You know those films that are so intense you feel drained at the end? Well, Netflix Original Gerald’s Game is one, despite the fact, Carla Gugino hardly 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 initiates what appears to be their first role-playing 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. Gerald’s fun is cut short when he drops dead after a heart attack. He 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 and hunger.
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 become 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. Aside from its disturbing subject matter, it focuses on the pain of helplessness, memories and of course, survival. These are all things we can relate to and that’s why the film works. It strikes a chord when it conveys these terrors.
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 her visions into the past 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 the outcome. 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. But it’s still a quality thriller with an impactful narrative.
We can always rely on Netflix for a creative, thought-provoking movie. Gerald’s Game might be clunky and weird, but the execution is glorious. Also, it’s impressive how it wraps. 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