Like most Stephen King stories, 1992’s Gerald’s Game is an incredibly divisive novel even among his most devoted readers. Telling the tale of a woman who finds herself handcuffed to her bed after accidentally killing her husband, some have lauded it as a unique change of pace from the prolific horror writer — though make no mistake, it is terrifying — while others have condemned it as an unreadable slog that signaled the dropping off point in the quality of King’s output.
And like most movies based King stories, an adaptation of Gerald’s Game has been drifting through the various stages of development hell for at least two years, with Oculus director Mike Flanagan carrying the torch for the film from the very beginning. Recently, however, talks of a Gerald’s Game movie have picked up steam at Netflix thanks in no small part to the success of Flanagan’s latest original film for the streaming giant, Hush.
With the home invasion thriller gaining popularity by the day and receiving critical praise across the board, it looks like Netflix will be rolling the dice with Flanagan once again on what is an undoubtedly ambitious project. As the director told Rue Morgue in a recent interview:
All of Netflix’s numbers are proprietary, so I don’t get to look at them, but the way I’ve heard people talking, it’s been viewed an amazing number of times, and the reception has been very, very positive. Coincidentally, Stephen King watched Hush at home on Netflix and tweeted about it, which kind of blew my mind. And that got us talking about Gerald’s Game again.
Due to the narrative constraints of the novel, the question of how exactly Flanagan plans on adapting Gerald’s Game into a compelling movie is an incredibly open-ended one. King stories have always seemed a bit beyond the grasp of those who have attempted to bring them from the page to the screen (with a few obvious exceptions), and with something like Gerald’s Game — where the entirety of the story takes place in the protagonist’s head — it’s understandable that Netflix would be hesitant in investing a ton of money and resources into it.
Flanagan, on the other hand, thinks he has cracked the code on Gerald’s Game.
It’s a real challenge for financiers and distributors, who say, ‘Yeah, we love your work, we love Stephen King, but this story, this particular story? We don’t know how it works,’ without reshaping it to fit a much more conventional structure, which I did not want to do.
And Netflix, because of how well Hush has done, said, ‘We’re really interested in this, and we’d like to do it the way you want to do it.’ And that eliminated the pressure of having to test-screen the movie and define the demographic that’s going to watch it—all of that stuff that typically comes into the conversation when you’re trying to figure out how to market a film for a wide theatrical release. It just cleared the table, so that I can make the movie I want to make.
You can’t fault the guy for his ambition. Flanagan demonstrated an ability to combine psychological horror with a minimalist setting in 2011’s Absentia, and, in any case, it’s almost impossible that what he does with Gerald’s Game will be worse than what Tod Williams did with Cell.
No date has been set for production to begin on Gerald’s Game, but we’ll keep you in the know as it develops.