Gerald’s Game (2017): A Lean, Mean Suspense-Thriller

You know those films that are so intense that you feel drained at the end? Well, Netflix Original Gerald’s Game is one, despite the fact Carla Gugino barely gets out of bed. Also, it might be one of the best films based on a Stephen King book.

Here are the details: Jessie (Gugino) and Gerald (Bruce Greenwood) travel into the middle of nowhere for a short break to spice up their love life. Their marriage is on the rocks so they think a quiet retreat will help to solve their problems. Jessie has brought with her dresses and other normal stuff, while Gerald has packed handcuffs, which he can’t wait to try out on his wife.

Gerald's Game

Quite quickly, Gerald initiates what appears to be their first roleplaying sex game, in which he chains Jessie to the bed with the handcuffs. Now, I know what you’re thinking. The plot sounds like a male domination fantasy, but it’s not at all because Gerald’s fun is cut short when he drops dead after a heart attack. He literally collapses on top of Jessie and so begins a nightmare scenario. Bound to the bedposts, Jessie must figure out a way to escape or face dying of thirst, hunger and maybe even shock.

I’ve never read Gerald’s Game, but it must have been a real job for director Mike Flanagan to adapt a novel into a film with such extreme content. It could have easily been exploitation if it were in the hands of another, less capable director.

Flanagan is one of the best modern horror directors working today and it shows in Gerald’s Game, which aside from being very disturbing, focuses on the pain of helplessness, the fear of memories and of course, survival. These are all things that we can relate to and that’s why the film works because it really strikes a chord when it conveys these terrors.

Gerald's Game Review

Our emotions are put to the test as Jessie does everything she can to try and escape, but she’s not quite alone. There’s a stray dog in the house and it keeps sniffing around Gerald’s body. Manifestations appear in the room and taunt Jessie, but it’s her visions into the past that are the most sinister. We learn a lot about her in these flashbacks and it appears her childhood demons still haunt her.

As we’re thrust into a surreal nightmare, it’s impossible to guess what’s going to happen next. The suspense and unpredictability are penetrating, but I would have liked the film to move quicker. It’s often far too slow for the story it tells. There’s not enough urgency in the middle sections, yet it’s still a quality thriller with a narrative that’s surprisingly impactful.

Overall:

Netflix can always be relied on for a creative, thought-provoking film. Gerald’s Game might be clunky and a little silly, but the execution is glorious. Also, I was impressed by how it wrapped up, as it sends a key message about women fighting back against their male tormentors. This is a daring film and likely even more enjoyable if you, like myself, haven’t read the book.

Check out the trailer below!

Director: Mike Flanagan

Writers: Jeff Howard, Mike Flanagan and Stephen King (Based on the novel by)

Stars: Carla Gugino, Bruce Greenwood, Henry Thomas, Carl Stuycken

Gerald’s Game is now streaming on Netflix

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Liam

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