adults. It’s pretty obvious that their stay in Hill House has impacted upon them big-time in different ways. One is a funeral director and a control freak. One is a heroin addict. Another is a child psychologist, responsible for working out if children have been sexually or otherwise abused. Her job makes her miserable. It’s a good group so far, isn’t it?

Another of the siblings is a flaky mess whom everyone in the family feels is a suicide waiting to happen, and yet another writes books about hauntings in general and Hill House in particular, books that get their entire family’s back up. I told you it was a good group…!

The siblings haven’t had any answers from their parents, in particular from their father, regarding what exactly happened in Hill House to tear the family apart that summer. Now, their lives are so messed-up and mixed-up that they’re going to need some answers, whether their parents want to give them these answers or not. Why not start by asking what was behind the locked door of the Red Room, for which they never had a key when they lived there…?

There are definitely references in the series to the original book by Shirley Jackson. Two of the sisters are called Theodora and Nell, there’s writing on the wall and banging on the doors, and the weird caretaker couple, the Dudleys, won’t stay on in the house in the night, in the dark, when it’s night, after dark, lol.

Some of the scares are extremely effective; others less so. I’d definitely recommend this Netflix series. It’s good writing and good acting; it’s a bit annoying and confusing in places, full of dreams and fantasies and with all the females in it sporting identical hairstyles, but it’s mostly good scary fun that puts me very much in mind of Stephen King’s THE SHINING.

I believe that Stephen King, master of horror and a huge fan of Shirley Jackson’s book, gives THE HAUNTING OF HILL HOUSE, the series, his seal of approval. It has mine too, for what it’s worth, so go forth and watch it and enjoy it, and just make sure the Bent-Neck Lady doesn’t find you alone in the house, in the night, in the dark…

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 Film-Making. 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.