Based on Stephen King’s novel, Gerald’s Game follows married couple Gerald (Bruce Greenwood) and Jessie (Carla Gugino) as they arrive at a remote cabin for a weekend of relaxation and kinky fun – with problems ensuing after Gerald, having handcuffed Jessie to the bed, suddenly drops dead of a massive heart attack. Filmmaker Mike Flanagan delivers an efficiently-paced adaptation that grows more and more absorbing as it progresses into its midsection, and there’s little doubt that the director, working from a script written with Jeff Howard, does an effective job incorporating the source material’s seemingly unfilmable elements (eg Jessie’s imaginary conversations with her husband and herself, a long flashback sequence around the midpoint, etc). It’s clear, ultimately, that Gerald’s Game’s greatest strength lies in its two central performances, as both Greenwood and, especially, Gugino manage to inhabit their respective characters to a degree that becomes increasingly spellbinding. The ongoing inclusion of gripping interludes, such as a truly cringe-worthy moment detailing Jessie’s desperate attempts at extricating herself from one of the cuffs, perpetuates the picture’s impressively captivating vibe, and although the whole thing ends on as underwhelming and anticlimactic a note as one could possibly envision (ie Flanagan’s decision to retain King’s astonishingly terrible coda proves somewhat disastrous), Gerald’s Game is nevertheless, for most of its running time, a top-tier adaptation that works a whole lot better than one might’ve initially anticipated.
*** out of ****