NETFLIX HORROR DOUBLE BILL: Gerald’s Game & Cult of Chucky

Chucky

Gerald’s Game

3.5 Stars (3.5 / 5)
2017 may be remembered as the year we remembered how to adapt Stephen King.1

We’ve even figured out how to do a quality ’90s-style Stephen King miniseries; specifically by getting rid of the sprawl.

Jessie (Carla Gugino) and Gerald Burlingame (Bruce Greenwood) take a romantic weekend away in a last-ditch attempt to recover the spark in their marriage. He’s a craggy, healthy-looking older businessman – jeans and plaid shirts, in great shape for his age. She’s a radiant, barely middle-aged beauty, who’s determined to reawaken her husband’s interest.

As far as Gerald’s concerned, this involves handcuffs – two pairs, no fur. Jessie’s willing to go along, but Gerald keeps pushing boundaries. Something’s gotta give and, unfortunately, that thing is Gerald’s ticker. An implied rape fantasy later, and some understandable recrimination, plus one of those little blue pills, and Gerald suffers a massive coronary; leaving Jessie handcuffed to the bed.

A tastefully decorated beach house bedroom – white-board walls and a slate floor – may not seem the most instinctive location for a survival horror, but when you account for the lack of food and water, and the slightly contrived presence of a hungry dog, it’s no less deadly in the long term than being exposed to the elements. Misery (or indeed Misery), of course, loves company, and Jessie is not lacking in that front. A hallucinatory Gerald appears as the shirtless embodiment of all her fears and insecurities (“You can’t blame me if I don’t get excited anymore, and you won’t even try”) – now with the added ability to teleport.

Throw in a second version of herself, assured and on hand to dispense crucial advice, and Jessie might just in a position, however precarious, to begin addressing the trauma that has defined her adult existence. That’s if the man made of moonlight with his doctor’s bag full of bones and jewellery doesn’t get her first. Despite this seeming touch of the supernatural, the worst monsters in King’s literature are, as always, the human ones – those who feed on those same fears and insecurities.

Mike Flanagan, director of Netflix Original Hush, helps focus 332 pages of prose down into a tight, intimate three-handed psychological thriller. Flanagan recently spoke of his wish that he could have directed The Dark Tower. Maybe in another world… For now, though, Gerald’s Game is more than sufficient in keeping the wolves from the door.

 

Cult of Chucky

4 Stars (4 / 5)
“No crazier than a single doll…”

It began with Child’s Play, a slasher film with a difference, in that it starred a doll possessed with the soul of a serial killer.

Cult of Chucky continues to up the meta- without ever destroying the carefully constructed world that Don Mancini has constructed over the course of seven films. In any case, it’s a scream – or is that Scream?

A horror masterclass that pays tribute to the franchise as a whole, Cult of Chucky stars none other than Fiona Dourif, daughter of Brad, best known as Billy from One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest/Doc from Deadwood/the voice of Chucky. A former victim of the sadistic killer doll, her character, Nica, a paraplegic, has been locked up since the events of the previous film, Curse of Chucky. Having since taken responsibility for the murders of her family, largely due to the influence of putz/Svengali Dr. Foley (Michael Therriault), she’s given a chance at a medium the security facility; the type of asylum that could only exist in film.2

A concrete block with its own regimented graveyard, existing in perpetual snowfall, its white decor provides a certain novel contrast when its halogen-lit corridors are stalked by a brightly-coloured children’s toy. Run seemingly by three people, including the obligatory sexy nurse (Ali Tataryn) and a Hispanic orderly (Zak Santiago), the whole vibe is one part Cuckoo’s Nest3, it’s no wonder the patients are open to malign influences…

They may all be archetypes – there’s the Lili Taylor lookalike (Elizabeth Rosen), who sees the Good Guy Doll that Foley keeps on hand as a surrogate for the baby she smothered; the bitchy Asian one (Grace Lynn Kung); the creepy older woman (Marina Stephenson Kerr); and the beardy schizophrenic dude in the hoody (Adam Hurtig) – bump the film has fun bumping them off in unusual ways. Jennifer Tilly returns, too, playing both Chucky’s Goth-Valley Girl partner-in-crime Tilly and, in one meta— touch, as herself; albeit reinvented as a curvy Cruella De Ville.

As she’s demonstrated in Netflix Original series Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency, in which she plays the demented “holistic assassin”, Fiona Dourif gives good crazy-innocent and set against her dad’s spritely malicious alter-ego it makes for a rivalry that Sarah Connor could be proud of. Chucky, plastic feed padding, legs creaking stiffly, reminds me of The Terminator in his merciless drive to kill; except for when that freckly face comes alive, snarling one-liners. No wonder his first “owner” Andy (now grown up but still played by Alex Vincent)4 is still working for some issues.

Almost thirty years on, Cult of Chucky shows that Child’s Play still has plenty of ideas left in the tank.

  1. And nothing else, please Christ.
  2. The kind of place where an examination table is positioned under a skylight.
  3. There is an explicit reference; to the TV show Hannibal, too, on which Mancini worked and which was clear visual reference.
  4. Though he does have a certain way with a blowtorch and a nail-gun; even if his Tinder game needs work.

Author: robertmwallis

Graduate of Royal Holloway and the London Film School. Founder of Of All The Film Sites; formerly Of All The Film Blogs (www.ofallthefilmblogs.blogspot.co.uk). Formerly Film & TV Editor of The Metropolist (www.themetropolist.com) and Official Sidekick at A Place to Hang Your Cape (www.ap2hyc.com). Co-host of the Electric Shadows podcast (http://bit.ly/29Pd7RS) and member of the Online Film Critics Society (http://www.ofcs.org).

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