Stephen King has written a lot of books and a lot of those books have been made into films. Some good and some bad. For every Misery, The Shining and Salem's Lot there's a Graveyard Shift, Dreamcatcher and The Mangler. Happily this one falls into the good camp
A couple, Jessie and Gerald, go on holiday to a remote cabin in the woods to inject a bit of life back into their marriage. Sounds like a cliched horror set up right? Wrong. Things go very very bad very very fast. But not in any way you'd expect.
This is a dark tale. A film with a premise that will make you roll your eyes at first but one that will very rapidly suck you into the horror of the situation. How something silly can go wrong very very fast. You know that feeling of dread when you reach into something and find your hand or finger stuck for a fleeting moment. That's a huge part of this but there's a lot more to it besides.
It's a well made movie, perfectly paced, terrifying, tense, thoughtful, disturbing, complex, unnerving stuff that's carried by a pair of cracking performances by two actors who are always reliable. Carla Gugino is excellent in this. She carries the whole film and is fiercely believable as a woman looking down into a pit of madness but who isn't going to fall in without a fight. I hope this leads to a lot of leading parts for her. She deserves it after nearly 30 years in Hollywood. BTW 30 years?? There's obviously a painting of her growing old in an attic somewhere. Bruce Greenwood plays a role we've seen him do a lot and as always he does it very well. A charming fella with an edge. But turned up to 11. It's harder to talk about his role without going into spoiler territory so I won't. The film for the most part is two people in one room but it never gets boring. That's a testament to both King's writing and the strength of the acting. Strong direction too from Mike Flanagan. His next job is a series adaption of The Haunting Of Hill House for Netflix and based on this I've rather high hopes for it.
It's a tough watch. Very much so in places. It's an adult watch. It's horror is mostly left to the imagination but there's one very effective scene of gore that will test the strongest stomach and what makes it worse is that it's relatable, the kind of thing you could easily do to yourself by accident. I'm a seasoned horror watcher and I felt queasy as hell during it. But that wasn't the most disturbing part. I won't go into spoilers but this is a film should have a trigger warning. I'm not a fan of that phrase because it makes you go into things on edge but........just beware.
My one and only issue with the film is a storyline introduced near the ending. It's hinted at throughout the film but we only get into it properly in the last 10 minutes. It's unnecessary and silly TBH. It adds another horror element that's just not needed. The film is horrific enough without it. It's in the original book but could have been excised easily from the script.
That aside I really liked it. It all boils down to a story of a woman who won't go out without a fight. Parts of it will resonate sadly with a lot of people. It's a mature and effective piece of film making and I'd love to see more King stories adapted for the screen with this level of care.