October 3, 2014
Joan Allen as Darcy Anderson
Anthony LaPaglia as Bob Anderson
Stephen Lang as Holt Ramsey
Bob and Darcy have been happily married for twenty-five years. Their marriage is an example of commitment, virtue and enduring happiness. Their two grown children, Petra and Donnie, throw them an anniversary celebration honoring their seemingly unbreakable bond and the stable home life it created when they were growing up. The gala brings together all of Bob and Darcy’s friends. The bubbly flows, smiles abound and the cherry on top for the happily married couple is a night of passion (or at least satisfaction)… Yet the next evening, when Bob is away on a business trip, Darcy is overcome by sadness and rage when she discovers evidence linking him to a string of recent serial murders.
A Good Marriage is an independent film based on the Stephen King story by the same name inFull Dark, No Stars. It is a slow burn psychological horror movie that revolves almost exclusively around the Bluebeard principle: What if your spouse had a horrible secret that wrecked all those years of happiness you had spent together? There are no effects, only one murder sequence and little to attract slash-and-scream horror fans.
However, for those interested in purely psychological horror, where the knife digs and twists deep in your mind instead of on your HDTV, A Good Marriage has a lot to offer. For one, although a deluge of killers has overwhelmed the horror genre since the premiere of Psycho (1960), the perspective of a psychopath’s wife is not one that is often seen in cinema and less often is it done well.
Based on one of Stephen King’s more compelling stories, the content is first rate. A solid script and decent acting by the supporting cast does the story justice. But because the story is 99% Darcy’s perspective and much of the camera time is on her alone, the strength of the film comes down to the performance of the actress who plays her… And Joan Allen succeeds in delivering a highly convincing and at times masterful performance of a loving house wife caught unawares who must deal with a much darker reality than she has previously known.
Like other slow-burn horror films, A Good Marriage takes a while to get into and even longer for the fear to germinate in your mind. While Darcy attempts to cope with what she has discovered, several imaginary interactions between her and Bob occur that entertain and provide relief from solely watching Darcy’s nervous agitating, frantic internet searches and tearful breakdowns. They enhance the psychological impact and provide a touch of comic relief that is necessary in the midst of a dramatization that is intense, tragic and scary. But patience is still required at the beginning and many will be tempted to not give this one the chance. Nonetheless, if you hang in there, you’ll be handsomely rewarded.
No scares. No gore. Yet, the disturbing theme strikes deep. The quality of the story and excellent execution both in script and acting drive this one, but the lack of any compelling activity in the first thirty minutes may drive some away.