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Gerald’s Game Review

Gerald’s Game is a 2017 thriller about an unexpected fight to survive when a woman finds herself in a desperate situation after a tragedy leaves her isolated.

There seems no limit to the well of terrors Stephen King has to offer, his books source for what now seems countless adaptations, both good and bad. Now comes Mike Flanagan‘s Gerald’s Game, based on the book of the same name, a story more seeped in the psychological than horror, and as such, makes for a riveting, often unnerving cinematic twist that is unexpectedly smart and deliciously dark.

Jessie (Carla Guginoand Gerald (Bruce Greenwood) Burlingame travel up to the deep countryside, to a house far into the woods in hopes of rekindling a fading marriage. It’s a nice place to experiment, with Gerald hoping to spice things up with a pair of police handcuffs and some Viagra. She agrees to the tryst and allows herself to be bound to the bedposts in a skimpy negligee. Gerald takes the opportunity to play rough, revealing a rape fantasy fetish that takes her by surprise. When she protests, vigorously, they argue and in the heat of it, Gerald suffers a massive coronary and dies, right on the bed. As the hours pass, she begins to break down, becoming hallucinatory and she soon finds herself in the company of a stray hungry dog and maybe, someone else.

It might seem there’s nowhere to go with a premise this simple, once Gerald is dead that is, but the story is clever, having Jessie ‘talk’ to an imaginary Gerald, who walks about and talks back, being a voice of pragmatic menace. She also ‘sees’ herself free of the cuffs, bantering with Gerald, a counterposition that has her trying to rationalize an escape. This is where the film lives, up in Jessie’s mind, and it’s strikingly effective as she battles sanity. To be sure, even as it plays far more to the mental and physical anguish, there’s plenty scary going on here, especially with the arrival of a fourth character, one I won’t spoil, but one that offers some genuine jolts. Jessie has a past and the metaphors of her predicament are reaped for real horror.

This is where Gerald’s Game, and Flanagan’s direction, strike hardest, layering the story in an uncompromising past that, while is a theme King has tackled before, is nonetheless jarring and almost cripplingly distressing. This takes the movie in a new direction, where the monsters in her head have far more weight, and her need to break free a greater sense of urgency. It’s all meant to be repulsive of course, but plays out with such authenticity, it almost aches. 

Gugino is mesmerizing, carrying the story from frame one, the entire film stuck in one position and yet incredibly dynamic, haunting and heartbreaking. Greenwood, one of Hollywood’s best character actors, is disturbingly good, taking Gerald to some pretty dark places. But what’s best about the film is how unpatronizing it feels, a film free of nearly every cliché you’d expect. Flanagan knows just how delicate a line he’s walking and yet keeps the balance teetering all the way through. There are no jump scares and pointless musical bombs to pad the fear, instead, treating the audience with respect, allowing us to make choices on our own.

With It and The Dark Tower making this a sort of comeback year for King, it’s actually Gerald’s Game that proves to be the best of the bunch, a jarring, explosive experience that is highly recommended, a film that is intelligent, terrifying, and incredibly entertaining.

Gerald’s Game Review

Movie description: Gerald's Game is a 2017 thriller about an unexpected fight to survive when a woman finds herself in a desperate situation after a tragedy leaves her isolated.

Director(s): Mike Flanagan

Actor(s): Carla Gugino, Henry Thomas, Bruce Greenwood

Genre: Thriller, Horrro

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One Response

  1. movierob October 1, 2017