Friday, July 13, 2018

Movie Review: "Gerald's Game" (2017)

Believing is feeling.
Tonight, I watched Gerald's Game for only the second time, and I am pleased to report that I enjoyed it just as much on revisit as I did when it first began streaming last September.
Having recently reread (and blogged about) the novel, I was a little worried that King's version might be too much in my brain for me to let go and enjoy Mike Flanagan's adaptation.  I needn't have worried; this is top-notch stuff, an instant classic that has, I think, already joined the ranks of agreed-upon King classics.
If such a thing even exists anymore.  I think it still does, but our culture, popular and otherwise, seems to be in the midst of a series of profound shifts in how we view it and ourselves, and in the face of that only a fool speaks of things being commonly agreed upon.  Granted, I kind of am a fool; so there's that.  Still, I've retained enough self-awareness to know that whereas one probably could speak about "agreed-upon" things in 1988, or 1998, or maybe even 2008, the ability to do so in 2018 is increasingly meaningless.  We agree on virtually nothing these days.  We don't even agree upon what we disagree about.
That's not lost on me, is what I'm saying.
Still, to the extent such a thing as consensus exists, the consensus among people who care about movies based on the work of Stephen King seems to be that Mike Flanagan's Gerald's Game is a big-time winner.
How did this happen?  For decades, that novel was considered to be damn near unfilmable.  Flanagan's movie works so well, though, that one wonders what all the fuss was ever about.  "Oh," one might say watching it; "fuck, that was simple."  I'm sure it was anything but, but it does play somewhat effortlessly, and that's a bit of a marvel.
Let's see if we can celebrate it a bit.
The key initial decisions Flanagan seems to have made are these: (1) deciding that the novel itself fundamentally works from beginning to end; and (2) deciding that despite that, not every aspect of it was a slam-dunk for adaptation into an audiovisual format.  From there, along with co-screenwriter Jeff Howard (to whom I apologize in advance for the many times I'm going to simply refer to Flanagan as the auteur of this adaptation -- I do know it's not the case, and regret the shorthand), he seems to have decided to keep as much of the novel as possible without losing sight of the fact that in order for it to work as a cohesive whole, things would have to be sacrificed.

There is no science of adaptation.  (Well, okay, there is, actually, but not in this sense of things.)  Perhaps if one had a God-level insight one could establish that sort of criteria, but otherwise, that shit don't exist.  And what works for one person as an adaptation from book to movie might not work for the next person; some people hate Stanley Kubrick's The Shining, and some people love Mick Garris's.  I rest my case; no science can fully bridge the gulf between those two facts.
If, however, I myself were able to fully define what does and does not result in an appealing and satisfactory adaptation for my own tastes as a movie lover, I think that definition would have to include the idea that making it work first and foremost as a piece of filmmaking.  See, I don't give a flaming otter turd that Stanley Kubrick's The Shining is unfaithful to Stephen King's novel The Shining.  I will keep that flaming otter turd for myself; fuck you, you may not have it, get your own.  What I care about is that it is a film so full of excellent cinematic language that people are still unpacking it damn near forty years later.  As a result of that, I feel something for pretty much the entirety of that movie.
We now return to the idea of believing being based on feeling.  In cinematic terms, that translates to seeing and hearing; and when I watch Stanley Kubrick's The Shining I see and hear things that make me believe I am seeing people move about inside the Overlook Hotel.  Stacked against that, what the fuck difference does it make to me that "Jack seems crazy from the beginning" (eyeroll) or that "Wendy is weak and annoying" (headsplitting eyeroll) or that the hedge animals are missing?  None whatsoever.
We're not here to talk about Stanley Kubrick or The Shining, though.  That day will come -- and I look forward to it keenly -- but no, we sure aren't.  We're here to talk about Mike Flanagan and Gerald's Game.  The same truth applies, however: he (and his various collaborators) got right the thing they needed most to get right, namely making me feel and believe that Jessie was trapped in those handcuffs and figured out a way not to be.
Let's take a look at a few moments in which Flanagan helped make that happen.
Here's a brief bit in which a later plot point is deftly set up:

Jessie has been outside trying to feed a stray dog.  Gerald comes outside and they have a mild argument about it, and he then takes her by the hand solicitously and leads her back inside.  See, they came here to fuck.  That's really all there is to it, at least as far as Gerald is concerned; they are here so that Jessie can be handcuffed to a bed in a manner that will excite her husband, thereby enabling him to fuck upon her.  He couldn't care less about a stray dog; Jessie has gone outside to care about something that Gerald does not care about.  He goes outside and brings her back in, and he's in such a rush to get her back to the place where the fucking is going to happen that he can't even go slowly enough to close the door.
This, of course, is how the dog will get in later on.
The way Flanagan films the scene, the camera follows along behind Jessie and Gerald as they walk back into the house, and as Jessie turns to briefly consider the door as they pass beyond it, the camera continues to move, emphasizing their haste.  Jessie's look tells us that somewhere in the back of her brain, she probably knows this is a mistake; but she's in follow-Gerald's-lead mode (as she seemingly has been during at least the recent part of her marriage to him), so she does not follow her own instincts, and leaves it open.
And by the way, in case you were wondering:
Yep, she closed it when she came out to try feeding the dog; it being left open is 100% Gerald's action, and it's 100% the result of the fact that all he cares about is putting his dick in this woman.
What's happened in this brief scene is that the movie has advanced our understanding of both characters by means at least partially based in the way the actors and their surroundings are framed, lit, and edited.  You may not know immediately what it all means, but you feel that it is meaningful, and this draws you in sufficiently that you remain engaged long enough to find out.  And even if you forget about the bit with the door, you might well care enough to eventually watch the movie a second time, at which point you'll likely have a "a-ha!" moment and know what the bit with the door actually means.
Here's another sequence I like.  I didn't screencap every bit of it, so I'll begin by describing it.
The dog has come back inside and has begun feasting upon Gerald.  Jessie is freaking out about it and utters an insistent "No!"  Suddenly, a hand appears at the foot of the bed; it is Gerald's, and he stands up, a hunk of meat missing from his arm.  He staggers around with a sort of comical sense of "what the fuck is this shit all about?!?" and Jessie is both surprised and glad.  But a few seconds later, her eye notices something: Gerald is still lying there on the floor in a pool of his own blood, just as dead as can be.
But in that brief moment, when he pops back up and begins talking, Jessie believes he's still alive, and because she believes it, we believe it; and feel it along with her.  This is true whether you've read the novel or not, I think; that will impact how long you believe it, but I think the movie does enough to briefly make even those of us who know the novel believe in what we're seeing.
This is crucial to establishing one of the movie's big conceits: that Jessie is going to spend a big chunk of the movie talking to an imaginary version of Gerald.  It's a big ask.  It's a big ask in the novel, as well, but King had plenty of room to ease us into the concept, and he had the benefit of interior monologue to help him out.  The way he presented the idea -- Jessie imagining her former college roommate, Ruth (among others, some of whom are aspects of Jessie herself) -- would be almost impossible to put on film in a concise and emotionally engaging way.  Flanagan and Howard have opted for a clean, sensible solution: Jessie begins imagining a version of Gerald that she can bounce thoughts off of, and who can serve as a sort of active antagonist for her.
It is a big ask, I think, but it's not really all that implausible that the audience will say yes.  I mean, what are you, going to say NO to more Bruce Greenwood?!?  Why would you do such a thing?  You wouldn't, provided you're asked nicely, and so Flanagan's task is merely to ask nicely.  He knows he can't shove the concept down your throat; he's got to convince you to put it in your own mouth and begin chewing it.  That initial reappearance of "Gerald" is the key to it, because I think our knee-jerk reaction is to be glad that Gerald is still alive.  Even if we only believe it for a split second, we've invested some of our feeling into the idea, so we're happy to keep him around a bit further than that even once we know it's an illusion.
Next, Flanagan has to sell the conceit that enables "Gerald" to stick around.  He knows this is a sort of trick that really only exists in storytelling, so he knows we are likely bringing with us an inherent willingness to agree to it.  We only ask for an excuse to be provided; it's like a password to get into a club, it's just a formality . . . but without it, your ass ain't gettin' it, so give me that password and give it to me NOW.
What Flanagan does is visually make us believe that Jessie is only experiencing this version of Gerald because she has had a bit of a mental break with reality.  "Gerald" tells her it is because when she saw a dog begin eating her dead husband, her mind simply snapped.  During this phase of the conversation, he films the two of them in a weird manner that is not found elsewhere in the movie:

The two of them are perfectly situated in the center of the frame, and they are speaking to each other by looking more or less directly into the lens.  This is the sort of thing people do when they are speaking directly to the people they know are watching.  It's called breaking the fourth wall (a theatrical concept), and it's generally not done in movies.  But it can be useful if a director wishes to call attention to its unnatural aspects, and that's what Flanagan does with it here.
There's more to it than that, though.  It does call attention to the weirdness of the situation, and thereby helps us understand that it really is a imaginary thing.  However, the way the two of them are located in the room, we actually -- this is how I take it, at least -- feel that they are looking at each other.  So when Jessie is looking directly at the camera (at us), we intuitively know that she is in fact looking at this figment of her imagination which has assumed the form of Gerald; and when "Gerald" is looking at us, he's actually looking at Jessie.  So we empathize with Jessie a little bit more, and we also believe in "Gerald" a little bit more, because we are somehow in a state of existence in that room, between the two of them.
The conversation continues:

Jessie soon begins struggling to try to pull her right hand out of the cuff.  "Gerald" tells her she's not going to be able to get it out, but doggone it, you know what?  It kind of looks to me -- and probably to you -- as if there's a bit of room; it looks to me, in fact, as if she might really be able to pull that hand free, provided she put some actual effort into it.
And so she does.  Lo and behold, it works!  Her hand plops free, and she stands up on the other side of the bed, pulling mightily on the post to which her left hand is still handcuffed.  The post splinters into two pieces, and she slips the cuff off of it, free to sort out her dead husband and get her life back on track.
She walks over to the other side of the room, gloating like crazy:
And then, in what I'd say is by far the funniest moment in a film that is not exactly a laff riot, we get the punchline:
"Gerald" and Jessie look at this escaped woman blankly for a moment, and "Gerald" -- are those sarcastic quotation marks getting old? (yeah, I think they might be, too, but I'm inclined to keep using them) -- looks down at the real Jessie and tells her she's really losing it now.  He points out that her hand cannot slip out of the cuff, and that the bedposts are reinforced and cannot be broken in that way.
This is genius, because I think every single person watching the movie -- and this includes people who have read the novel -- have probably looked at the situation as it is being filmed and thought, "I bet I could get out of those cuffs."  Either they think they'd pull themselves free, or they think they break one of the posts.  I damn near guarantee it.  So Flanagan and Howard have taken that into account, provided a moment in which we see it actually happen, and have then pulled those rugs right out from under us.
They've also used this as a great means by which to introduce the second Jessie (to whom we will refer as "Jessie," hence the persistence of the quotation marks).  "Jessie" will hang around for most of the rest of the film, serving as a sort of positive force counteracting "Gerald" and his negativity.  Every bit of this has been accomplished via editing, performance, and sound effects.  Flanagan has relied upon the tools of the medium in which he is working; he knows they are powerful and will not let him down, and they don't.
As the film continues, he will push this further and further, soon entering a stretch of the film where we know Jessie is actively dreaming some of what we are seeing.  Again, the successful communication of these ideas will come via editing, cinematography (especially the color palette), and sound design.
I didn't take any screencaps of the first appearance of the Moonlight Man.  Well, scratch that; I did take them, but I ended up deleting them, because they don't work very well as still images.  The film's cinematographer is Michael Fimognari (a frequent collaborator of Flanagan's including on the upcoming Doctor Sleep adaptation), and he made this initial encounter very much a thing of darkness and shadow.  In motion, it works incredibly well; you can barely see this "imaginary" Moonlight Man.  Here again, the decision was made to keep us locked into Jessie's perspective; we're seeing what she is seeing, which is as much suggestion as anything else.  And I'm willing to bet that many viewers -- maybe most -- who don't know the novel will indeed assume what Jessie assumes: that this Moonlight Man is another figment of her imagination.  She's seeing revenant Gerald and escaped Jessie, so why not a creepy dude with a satchel?
Like I said, it looks great in the movie, but screencaps did not do it justice, so I deleted them.
From there, we move into a stretch of the film where we examine what happened to her on the day of the eclipse when she was a child.  Most of that is presented in fairly straightforward (though very effective) fashion, so let's skip forward a bit and look at some of the more dreamlike material.  We'll begin with an especially jarring transition that is one of the film's highlights.
Young Jessie, her horrific conversation with her father concluded, lies back upon her bed in a posture that is both Christlike and reminiscent of her older self in handcuffs.  She sort of . . . well . . . she sort of senses that something is happening, and looks up to see what it is.
Here's what it is:

That still of the Moonlight Man licking some foot really doesn't sell how disturbing a moment it is.  It doesn't last long, but this is our first good look at him, and it is unsettling as hell.  The editing perfectly communicates the truth of what is happening, though: that the dog has decided to attempt a bolder move than snacking on Gerald, and is stepping up to live meals.
What we've seemingly got on our hands (in our guise as Jessie-by-proxy) is a twofold threat: the Moonlight Man, a symbol of Death, haunting our dreams and threatening to come back at nightfall; and the ever-present hungry dog, which is going nowhere and which Jessie is powerless to keep at bay forever.  All that jammed into a great little bit of cinematic weirdness.
Now that we've settled into a mode in which surreality is on the table, we can go into a sequence like this (which comes later on):

By this point, we've already seen the eclipse, so when we see adult Jessie standing in its blood-red glow, we know immediately that we're seeing a dream.  And by accepting that, as well as the things we've already accepted, we've got no problem whatsoever accepting the idea of older Jessie talking to Mouse (the younger Jessie).
Mouse tells Jessie that she needs to remember, and Jessie goes into a tearful rant about how she absolutely remembers.  This isn't what Mouse means, though: she needs Jessie to remember something that happened at dinner on the night after the eclipse.  Specifically, she needs to remember breaking a drinking glass and cutting herself on it, plus her father's comment about not wanting to have to take her to the emergency room to have her fingers sewn back on.
Cut back to reality, where Jessie -- who is "seeing" Mouse and her father in her own bathroom in the cabin -- obviously now has an idea.  She looks up and sees the drinking glass on the shelf above her, and I'm guessing this is about the point at which most audience members kind of get an idea about what's going to happen next.  Cut to "Jessie," who says, "It's gonna fucking hurt."  She's not wrong.
This is the point at which I may as well confess something: I still haven't seen the degloving scene.  The first time I watched the movie, I got up and left the room until I knew it was over; the second time I watched the movie, I got up and left the room until I knew it was over.  The third time I watch the movie, whenever that may be, you know what I'm gonna do?  You got it: I'm gonna get the fuck up, leave the fucking room, and not come back until I hear the sound of the bed being moved across the floor.  That shit is so gross I could barely read it in the novel without my eyes crawling out of my head in sheer protest; if you think I'm EVER watching that shit, you are incorrect.  So no screencaps of that bit are forthcoming, now or ever.
You know what, though?  I've got a huge amount of respect for Flanagan's decision to include it.  It's a huge element of the novel, it's a tremendous opportunity for an actor to play the pain of it, and it's a tremendous opportunity for whoever did the special makeup effects to show off their talents.  Plus, for gorehounds, it's an exciting moment that will make them love the movie more than they already did.  For those of us of a more squeamish nature, it's not exactly difficult to opt out of.  So while you're never gonna get me to watch it, I am thrilled as heck that it's in the movie.
Let's see another couple of examples of striking visuals, both featuring the Moonlight Man.  In the first, Jessie has gotten out of the cuffs and is in the process of driving away.  It's the middle of the night, but her mind is wandering; she's dehydrated and has lost a shitload of blood, and is also just kind of besieged by craziness, so all bets are off.

By this point, we know -- ? -- that the Moonlight Man is just a dream, so there's nothing all that irrational about Jessie seeing him in her backseat.  It's unsettling as fuck, but it's not irrational; so this works extremely well.  If it were a cheat, it would fall apart either in retrospect or on a second viewing, but if anything, a second viewing makes it more powerful.  Either way, we know that in this moment, Jessie thinks of him as Death, and given how close she is to dying of her wounds, it's really not a stretch to say that in as near to a literal sense as possible, Death IS riding in the backseat with her.

In some shittier versions of this movie, the Moonlight Man might have been some sort of a cackling, taunting figure, one that tried to choke her or something stupid like that.  Christ, imagine Mick Garris directing this with Matt Frewer in the role or something horrendous like that.  Better yet, don't.

We'll soon transition back into reality in time for Jessie to have a head-on collision with a tree, and we'll then enter the film's excellent coda.  (Brief sidebar: a lot of people disagree with me about that coda being excellent.  They're welcome to that opinion, but I do not share it, and in fact take the same view of it here that I take in the novel: without it, the movie doesn't work.)

By this time, we know that Jessie continuing to see the Moonlight Man in her bedroom in the city is a thing which will haunt her even though she knows it is impossible.

I think is probably the creepiest he looks in the entire movie.

"Daddy had been wearing his eclipse face."

Jessie will soon find out that her Moonlight Man was actually a real person: Raymond Andrew Joubert.

This will lead us to two of the best bits of visual storytelling in the entire movie.

The first comes during the courtroom scene.  It's a streamlined version of what happens in the novel; it's an improvement, and I say that as someone who likes the scene in King's book.  I'm iffy on Jessie's male lawyer companion friend guy, though; it makes sense in the book for Jessie to have someone to talk to about some of that stuff, but it makes more sense for the movie that she simply acts on her own accord, walks straight in to the courtroom, and goes up to Joubert like a boss.  Is it realistic that she could do so without being stopped?  Wellll ... maybe.  I'll buy it.

Anyways, here it comes:

She walks in and sees his monstrous form.  She walks up and -- in what might be the second-funniest moment in the movie -- says "Hey!" a couple of times, in increasing volume so as to get his attention in what she obviously hopes (illogically) will get nobody else's attention.

She succeeds in getting that attention.

Joubert is obviously kind of delighted to see her.  "You're not real!" he croons.  "You're only made of moonlight!"  Holy crow is Carel Struycken great and creepy in this scene.  He's not playing Joubert as a monster; he's playing the creepily childlike-and-innocent aspect of the character.  When I say he's obviously delighted to see Jessie, I really mean it; it's bizarrely sweet, in a way.

Jessie does not think it's sweet.  But she's really not there to see Joubert.

And we know that for her, all these men who have done terrible things to her are kind of one and the same; this is her act of confronting them, of letting them go.

There's a nice visual callback here to the scene in which Jessie and "Gerald" were looking straight at one another.

"You're so much smaller than I remember," Jessie tells Joubert.  (In the novel, she spits on him.  Here again, an improvement has been made.)

This seems to rattle Joubert; or perhaps it merely confuses him.  It is unclear.  Speaking of unclear, we then cut to a shot of Jessie walking away from Joubert and out of the courtroom.  The camera stays where it is, and more importantly, the focal point stays in place, where Jessie was:

Joubert -- who here can be taken as not merely himself, but as a metaphor for both Gerald and for Jessie's father (which really means as a metaphor for her feelings about them and about herself regarding them) -- remains fixed in place, while Jessie passes out of his field of view.  She is becoming lost to him/them; meaning that that aspect of herself is also in the process of fading away.

Cut to outside the courtroom, where the shot picks up with Jessie still out of focus.  The camera is once again settled on a single focal point; this new Jessie walks into that focus, an act of her new self coming into view.

I didn't take active notice of any of that stuff with the camera focus the first time I saw the movie.  I did, however, take note of this next bit, and I didn't like it.  But this is a great movie, and great movies don't yield their treasures up all at once, so...

Well, let's take a look at it first:

I took the putting-on of sunglasses to be merely a bit of surface shallowness, indicative of Jessie finding her cool and stylishness again.  And to some extent, it is that, but there's that partially-obscured sun hanging in the sky, too; she's putting on protection against the forces that sun represents.  This is a woman who is not 100% healed, because it is not possible to heal 100% from damage of the sort she has sustained; physical, emotional, you name it, she will carry that damage.

But she know the damage is there, hanging in her sky like a sun, and she is not going to bow before it; she's going to accept it and move on with the business that is her life.

It's a very fine set of moments right at the end of a very fine movie.  And again, it's primarily accomplished via the language of cinema; sure, the story keeps movie, too, but right up until the final shot, Flanagan and company are seeking ways to tell that story in evocative and captivating style.

For my money, they succeed almost totally.  Believing is feeling, and my emotions were engaged for the entirety of this film.  I don't know what more you can ask than that.


There's plenty more to be said about this movie, but we're going to wrap this review up in fairly short order.

A few more things I wanted to make sure to mention, however:

  • I would have loved to be able to see this in a theatre, and I'm inconsolable about the fact that it isn't available on Blu-ray, but that's how Netflix rolls.  And hey, look, man; the bottom line for me is that if that's what has to be sacrificed in order for a King-based movie this good to come out, then I will make those sacrifices willingly.
  • You can barely hear it, but there is a news bulletin on the radio that seems to be about Joubert during the car ride to the cabin.
  • When Jessie goes out to feed the stray dog, she places the plate of steak on the ground and says, "Here you go, my poor prince."  This is a completely acceptable moment in and of itself, but if you recall that in the novel, the dog's name -- before it became a stray -- had once been Prince, it's even better.
  • Many of the most effective changes from novel to movie were made to avoid having to explain things, or to tie things in other plot points.  In the book, the thing she uses as a straw is a magazine-subscription insert card; here, it's a price tag she has ripped away from her brand-new slip.  The act of tearing it off emphasizes how the slip means enough to her that she was willing to indulge Gerald, but also shows how the forced sexiness she is putting on is, in fact, a thing she is faking.  Tying that in to her efforts to stay alive is pretty great.
  • I haven't talked about the performances much at all.  Carla Gugino is phenomenal in this movie; instantly one of the very best King-movie protagonists, as far as I'm concerned.  The Emmy nominations came out today, and she -- along with the entire movie -- was ignored.  I say unto thee, "Fuck you all," Emmy voters.  This shit is Oscar-worthy.
  • Almost as good: Bruce Greenwood, who (like Gugino) is always great.  He's especially great here, though.  He plays the aggressively pathetic side of Gerald quite well early on; he's solicitous but shows just a hint of desperation under the surface.  He's so good in the heart-attack scene I think he may have just had a heart attack on the set for real; probably not.  And then, elsewhere, when he's playing the "Gerald" of Jessie's imagination, he is every bit as condescending and scary as you'd hope he would be.
  • One of the best scenes: Jessie getting the glass of water down from the shelf the first time.  Gugino's performance is stellar, combined with great tension-building from editor Mike Flanagan (name sounds familiar...), and exceptional sound design.
  • There isn't a huge amount of musical score, but what there is is quite good.  It comes via The Newton Brothers, who have scored almost all of Flanagan's films.  It's gentle piano-based stuff, and it emphasizes the moments in which Jessie feels at peace.  Good stuff, and it can be downloaded at their website for free.
  • The eclipse scene is not AS gross as in the novel, but if it doesn't make you feel icky, you're a better person than me.  By which I mean you are a worse person than me.  Henry Thomas is creepy as fuck in his scenes.  I was also very impressed by the excellently-named Chiara Aurelia, who plays young Jessie.  Get either one of those bits of casting wrong and you run the risk of hurting the movie pretty badly; they got them both very right.
  • Jessie's mother is played by Kate Siegel, who is Mrs. Mike Flanagan.  This was no bit of nepotism, though; she hasn't got a whole lot to do here, but she previously starred in Flanagan's first Netflix film, Hush, in which she is fantastic.
  • We don't see anything with the Dolores Claiborne crossover, but Jessie mentions it as having been a dream she had the night after the events of the eclipse.  This is a bit of a change from the novel, but that's okay; it's pretty awesome for Flanagan to have included it at all.  He and Howard seem to have wanted to do so in a manner that would not stand out like a sore thumb for people unfamiliar with the novel; and I think they got it right, turning it into a thing that reflects both the subtheme related to dreams and the subtheme related to keeping things secret.
  • There are a couple of other King-related shoutouts that didn't work as well for me.  "Gerald" refers to the dog as Cujo, which is fine; but he also, later, says "Everything dies; all things serve the Beam."  Now, I'll allow this.  It makes me grumpy, but I'll let that go because I can (and do) rationalize it thus: since "Gerald" is speaking from Jessie's own experiences, I take this to mean that she exists in a world in which King is real and wrote both Cujo and the Dark Tower series, but NOT Gerald's Game.  I think this is permissible.  But I kind of wish Flanagan had opted out of on-the-nose references like that; this isn't Jake-Epping-seeing-REDRUM-on-a-wall bad, but it's kind of bad.  I hereby demand a moratorium on King easter eggs of that nature; stop them, one and all, and stop them right the fuck NOW.

With that, I've said all that I want to say about this excellent movie for the time being.

I do, however, have some leftover screencaps for you, so here they come:

No idea why I took this, but sure, why not.

Encountering the dog in this way is another excellent change from the novel; not because the novel version doesn't work (it works very well), but because it's not visual.  This is.


The setting has been relocated from Maine to Alabama.  Hey, I live in Alabama!  I've even BEEN to -- or through, at least -- Fairhope!  I love it.  Other people may wonder why this change; it's a fair question.


We have now concluded our extensive looks at both Gerald's Game and Dolores Claiborne.  It's been fun for me; if the next subject I tackle is as much fun, I'll be very glad indeed.

Whatever the result, see you then!


  1. The shining being my favorite book, my desire (damn near need ) for a faithful adaptation that's great probably leads to me nitpicking an already great adaptation in Kubrick's version a lot of the time. I think this is true of many fans of the book and leads some to cling to Garris' version as the "closest" thing to the adaptation.
    Funny how based on this movie, Mike Flanagan would be my choice to direct this new version of the shining. I thought that immediately after watching this film and got Doctor Sleep being made for the insolence.
    Great work as always!

    1. I'd be 100% onboard with Flanagan directing a new adaptation of "The Shining." I think he's likely to do a great job with "Doctor Sleep." I hope so, at least!

    2. I think he will make Doctor sleep the best possible movie it can be. I just wish that if he was doing any King novel after Gerald's Game, it would be one a little better than what I would describe as the "merely" good Doctor Sleep. But hopefully I'm wrong about how good Doctor Sleep can be as a film. I would like to be.

      Thanks for replying.

    3. You're welcome!

      It sounds like I probably enjoyed "Doctor Sleep" a little more than you did, so that probably explains why I'm more excited for the movie. I can only imagine that Flanagan was a big fan and got excited about it; he doesn't seem like the kind of guy who would go after a project like that for any reason other than passion.

      We'll find out in a couple of years, I guess!

  2. 1. "It is a big ask, I think, but it's not really all that implausible that the audience will say yes...He knows this is a sort of trick that really only exists in storytelling, so he knows we are likely bringing with us an inherent willingness to agree to it. We only ask for an excuse to be provided; it's like a password to get into a club, it's just a formality . . . but without it, your ass ain't gettin' it, so give me that password and give it to me NOW."

    It's funny, because the premise of this statement is reliance on the willing suspension of disbelief, and the mental location (for lack of a better word) of just where that threshold for disbelief exists. If I had to come up with a word for what I'm talking about, then the best I can do is the not so helpful phrase "Suspension Threshold".

    In other words, where does the threshold for suspending disbelief lie in the minds of the audience? I have no clue. I almost want to suggest that while there may be such a mental threshold, it doesn't exist as a fixed point collectively in the human mind like the imagination itself. I can't help but think it's more like a movable point like slots in a graph or something.

    Someone really ought to be able to make a graph to see if such a threshold is, not so much movable, as it is variable in the minds of different audience members.

    ...I'll go take my meds now.

    2. The same idea might apply with the Fourth Wall. The irony is I never never considered whether the shots of the actors looking into the camera was a Fourth Wall break or not. I'm not sure it would have occurred if you hadn't pointed it out.

    The thing is, if it is a break, then how do we know realism still holds from here on in? That almost sounds like a cheap trick question, because, well, it's movie. What's real about totally imaginary work of fiction?

    3. Thankfully, I'm not a "better man". In fact, as I was watching the eclipse scene, I started to reach forward to fast-forward; and the whole scene mercifully ended. The fact that it is Elliot from E.T. in that whole scene...Change of Subject!!!!

    4. When the "escape scene" came up, I remember thinking "forewarned is forearmed" (I swear no pun intended) and so I waited for a minute until she began to use the glass on her hand. Then I turned away. I never saw much, but I heard a lot. At one point, curiosity got the better of me. I turned back to see what's what. I still recall me immediate reaction: "WHOA-HO'HHHH!!! Nooooooo thank you. I instantly turned away from the screen. The irony is it's called de-gloving, and yet she had to wear several gloves for that scene.

    5. I remember being surprised by the inclusion of Delores in their. I knew Flanagan was taking a risk in confusing the audience, yet I also remember thinking, "Way to go!"

    6. For some reason, those Easter egg moments didn't bother me as much. (shrugs) Either my tolerance level hasn't been breached yet, or I didn't read enough to be bother by them in book or film, or something. As Elliot Gould once observed: "It's okay with me".


    1. 1. Oh, it's 100% variable. The same person might have different threshold for different genres, even; or might be affected by mood, etc. It's impossible to say where that line is.

      I'll say THIS, though, and feel quite certain about it: you cannot underestimate how stupid some audience members are. Some viewers are so daft that if, on screen, one person walks up to another person and begins choking them to death, SOMEbody is going to ask, "Is he choking him?" Count on it.

      2. I'd argue that we know it ISN'T a fourth-wall-break in the traditional sense, only that it is a shot designed to suggest something weird and unnatural is happening, so as to communicate Jessie's alleged temporary craziness to the audience. But I think the subconscious impact on many viewers is much the same as if it HAD been a true break of the fourth wall.

      3. Yeah, that scene is rough. Not as rough as in the novel, thank Odin.

      4. ("Forearmed." Nice.) Glad I'm not the only one for whom that is just too much. I really do mean it, though: I salute everyone involved for having the guts to put that shit on film. People will be talking about that scene for years to come.

      5. Right?!?

      6. I seem to be more or less alone in terms of being annoyed by that stuff. I really do get annoyed by it more often than not, though. I worry everyone is going to eat "Castle Rock" up with a spoon and I'm gonna be left here with my arms crossed like a sourpuss.

  3. (1) I must confess I began this post unsure if I really had anything else to say about this movie/book/concept and that I might fail you as a reader. I appreciate the deep dive you're doing, I just think I've exhausted my own pool of commentary on it. I'm happy to say you still swept me up in it, though, and I very much enjoyed this further exploration of the film, which really is a remarkable job, for all the reasons you mention. A definite top 3 or top 5 contender of all King cinema.

    (2) Can't say enough about the cinematography and the screencaps you chose to reflect it, particularly those blood-red eclipse ones.

    (3) What a performance by Carla - did this come out outside the Oscar window? If not, why the hell did she not get nominated? Unforgivable. (Although perhaps the Netflix-only aspect necessitates some other category.) Then again, the Oscars aren't quite the Oscars anymore. So who cares. But whatever the nominating body, her performance should be celebrated at least as much as Kathy Bates' in MISERY and why even confine it King-adaptations; it's one of the better performances of ANY female lead in ANY movie I can think of.

    (4) "Christ, imagine Mick Garris directing this with Matt Frewer in the role or something horrendous like that. Better yet, don't." Oh man! You're so right here. That would have happened, and King would be saying it's better than PSYCHO.

    (5) Well, re: your brief sidebar, yes, we part ways on the ending. I'll see you when our wagon trains reconverge over the pass!

    (6) I caught that radio bulletin when Dawn and I watched it! I forgot about it until you mentioned it just now.

    (7) Oh, I see your Emmy nominations bullet-point. Yeah I cant figure out why this would be Emmys - it's not TV, it's Netflix. But, perhaps our current award categories are inadequate to the new media platforms. No perhaps about it, actually; a film like this demonstrates that amply.

    (8) Agreed 100% on the proposed moratorium on King Easter eggs of the nature you describe/ or perhaps at all. It's just dumb now. Imagine if other writers/ directors had done this, or if every Hitchcock film contained some pointed references to any other Hitchcock. It becomes silly after a point. I'd say it's so obviously overdone and stupid that we're only a short while away from King holding a press conference pledging his support to MORE easter eggs. Hopefully he'll announce another goddamn Holly novel too - hopefully chockfull of Dark Tower references.

    (9) Kudos!

    1. (1) Impossible to fail me in that way!

      (2) Those are something else, for sure. Damn do I wish I could see that movie on a big screen in a theatre!

      (3) I agree with your assessment. And I'd be willing to bet that if the movie HAD come out in theatres (especially at the same time of the year -- late September), she'd have been in the Oscar-talk mix. Netflix missed out on a big opportunity there, I think.

      (4) On some level of the Tower, it is so.

      (5) More people seem to agree with you than with me on this one. Hey, these things happen!

      (6) I caught it the first time, too, and in my memory it was a lot more front-and-center. But on the revisit, it's only kinda barely there. Pretty cool.

      (7) There was a warp-core containment breach on classifying all this shit at some point in time. All streaming apparently counts as television now, which ... okay, sure, whatever.

      As far as Oscar goes, it makes sense that they stick only with things that get a certain kind of release in movie theatres. THEY, at least, have clearly defined their criteria for what does and does not count as a movie and have more or less kept it the same forever.

      All I know is, the notion that Gugino didn't get nominated for this role by ANYBODY is a failure on everyone's part.

      (8) Yeah. What can you do? I think we're in a weird phase now where King-fan filmmakers feel like they have to prove their King-fan street-cred by tossing bullshit like that in. I can (and will, and mostly do) forgive it when the end result is as good as this movie. When it's "The Dark Tower" or the "11.22.63" series...? Nope. NOT forgiven.

      (9) Thanks! As always.