Netflix, along with filmmaker Mike Flanagan (Oculus, Ouija: Origin of Evil), are back at it again. This time, however, they’re inviting Stephen King along for the ride. Deadline announced that Flanagan would direct an adaptation of Gerald’s Game back in 2014, but the director only recently told Rue Morgue that the project is moving forward with Netflix.
This news arrives on the heels of Flanagan’s Netflix exclusive Hush, a smart home invasion horror with a great female lead. But he and co-writer Kate Siegel built Hush around a relatively straightforward concept. Gerald’s Game, however, is much more complex. The premise is deceptively simple: Jessie Burlingame and her oafish husband Gerald go to their remote lake house for a weekend. During a kinky romp, Gerald keels over. With her husband dead of a massive heart attack and her arms handcuffed to the bedposts, Jessie must figure out how to free herself before dying of thirst or starvation.
Single-character stories of isolation and captivity in small spaces are nothing new. Ryan Reynolds starred in Buried, a movie that takes place entirely inside a coffin. Tom Hardy made Locke, set entirely in a car. But while Jessie Burlingame is confined to her bed, her story is not. Much of the book’s action takes place in memories, dreams, and the weird space between the two. And while the premise might sound like a one-woman show, I can assure you it isn’t. A surprising cast of characters join Jesse in her bedroom (and in her head).
Some call Gerald’s Game unfilmable. I’d say the novel earns that description. If Flanagan is adapting it for the screen, certain vital elements won’t make it into the film. That’s just the way this adaptation thing goes, right? But in the case of Gerald’s Game, it could prove disastrous. Depicting Jessie’s backstory on screen will prove especially problematic. The central plot about a semi-nude woman handcuffed to a bed can easily veer into exploitation territory. King knew this when he wrote the novel. And instead of being just trashy, King wrote a very direct examination of misogyny. It’s not an easy read, but it is a good one.
The film is still in preproduction, and Netflix hasn’t yet announced a release date. But if they and Flanagan can match the quality of Hush, their adaptation of Gerald’s Game should satisfy King fans and newcomers alike.