Tag Archives: Mike Flanagan

Review: Gerald's Game

Director(s)Mike Flanagan
Principal CastCarla Gugino as Jessica
Chiara Aurelia as Young Jessica
Bruce Greenwood as Gerald
Henry Thomas as Tom
Kate Siegel as Sally
Carel Struycken as Moonlight Man
Release Date 2017
Language(s)English
Running Time103 minutes

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again- Mike Flanagan is one of the best horror directors in the game right now and this adaptation is the some of the best proof. Gerald’s Game is one of the few King stories I’ve read so when I saw Flangan was directing, I was intrigued in seeing how he’d adapt the unconventional narrative style the story uses. Flanagan and Jeff Howard both deserve applause for synthesizing the ideas of the novel in a suspenseful and easy to digest way.

The story follows a couple, Gerald and Jessica, as they go off on a trip to rekindle the spark in their marriage. After handcuffing Jessica to the bed and downing a few viagra, Gerald tries to initiate some rape-play which Jessica finds too disturbing to continue anymore. After she rejects his advances, he dies suddenly of a heart attack and she finds herself trapped in an abandoned house, handcuffed to a bed, and completely alone. The initial build-up to all of this is handled with an great eye for detail. Issues that come to plague Jessica in her struggle to survive are set up early on, so subsequent reveals and twists feel sweet and satisfying.

The story primarily takes place through a series of conversations Jessica has with projections of her subconscious. Representations of herself, her late husband, traumatic memories of her family and the situation that they placed her in, and nightmare scenarios plague her as she attempts to make out what’s real and what’s relevant to keeping her alive. As Jessica struggles to survive, she’s forced to navigate her trauma and the way she’s attempted to handle it throughout her life. Her story goes to dark places and if is presented with the respect and seriousness it deserves. There are hard scenes to watch, but they’re never exploitative or voyeuristic. They exist to remind you of the uncomfortable truth, but aren’t visceral or provocative outside of that. The deplorable nature of the act is horrifying enough.

A lot of the movie rides on Carla Gugino’s performance. She’s the protagonist and has to play a women who goes through some heartbreaking and emotionally complex realizations about herself and the way she’s dealt with deep seated trauma. Watching the layers of herself slowly fade away to the core of who she is is amazing, and you can feel the intensity of her desire to get to heart of what ails her. Gugino also talks to herself for most of the movie, but breathes life into the conversation so you always feel like something’s going on. The entire movie is her talking to projections of her subconscious, one of the avatars being her subconcious personified as a clone of herself. She manages to be just as convincing talking to herself ( aka nothing in the room) as she does when she talks to Gerald. It’s a testament to how well she threw herself into the role.

I love this movie because I never thought it would be something that could be adapted (a fairly common sentiment). The way that the ideas and discussions are streamlined into easy to follow story-lines gives the movie a more complete and tight feeling. Rarely do I like a movie for than a book, but this is one of those rare exceptions. The adaptation gives Jessica far more agency, which is important because the heart of the movie is learning how to deal with trauma. More agency means more ability to introspectively act and engage in a more thorough catharsis. Her journey through her trauma is moving and never comes at the cost of the more exciting elements of the story. The hard to imagine gory scene from the novel makes its way here and is just as hard to watch. It all just comes to demonstrate how well the adaptation understood the source material and the strengths of a film over a book. It only takes what it needs and does its best to cover the sentiments of what it doesn’t directly copy over.

Report Card

TLDRGerald’s Game is one of the best King adaptations to date. It’s a touching tale about overcoming trauma and reclaiming agency. There are certainly visceral scares, but the real horror comes from understanding of the way we try and deal with our pain.
Rating9.5/10
Grade A+

Go to Page 2 for my spoiler-full thoughts!

Review: Hush

Director(s)Mike Flanagan
Principal CastKate Siegel as Maddie Young
John Gallagher Jr. as The Assailant
Release Date 2016
Language(s)English
Running Time81 minutes

Hush tells the story of Maddie, a deaf author, suffering from a particularly grueling case of writers’ block. Given her condition, she doesn’t notice when a nameless intruder stakes his claim in her house, hell bent on torturing her until it’s no longer fun and then killing her after. Little does he know that Maddie’s not ready to give in and she’s more resourceful than she looks.

This is the first Mike Flanagan movie I ever watched and is the first of many reasons why I will watch anything he makes (As of writing this, I’m only missing The Haunting of Hill House). Typically when I watch a movie, I have anywhere from a few to a lot of “Why don’t they just…?” or “That doesn’t make sense and would never happen!” thoughts. That issue happens far less often in a Flanagan movie because he spends time justifying every decision and helping the audience understand exactly what all the outs are. This movie takes great pain to humor the audience’s “what-if” scenarios, in a way that’s both logistically and visually satisfying.

The movie does a great job of establishing each of the main characters as individuals and as a cat-and-mouse pair that’s trying to take each the other one out. Siegel is excellent as the lead and manages to convey a lot of intention and emotion through excellent facial expressions and physical acting. She’s not allowed to talk in a traditional sense, so watching her “show” her thoughts makes the experience feel more personal. Within a few scenes, I was invested in her well-being and found myself rooting for her to win. She uses her circumstances and wit to constantly navigate the situation, so the movie feels unique in how competent the “final girl” starts off. It’s a refreshing change of pace that keeps the movie feeling fresh in a genre that needs new life injected into it. John Gallagher Jr. is unnerving as the unnamed assailant. He’s a total psychopath and the movie hammers that point in more than once. Early on, when he realizes Maddie is deaf, he decides it would be more fun to torture her and go in for the kill, because he could prolong it like a game. The cold, calm, and composed way John fulfills his actions makes it clear that the events in the movie are nothing more than sick and twisted entertainment for his character. Side characters are used effectively. None of them linger for longer than they need to and they’re presented as capable in their own right. It makes them feel like they’re real parts of the world, as opposed to throw-away characters meant to change the pace up and add new sources of tension.

Maddie’s condition is used to great effect and Flanagan has found a way to give her a voice in spite of her lack of speaking. Things happen in the background, and Maddie doesn’t turn around to look at them. It’s typical horror movie bad decision 101, but in her case it’s understandable because she can’t hear the noises of the “things” happening around her. It creates excellent square sequences where we see menacing things happen around her and know that she’s walking straight into harrowing circumstances.

Though the movie is deftly crafted and well-paced, it doesn’t do anything spectacular to change up the genre or make its themes refined. There’s a simple underlying story of defying expectations and using them to your advantage, but it’s only ever explored in one way. It’s relatable but not complex. That’s not a bad thing, but given how well executed and conceived the mechanics and performances are, the same level of nuance in the themes or story would have elevated this movie into something really great. Don’t get it twisted, this is one of the best slashers of the past decade. I just thought it had way more potential.

Report Card

TLDRHush is one of the best slashers of the past decade and is sure to entertain anyone who has a hankering for a bad-ass “final” girl. Deaf author vs sadistic psychopath plays out with a lot more finesse and nuance than you’d expect.There are innovative communication strategies, well executed chase sequences, and tons of chilling harrowing moments. Best part? It’s only 81 minutes, so you don’t need to spend a long time waiting around.
Rating9.0/10
Grade A

Review: Doctor Sleep

Theatrical Release Poster

To be honest, I wasn’t looking forward to this movie. I’ve never been someone who read any of Stephen King’s books growing up, so my only experience towards The Shining has been through Stanley Kubrick’s iconic movie. The way the movie ended was satisfying and emotionally resounding. As such, the idea of any sequel felt iffy, even if based on a book by the original author. On top of that, the initial trailers made me feel like the movie was just going to be a series of Shining references without real substance. Thankfully, Mike Flanagan’s adaptation of Doctor Sleep manages to stand on its own two feet and genuinely surprised me in its depth and presentation.

The story follows Dan Torrance (Ewan McGregor) as he attempts to get over his horrifying experience at the Overlook hotel. He’s a rugged adult now and the film takes time at the beginning to really flesh out what we know about him and his motivations. If you’ve been reading my reviews for a while now, you know that I’m okay with the dreaded “slow burn” movie. However others may find this first hour slow and uneventful. There’s no real inciting incident or immediate answers to the events that we witness. Instead, we’re forced to take time getting to know the primary cast and their motivations. This makes the more serious and tense moments in the second and third act that much more exciting. I felt scared because I cared about the characters and knew what they were thinking and going through. Character decisions do get more “interesting” in the third act, but they never brought me out of the moment during the watch so I didn’t think too much about them. Even now they don’t seem like major issues and don’t detract from the more important moments, but it may annoy some viewers.

Acting is great all around. Ewan McGregor really sells the trauma that motivates and influences Dan’s actions. He’s asked to be a man at wit’s end in one moment and then a confident leader in another. Likewise, Kyliegh Curan’s performance as Abra stone manages to cover a wide range of emotions. She’s confident and bad ass when she needs to be, but when she’s scared it’s understandable. As a child actor, I’m even more impressed and appreciated how well Curan and McGregor played off each other. Their relationship is really cute and helps give the story a lot of it’s emotional weight. However, any review of Doctor Sleep that didn’t mention Rebecca Ferguson’s performance as as the main antagonist, Rose the Hat, would be horribly remiss. She absolutely captures the camera whenever she shows up. She oozes charisma, intelligence, malice, but also a deep emotional attachment to her “family.” It makes her a nuanced villain. Yes, she’s evil – but she’s so fun and suave with it that you can’t help but appreciate the lengths of what she’s willing to do.

I appreciated Flanagan’s recast of the Shining characters. I watched the movie with a friend, who thought that the dis similarities between the new actors/actresses versus the original actors/actresses was distracting. I can understand why and this may be something that puts viewers off. However, I do think each of the recasts captures the “spirit” of the original character. I could believe each of the actors/actresses as their characters , even if they weren’t great at cloning their original actor/actress as that character. There is one scene in the third act where I thought the differences were a bit too strong, but it didn’t distract me too much. Honestly, considering the alternative – a ton of CGI – I’m glad the more practical option was used. If IT 2’s de-aging showed me anything, it’s that technology still has limits.

The movie is crisply shot like all of Flanagan’s previous works. Nothing really surprised me in terms of composition or sound. However, that is not to say that scenes do not look cool. The movie has a lot of action moments that absolutely looked stunning and felt like they were ripped out of an manga or comic book. If you’ve seen Naruto and ever wanted to see real genjutsu fights, this movie has them and they are gorgeous.

I did appreciate all the homages to the original film in both the shot composition and track design. The third act honestly felt like a huge gush of fan-service, which I personally enjoyed. It felt like a nod at fans of the original and I liked it for what it was. It didn’t feel like it took anything away from the plot of the movie at hand. I do think some of the references could’ve been taken away because the movie felt like it could have been a tad bit shorter, but I didn’t mind it.

Thematically the movie focuses on responsibility and the extent of what our obligations are to others. The question is made more interesting by the philosophical questions raised by the scope and use of the “shining” power. I was surprised by how much the movie was making me think about how I would react in similar situations. Although , I think that some of the threads are answered haphazardly, the way the movie ended had me smiling. Based on the discussions I’ve been having, I definitely want to read the source material for both films and go through the experience again. This adaptation deserves that.

Rating

TLDR: Doctor Sleep is a beautiful movie that manages to balance both horror and action. It features one of the best villains of 2019 and is a fun ride the moment psychic shenanigans start happening.

Final Rating: 9.4/10 . This is the best King adaptation of 2019 and there have been a lot. If you ever wondered what happened to Doc after the events of The Shining, you owe it to yourself to watch this movie.

Go to Page 2 for my spoiler-full thoughts!