Gerald’s Game is a near flawless, tension-filled adaptation of Stephen King’s chilling novel featuring powerful performances and an unforgettable story
If 2017 is the year of Stephen King adaptations, Gerald’s Game is the latest and possibly the most haunting.
Released by Netflix on September 29, the film is based on King’s 1992 novel of the same name. With source material by Stephen King, direction by Mike Flanagan (Oculus and other Netflix title Hush), and top-notch acting from Carla Gugino and Bruce Greenwood, this movie was bound to be a success from the start.
Though the vast majority of the film takes place in a single room, the setting of the cabin that Jessie (Gugino) and Gerald (Greenwood) stay in is beautiful, featuring both woodsy comfort and waterfront views. It doesn’t take too long to settle though, instead delving quickly into the action that provides much of the movie’s plot.
It takes almost no time to determine that Gerald and Jessie are having marital issues and hoping a weekend away will help them work those problems out.
Soon after Gerald has handcuffed Jessie to thick wooden bedposts in anticipation of spicing up their sex life, they begin to fight about what each of them expects from the other. When Gerald tries to translate the passion of this argument into a carnal passion, Jessie kicks him off of her. Directly following that, Gerald suffers a heart attack and ends up lying dead on the floor.
Thus begins the story of Jessie’s fight for survival — she is alone in a secluded cabin, unable to move from her position or reach any lifelines. She soon begins to hallucinate, conjuring up visions of both Gerald and of herself as personifications of negative and positive thoughts. Though it appears she is getting beaten down and lifted back up by these “characters,” it’s her own mind guiding her through the ordeal, and presenting her with potential innovations that can aid in her survival.
Greenwood is undeniably great in Gerald’s Game, but Gugino clearly carries it with her performance.
During the times when Jessie is dreaming and/or hallucinating, we get flashbacks to her past that reveal a deep secret that informs her present and her future. Those who are familiar with King’s work know that often the darkest stories are those that aren’t supernatural, and that he can nail interpersonal relationships and the dynamics within them. Gerald’s Game is no exception to either of those things. In addition to flashbacks, there is also some foreshadowing in the film, though many viewers won’t realize it until the end.
Despite being downright maddening at times — due to certain characters and their actions rather than any of the filmmakers’ choices — the movie will have you hooked from beginning to end.
It is a horror/thriller, and the tension of the story carries all the way through it, but the horror of the movie sticks with you in a way you might not expect. Despite having few truly gory scenes and almost no spooky supernatural element, Gerald’s Game is eerie. The true horror of it is portrayed as both psychological and physical, in a way that many movies cannot get across so artfully and disturbingly. It can even leave you questioning what is real.