Jake’s Movie Picks #1

By Jake Cordiner (@jjjjaketh)

UNDER THE SHADOW

Set in the 1980’s during the infamous “War of the Cities”, Under The Shadow is a supremely creepy film. After a missile hits our protagonists, mother Shideh and daughter Dorsa’s, apartment building, superstitious neighbours are convinced that the missile rating 8shell was cursed and contained evil spirits or Djinn. As the days progress, more and more strange goings on occur around their home and Shideh becomes convinced that the Djinn are attempting to possess her daughter. Under The Shadow has been on my radar for the better part of a year, ever since seeing the high praise that Best Film Critic Currently Alive Mark Kermode™ (my words, not his) gave it. And I’m incredibly happy to report that it lives up to the hype and then some. This film has a lingering, ever-present darkness that hangs over each and every scene (barring maybe the Jane Fonda workout tape scenes… aye).

There’s always the sense that something horrible is just about to happen. Constant explosions can be heard in the background throughout the film, some closer than others, which works wonders in conveying the ever-present danger that plagued the citizens of Iraq and Iran during the “War of the Cities”. The film as a whole can be seen as one big fuck off metaphor about the horrors of war, but I also seen it as a study in how a mother’s love can outweigh anything, be it evil spirits threatening to take her daughter, or evil men threatening to take the lives of her and everyone she loves. As for the scares, they are FANTASTIC. The aforementioned perpetually creepy atmosphere make it so when a genuine fright occurs, it’s almost twice as effective. Add to this two powerful central performances from Narges Rashidi (Shideh) and newcomer Avin Manshadi (Dorsa), you’ve got a big pot of scary soup on the hob baby. Though there

The aforementioned perpetually creepy atmosphere make it so when a genuine fright occurs, it’s almost twice as effective. Add to this two powerful central performances from Narges Rashidi (Shideh) and newcomer Avin Manshadi (Dorsa), you’ve got a big pot of scary soup on the hob baby. Though there were one or two relatively cheap jump scares, the vast majority of frights in Under The Shadow are cerebral and goosebump-inducing. Under The Shadow is truly a film that will dig its way deep under your skin.

GERALD’S GAME

A film adaption Gerald’s Game shouldn’t exist. Constantly described as “literally unfilmable” this 1992 Stephen King story is a complex tale about a woman going slowly insane. To describe it any further would

rating 7ruin some of this film’s magic, so, kind of but not really SPOILERS for the rest of this wee review. Jeff Flanagan then, by the account of the doubters, has achieved the impossible. Gerald’s Game is a whip smart, uncomfortable, tense and pitch black horror/thriller. Carla Gugino and Bruce Greenwood play Jessie and Gerald Burlingame. A slightly above middle-aged couple who, in an attempt to spice up their slightly failing marriage, hire a friend’s forest cabin for a weekend of fine dining and finer SHAGGIN’. Things get a bit too rowdy for Jessie, a series of bad things happen and she’s left handcuffed to a bed, alone, in the middle of the woods. Not ideal. She begins hallucinating multiple… people (OR IS SHE HALLUCINATING OOOOOO?!) and slowly goes insane. There’s also a pretty cute dog that gets involved.

There’s honestly not much I can say plot-wise that won’t ruin some of the films later developments, so excuse my vagueness but I really think this is a film that should be experienced with as little prior knowledge of the source material as possible. Now, is the film good? In short, yes.Very, very good. The majority of the film is shot in such a way that you feel like you’re in the bedroom with Jessie, every uncomfortable tug on her wrists from the handcuffs is palpable and stunningly uncomfortable. Gugino’s performance(s) as Jessie is nothing short of fantastic. Selling the characters perpetual descent into madness with aplomb. Credit also to Bruce Greenwood who plays the titular Gerald with a wonderful and knowing cuntiness. The make-up used in the film is also to be commended, particularly in the case of Jessie’s wrists and face as the film progresses, and the design of the Moonlight Man (who I won’t talk about any more but HOLEE SHIT is he creepy).

There’s a sliiiiiiiiiight deep in quality in the films final third, but not enough to tarnish what is a beautifully realised adaption of one of Stephen King’s littler known works. Having been a fan of Flanagan’s work in the past (namely 2013’s Oculus and 2016’s Ouija: Origin of Evil) I’m truly excited to see what he works on next.

 

Is Gerald’s Game The Best Stephen King Adaptation Yet?

By Olivia Armstrong (@starcadet96)

2017 seems to have been the ultimate year for Stephen King adaptations: even taking the hugely successful adaptation of IT out of the picture, this year there have been both two other films and two tv series based on his works. Of the TV series, we have the The Mist and 1922 (releasing in October), both on Netflix. On the film side, we have Dark Tower (which sadly not even the charm of Idris Elba could save) and Gerald’s Game, another Netflix adaption by Mike Flanagan (who has received acclaim in the horror scene with his work on films such as Hush and Oujia: Origin of Evil).

Out of all the Stephen King stories to adapt, this one has to be one of the most difficult to execute. First off, it doesn’t contain most of King’s associated tropes; there are no supernatural elements and even though there is a mystery concerning a hidden character, it is not revealed until the very end. The terror of Gerald’s Game comes solely from the premise – when husband and wife, Jessie (Clara Gugino) and Gerald (Bruce Greenwood), drive to a remote retreat to rekindle their marriage, an attempt to eroticise their sex life goes awry when Jessie is handcuffed with both hands to the bedpost and the two descend into argument over their broken marriage.

However, when Gerald suddenly dies leaving Jessie still handcuffed to the bed with no means of escape, the terror of Jessie predicament becomes heartbreakingly clear. As she begins to dehydrate, her wrists begin to weaken while screaming for help as her husband is slowly being eaten by a stray dog with its eyes set on her, her mind forcing her to face her own demons lurking in her past that led her to where she is now.

The difficultly of this adaptation should be clear; the majority of the story takes place on one room and one location, with little variation save for the ending and flashbacks to Jessie’s childhood. The emphasis on the feeling of being trapped in one place while losing your mind with your body growing weaker is conveyed though the performance Clara Gugino. It cannot be emphasised enough how much of this film lies on her shoulders. She is essentially giving a one-woman show of acting and the range she goes through in less than two hours is incredible. Bruce Greenwood is also solid as the titular Gerald; speaking through Jessie’s subconscious to appear as if he were in front of her.

While the premise may sound rather far-fetched at first-glance, the cringing realism of the situation Jessie is in is beyond terrifying. The handcuff keys and Gerald’s phone are too far away to reach. The handcuffs are too tight to slip out. Her mind is playing tricks on her as she watches her husband being eaten alive, then forced to recount repressed childhood memories that she locked away years ago. It’s less of a traditional horror and more of an intense character study, which is one of my favourite forms of horror. Mike Flanagan once again proves himself a true talent; the writing and simple yet claustrophobic setting forces us to experience exactly what Jessie is experiencing while also allowing us to see her at her most vulnerable and self-loathing, creating a character almost impossible to not empathise with.

If I had to compare it to any other King adaption, it would be Misery. Both stories have a similar premise of a character being trapped and forced to survive through method of escape. As well as that, they both feature scenes that are absolutely cringe-inducing due to the realism of the pain. In Misery’s case it was the infamous hobbling scene, in which Annie Wilkes brutally breaks both of the main characters ankles with a sledgehammer. In Gerald’s Game, it’s the method in which Jessie eventually tries to escape. I’m not squeamish in the slightest and generally have no problem with violent or gory imagery and yet I found myself peeking through my fingers and trying not to look. The scene is so visceral, it’s borderline nauseating while still technically featuring less violence than many recent horror films.

Horror is subjective, that cannot be overstated. Fear is one of the most diverse emotions we all can experience; fear of monsters, ghosts, home invasions, sounds creaking in the dark. But Gerald’s Game takes us back to one of the most primal and realistic fears we can imagine; being trapped with no way out and being forced to confront your own self in order to escape. It ranks up with IT (2017) as one of the best Stephen King adaptations to date and possibly ever. The fear and catharsis is palpable in every scene and an acting masterclass from Clara Gugino elevates it into truly something special.