Mike Flanagan Making Stephen King's 'Gerald's Game' Is Netflix at Its Best

The streaming platform might be about to embark on its most ambitious genre original yet.

Getty Images / Mike Windle

After years of making great horror films, including Absentia, Oculus, and Hush, director Mike Flanagan is rumored to be moving forward on an adaptation of Stephen Kings supposedly unfilmable 1992 novel Gerald’s Game for Netflix. For the love of all that is good in horror, this needs to happen.

Gerald’s Game is tricky. Nearly all of the entire 300 page novel is told from the perspective of protagonist Jessie Burlingame, a woman who accidentally kills her husband (the titular Gerald) after being handcuffed to a bed during a kinky night of sex in their secluded cabin. A night of pleasure turns into a night of pain via flashbacks, and it makes for a dastardly devious story given King’s typically acidic prose.

As has been suggested by many people over the years, adapting such a claustrophobic tale to a visual medium might prove plenty difficult. We even ranked it among the seven Stephen King stories that wouldn’t work on-screen, saying “there’s no way Hollywood could ever adapt Gerald’s Game into anything that didn’t completely dull the horror and cleverness of the book.” And so, it’s a good thing Hollywood’s big traditional studios have nothing to do with this adaptation.

In an interview with horror site Rue Morgue, Flanagan revealed that because of the success of Hush, Netflix was probably moving forward on his adaptation of King’s unfilmable novel.

“I view Hush, actually, as my most successful movie,” he said. “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.”

If anything, Hush, about a deaf woman who must fend off a serial killer in her secluded cabin, is retroactively the perfect dry-run for Gerald’s Game. The way Flanagan dealt with the cerebral and horrifying predicament of that film’s lone protagonist means he’s more than worthy, though that wasn’t even the biggest hurdle. The filmmaker mentioned that it took him a decade to crack the cinematic version of such a language-based story, yet the real problem was the financing on such an off-kilter project.

“It’s a real challenge for financiers and distributors, who say, ‘Yeah, we love your work, we love Stephen King, but this particular story, we don’t know how it works,’” Flanagan explained to Rue Morgue, going on to say Netflix promised, “We’d like to do it the way you want to do it.”

This, in short, is a once-in-a-lifetime confluence of genre favorites. Coming off the homage-heavy smash hit series Stranger Things, which borrows from King’s bag of tricks, Netflix is obviously looking to replicate something close to it, especially if it’s a story from the era’s greatest author himself.

Netflix also has so much disposable cash that it can do whatever it pleases. The streaming service has gone by the mantra of quantity-over-quality in the post-first-wave of originals, with a few notable exceptions breaking through. We all can’t stop talking about Stranger Things, but did anybody really watch Rebirth?

Flanagan’s Gerald’s Game is right in that sweet spot of Netflix honing in on what they’re good at, but allowing enough room for an up-and-coming talent to flex ambition with challenging material that only the streaming platform could offer.

Because of everything Gerald’s Game has going against it, it’s probably Netflix’s most ambitious original to date. But, because Flanagan is such a talent, it’s an unfilmable adaptation that shouldn’t be passed up.

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