There’s no denying that Stephen King is a hell of a writer and has been responsible for not only countless acclaimed novels and short stories, but also that his work has made for some classic movies. This latest adaptation, based on the 1992 novel of the same name finds a married couple, Jessie and Gerald who travel to a woodland holiday home in hope of reigniting the fire in their already troubled marriage. Once there Gerald has the idea of a little kinky bondage and role play, of which Jessie is initially game, that is until Gerald has a heart attack, leaving Jessie to ponder a grim fate.
This intriguing concept plays out very cleverly, exploring Jessie’s horrible dilemma, whilst throwing in hallucinations and memories of long buried secrets linked to childhood trauma. It’s brilliantly acted, especially from Carla Gugino (Sin City) who’s plight I found utterly compelling. Add to this a tense, cleverly written and at times creepy as hell plot and this twisting and turning horror-thriller kept me equal parts guessing and gripped.
I felt reminded of that other, claustrophobic King adaption ‘Misery’, and to a larger extent Oscar magnet ‘127 Hours’, and even if where it finally goes is a little ‘oh of course’, I still was both entertained and particularly impressed by this little low budget thriller I’d pretty much stumbled on by accident. A simple idea done well it seems, is all that’s needed sometimes.
This may be a rather familiar concept – a lone woman in a secluded house is tormented by a masked killer – however the spin being she happens to be deaf and mute. So that adds a little bit of a twist to what is otherwise fairly formulaic. However in the hands of relatively unknown Mike Flanagan who made the underrated Oculus this at least has a few interesting surprises and nice touches to keep this viewer entertained.
At a lean 82 minutes it wastes little time in getting going, setting up its premise and ramping up the tension and gets all sorts of creepy as we occasionally get things from the woman’s view point; complete with the sound muffled for added atmosphere. However with a one-note killer that is basically nothing more than a walking cliché and a clichéd setting that for some reason a deaf and mute woman seems perfectly at ease leaving doors unlocked and well, having a cat for company than say, a dog … what is initially a fun ride quickly begins to show some cracks.
Thankfully, Kate Siegel delivers a decent portrayal of a woman who isn’t your stereotypical helpless victim and proves believably resourceful. Yet what support cast there is, is serviceable rather than all that memorable; a neighbour, the neighbour’s husband and what appears to be an ex-boyfriend, all with little characterisation. I’d have liked a bit more going on and an actual connection between the woman and the killer/tormenter, but we get nothing – is that supposed to be scarier? Yet Flanagan handles the thrills with some degree of skill and plays with the concept enough to still deliver a fast, violent and effective movie. It may not redefine a tired genre but still does it’s job rather well.