Let’s take a break from straight up horror and go for something a little more psychological. Gerald’s Game was recently released as a Netflix Originals and is directed by Mike Flanagan who I overall love quite a bit. His latest movies have been good and not great, however, I always wonder how you can rival a great debut like Absentia. However, I do think he has a great vision on building horror and always remain hopeful when it comes to creating the tense atmosphere. With some expectation and little knowledge of what Gerald’s Game is about, I went to check it out!
Gerald’s Game (2017)
Director: Mike Flanagan
Cast: Carla Gugino, Bruce Greenwood, Henry Thomas, Chiara Aurelia, Carel Struycken, Kate Siegel
While trying to spice up their marriage in their remote lake house, Jessie must fight to survive when her husband dies unexpectedly, leaving her handcuffed to their bed frame.-IMDB
Stephen King’s novels have been adapted since forever. This year, it seems to be all over the place with IT recently released in theatres and then there’s been TV shows as well. Now, we land on Gerald’s Game. For those new here, I’m a reader but sadly, I’ve been incredibly behind on reading Stephen King novels. I’ve only read two novellas, A Good Marriage and 1922 and a novel, Carrie. I’m currently reading IT and that’s proving to be an endless task. However, I have watched a lot of adaptations of his. I can say that he has great art in creating incredible characters and developments and such and even the mystery, thriller, suspense, horror atmosphere balance. However, be it The Mist or IT, I can’t quite buy into their endings. Suffice to say that I didn’t know anything about Gerald’s Game before jumping into this one. When the movie started and even into the 2nd part of it, I was a fan. It was captivating and thrilling to watching our main character try to figure out a way to survive and have her inner monologue and even hallucinating a second version of herself (like her conscience or something) and her dead husband. However, the story does start to become slightly flat as we near the ending.
Gerald’s Game is a great psychological thriller. There are some gruesome imagery here but overall, its a gripping experience as this wife, Jessie struggles to get herself out of these chains before she dehydrates and dies as no one is expected to be in the neighborhood for the next few days. In many ways, it is very much a thriller with perhaps some horror elements which I found were possibly the weaker parts of the film. The tension built in the conversations and the ideas she got to sustain herself was incredibly engaging to watch. Mike Flanagan is great at creating atmosphere in his films and he yet again achieves it here. The movie is almost completely lead by Carla Gugino and while I can’t quite pinpoint where I’ve seen her act before (although I’m aware of who she is), she does an outstanding job. She takes on the role of Jessie is such a mesmerizing way that its hard to not want her to escape and be scared or nervous together with her as she tries to do one thing or the next. However predictable some of the outcomes are, her role keeps us intrigued to keep watching. Opposite her is Bruce Greenwood who plays her husband. He isn’t physically alive for very long however, the little hints we get dive into further conversations that she envisions as his ghost somewhat hangs around with her. In some ways, her ghost and his ghost play this angel and demon role and its quite entertaining to watch also.
While I can appreciate the fact that the story takes on a tangent of Jessie’s past with her father and it somewhat justifies why she chose her current husband, it drives her to the past where she remembers her time with her father and the things he did. I’ll probably be mentioning something a little more fleshed out on portraying fathers in Stephen King’s stories when I get to the IT reviews. Here Jessie’s father is played by Henry Thomas. Its odd how her family was because it seems that the mother suspects something and yet not really. However the jest of it is the trauma that she’s somehow pushed away about her father. That was a pretty disturbing scene. Somehow, this is where the story seems to derail a little. The best parts of Gerald’s Game is when she has those conversations and in the single setting and not when she hallucinates or sees some weird things or goes into her memories. Something about it seems to be executed not quite as effectively, losing the great tension it had built from the beginning.
Overall, Gerald’s Game is a pretty decent movie. I’m talking about this completely as the movie itself and not as an adaptation since I’ve never read the book. If you have read the book and have seen this, does the movie do the book justice? Carla Gugino alone is worth the watch here. She truly commands this role perfectly. Its an engaging and intriguing watch however, it does lose its footing in the last third or maybe even at somewhere near the halfway point. And then the ending, well… I’m not exactly a fan. But then, I’ve had issues with Stephen King endings before. However, Stephen King builds great, deep and twisted characters that not a lot of other authors have ever been able to do and Gerald’s Game shows that off a whole lot.