Gerald’s Game (2017) – 4/5
Netflix’s alliance with prolific genre director Mike Flanagan (2016’s ‘Ouija: Origin of Evil’) has thus far yielded strong results, namely ‘Gerald’s Game’, an intense psychological horror that gives Bruce Greenwood an opportunity to flex his muscles and showcases an outstanding performance from Carla Gugino.
‘Gerald’s Game’ feels engagingly dated (the red-hued flashbacks are uncomfortably nostalgic) but also uniquely fresh. The multiple options that play out in Gugino’s mind are a gripping development of the best moments in Flanagan’s home-invasion flick ‘Hush’ (2016), and whilst the third act may have forced many critics to downgrade the film from four-star joy to three-star delight, it’s sure to please both Stephen King loyalists and classic genre fans alike.
Before I Wake (2016) – 3/5
Flanagan’s previous Original is ‘Before I Wake’ (‘Hush’ is also available but not Netflix-produced), and although initially something of a curio, audience’s willing to see past the tropes will soon find their patience rewarded.
Here, the somewhat miscast pairing of Kate Bosworth and Thomas Jane betray what is, at it’s core, a neat spin on the ghost story structure. Despite some fairly basic CGI and an atrociously generic set-up, by the time this thoughtful horror reaches it’s surprisingly emotional reveal, audiences will be fully invested in the outcome. Only owing to the otherwise deft writing and direction do the film’s weaker moments offend, and with a little more care and a stronger adult cast, this clever merging of several sub-genres may have struck a chord with casual viewers as well as horror aficionados.
Clinical (2017) – 1/5
The crisp visuals of psychological ‘thriller’ ‘Clinical’ may do it’s title justice, but beneath it’s glossy exterior, this lacklustre 90’s throwback is TV-movie trash, and the predictable, unnecessary twists of it’s final act are only eclipsed by the horrifically lazy performances on offer.
Casting Jonbenet (2017) – 4/5
Following the triumphant reception to Netflix’s gripping ‘Making a Murderer’ (2015 – present), studios have been falling over themselves to snap up a share of it’s hooked audience. The multiple documentary series’ that have emerged as a result however, have somewhat missed the point, failing to come close to their inspiration not due to a lack of polish, but because of a lack of originality.
This current trend towards documentary serials doesn’t replace the thirst for great features though, and among the crowd of average-to-good original offerings, the award-winning ‘Casting Jonbenet‘ (2016) really stands out. Captivatingly cinematic, the film offers an incredibly revealing and distinctly unique look into the way we perceive and judge subjects presented to us via the prism of the media.
Some previous knowledge of the Jonbenet case – the world’s most famous child-murder – may be desirable, but even without it, the unique narrative at the core of this enthralling documentary makes it a must-see for fans of true-crime and experimental storytelling alike.