Written by J. Weagle
It seems Stephen King is on a roll lately with his novels being adapted into films. Another man that seems to be on a roll is Mike Flanagan (Hush, Ouija: Origin of Evil) who seems to be knocking out solid horror films all over the place. Gerald’s Game, his latest film made for Netflix is no exception and I’m happy to say once again proves that Flanagan is one of the most interesting names working in the horror genre right now.
For those unfamiliar with the story, the film follows Gerald (Bruce Greenwood) and his wife Jessie (Carla Gugino) as they travel to his remote cabin, tucked away from the confines of civilization. Their relationship lacks the same spark it use to have, so with the bright idea to spice things up Gerald decides to get a bit kinky and handcuff Jessie to the bed post for some rape rolepay. Since this is a horror film, and the story is based of King you can only imagine that things turn badly pretty quick, as Gerald (who takes Viagra) has a heart attack. This leaves poor Jessie alone with a hungry dog as she is tied to the bed, away from anyone who could hear her cries for help, From here we dive deep in not only Jessie’s attempt to escape, but also why she is where she is in the first place, and it’s here where the real horror shines.
What is most interesting about Gerald’s Game is that we essentially have two characters for the entire ride. Carla Gugino does a great job as Jessie, and we can really sympathize with her. Although Gerald dies fairly early into the film, he shows up in visions and as a voice taunting Jessie. Bruce Greenwood is truly great in these scenes coming off as a real menace who is trying his best to dig his way into her mind and with that making us the viewers truly hate him. The film is very reminiscent of another King tale, Misery. Both do a very good job of unnerving the viewer and almost intentionally annoying them with cringy (in a good way) situations.
I hadn’t read the novel going in and knew little to nothing about what exactly Gerald’s Game ultimately is. For those thinking it will be a thriller focused on her trying to escape, you’re half right. However most of the story is told through flashbacks, and it was these moments that surprised me the most. Gerald’s Game is a simple story that has many layers to reveal and what they end up revealing is a dark and twisted history. It’s a bit of a slow burn, but because of the performances and unpredictability of the plot, I was never bored and not once did I know whether or not she would break free or die a painful death. Other King tales (even ones I had never read) are so ingrained in our popular culture that the plot is picked up my osmosis, but because Gerald’s Game isn’t necessarily the most well known King story it was exciting to see unfold as the entire plot felt fresh to me.
Many people have called Gerald’s Game unfilmable, whether that is because of the dark subject matter, the two character cast, or the way in which the story is structured I do not know. What I do know is that Mike Flanagan not only filmed it, he made a pretty damn good movie out of it. You can really tell that this was a project that he was passionate about working on, and it shines through on the finished product. It’s a simple yet complicated package that from a technical standpoint is done extremely well. From a plot perspective it’s engaging and offers a dark tale not often brought to the screen, although I wish the ending had been a little better but I understand that it is most likely faithful to the novel. With every new film Flanagan continues to grow and improve as a horror director and this might just be the film that takes him to new heights. It’s a horror film that managed to do something that not many can make me do which is cringe from the carnage that is happening, delivering some stuff of true nightmares.