Review by Andrew Overfield
Edited by Katie Tarrant
Publisher: Intrepid Pictures
Composer(s): The Newton Brothers
Sound Designer/Supervising Sound Editor: Trevor Gates
Distributed by & Reviewed on: Netflix
This year has had quite the ups and downs for writer, Stephen King. The Dark Tower and the re-imagining of The Mist both met pretty low review scores as far as critics go but then again he’s had some huge success with the recent re-interpretation of IT (which, by the way as far as horror films go, I absolutely loved IT! Pardon the pun!).
I came across Gerald’s Game whilst doing my usual trawling through the Netflix catalogue and looking for something that grabbed my attention. Seeing as this was a recent release and nothing like I usually watch, I thought I’d give it a go.
Gerald’s Game focuses on only two main characters, Jessie and Gerald Burlingame as they attempt to freshen up and add some spice to their failing marriage. In an attempt to do so, they plan a naughty weekend away to their lake house to try and get some alone time and rekindle the intimacy they once had.
I had no idea what to expect with this psychological thriller aside from the Netflix blurb that preceded my viewing. Essentially Gerald has a heart attack, whilst his doting wife is handcuffed to the bed and it opens up the much bigger story from then on. How Jessie battles her past demons, how she survives dealing not only with staying alive but with the thoughts racing through her mind as she attempts to keep a level of sanity.
One thing that drew me to writing this piece was simply the lack of music throughout the film. The majority of the film is set in one room, one scene with Jessie tied to the bed and relying solely on the acting, sound design, and suspense caused in the room to deliver an engaging and thrilling experience.
Director Mike Flanagan explained in an interview to QC Magazine: “We made the decision very early on that we didn’t want there to be any music once the cuffs were on. We didn’t want to hear music again until they were off.”
This gave me very little room to create a review of the music. Although its absence completely engrosses you in the moment without distractions or nuisances. You are always listening for every delicate piece of sonic information to be found. Whether it be the wild dog entering the house or the rattling of the handcuffs as you decide whether Jessie is awake or hallucinating.
The small pieces of music you can hear are from the popular twosome Andy & Taylor Newton. I especially enjoyed their theme at the end of the film as the credits roll; a very subtle yet melancholy ending to the film. You can also hear excerpts from licensed tracks such as Sam Cooke’s Bring It On Home to Me and Chip’s Darling (I Need Your Love). This adds a feel that these characters have known each other for a long time and their history is narrated in such common interests as these tracks, maybe their parent’s childhood influences.
“Gripping” is the word I would reach to when explaining the sound in this Netflix original. From the moment Jessie is placed into handcuffs, all you are left with is sound design and dialogue. This makes for a very intense piece of art. Bruce Greenwood (Star Trek: Into Darkness, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3, National Treasure: Book of Secrets) and Carla Gugino’s (Night at the Museum, Watchmen, Sin City) delivery is quite the performance. They take every essence of each scene and make it about their voice, their mannerisms, and tone. The lines are delivered with such conviction, you actually believe they have had such a long yet stale marriage.
There are some incredible moments where the sound design leaves you nothing but cringing and wincing at the events on-screen. Introduction to the dog’s hunger and “that” hand scene. Trevor Gates and the team have done an impeccable job in the realism and immersion delivered in the foley and sound design.
One other key moment is the sound created when the Moonlight Man is introduced and the particular sounds proceeding afterwards in each time he is presented. An eerie, other-worldly atmosphere is created for these moments which is intriguing yet chilling. Bravo!
Stephen King adaptations are very hit and miss for me. I’m not a huge lover of thrillers but some such as IT and The Mist have truly blown me away. Gerald’s Game sits up there with its suspense and unexpected ending you expect from such a writer as King. I’d highly recommend anyone interested in psychological thrillers to give it a watch. I became a fan within the first ten minutes and because everyone pretty much has access to Netflix these days, I’m sure another couple of hours away from binging Stranger Things won’t hurt.