Review – Gerald’s Game (2017)
Directed by: Mike Flanagan
Written by: Mike Flanagan & Jeff Howard
Produced by: Ian Bricke & Matt Levin
Release Date: September 29th 2017
I revisited Gerald’s Game for review last night and I really enjoyed going back to it. When I first heard that an adaption of Gerald’s Game was being made, I didn’t have much hope for this small Netflix movie with a limited cast, a low budget and being an adaption of what is regarded as one of Stephen King’s lesser works. In 2017 Mike Flanagan also wasn’t the titan of the horror genre that he is now. I was pleasantly surprised when I first sat down to watch this one, in fact I’d go as far as to say it blew me away and it has held up just as well since then.
This is a movie that lives and dies on the performances of the actors involved. For those of you not familiar with the story’s premise, it involves a married couple driving out to a holiday cottage in the woods for a dirty weekend. The couple is played by Carla Gugino, (Jessie,) and Bruce Greenwood, (Gerald,) who both totally nail their respective roles in the movie. Once they get to the cottage and the door is conveniently left ajar, Gerald handcuffs Jessie to the bed and goes to the bathroom to pop a Viagra. Once he comes back and explains how he has made sure the gardeners and the cleaners won’t disturb them for a few days, he then takes a heart attack and collapses onto the floor and dies.
From this point on, Carla Gugino spends the vast majority of the movie handcuffed to the bed and she gives an absolutely stellar performance, possibly the best of her career. She goes though a vast array of emotions in convincing, believable form and shows everything from despair, to sadness, to anger, to fear, to resilience. I still don’t know how her performance in the film didn’t earn her an Oscar nod, as it would have been really deserved.
If you haven’t seen the movie yet, please don’t read on past this point as I am going to have to delve into spoilers in order to discuss the other aspects of the movie that I enjoyed. I thought that the way that Gerald appeared to Jessie as a sort of devil on her shoulder was really effective and Greenwood delivered the required level of intense cruelty perfectly. Then, the fact that Jessie appeared to herself as a sort of angel on the shoulder to oppose Gerald’s negative thoughts, meant that Gugino was required to deliver a dual character performance, on top of the already challenging role of being chained to the bed.
Flashback sequences in movies can go either way for me. They usually either tend to detract from the story at hand and become an unnecessary tangent, or they compliment what is going on and add to the movie overall. Thankfully in this movie, it is the latter. The flashback scenes are uncomfortable and hard to watch, but they do add context to what is going on in the character’s mind and make for a more interesting dissection of the effect that child abuse can have on a person in later life and how psychologically, even as adults people are still affected by the dreadful things that occurred in their past.
I also thought that this film was extremely effective in terms of its fear factor. Whereas another Stephen King adaption from that same year, Andy Muschietti’s IT movie, was scary at the start, but became repetitive and managed to desensitise its audience for what to expect by the halfway mark, Gerald’s game retains an unpredictable level of uneasiness throughout.
As far as the viewer knows during the first half of the movie, the main conflict facing the protagonist is starvation and the dog that is gnawing on Gerald’s dead body, but then things take a much more sinister turn. In one of the creepiest scenes I have ever seen in a horror movie, Jessie wakes up during the night after passing out for a few hours and she looks into the corner of the room, squinting her eyes. The camera follows where she is looking and the general shape of something can be made out. Then the shape begins to move forwards into the moonlight and is revealed to be a huge, deformed man holding a trinket box.
This was so unexpected and freaky, and I loved it. I thought it was so effective in the context of the movie and was executed perfectly to be as disturbing as possible. It is also a relatable scare, as we have all experienced that moment; glancing at the corner of the room, something catches our eye and looks off in the darkness, but you just brush it off and fall back asleep. Jessie’s worst fears are confirmed here though, as she really did see something in the corner of the room and she is helpless to get away from it.
It also throws a twist into a story that has so far been based in what could be a real situation. You start to wonder, is Jessie experiencing something supernatural, or is she just hallucinating due to lack of food and water? Then the Gerald hallucination asks her if ‘The Moonlight Man,’ that she saw isn’t real, then why did the dog run away when he was in the room? Just like Jessie, the audience starts to wonder if he could be real, perhaps he is death and he has come to take Jessie to hell. All of these questions add to the already intense and disturbing tone of the movie and I thought it worked perfectly.
Eventually the movie wraps up with Jessie having an epiphany that if she smashes the glass of water on the shelf above her and cuts her wrist, the blood can help her slip her hand out of the cuffs. What follows is a gory, brutal, difficult to watch de-gloving scene that will have you wincing and watching through your fingers. Then, in true Stephen King fashion, the movie goes on to reveal another twist. It is revealed that ‘The Moonlight Man,’ really was in the room with Jessie. He was a serial killer that collected various body parts from dead people and he was taking parts from Gerald’s body while Jessie was chained to the bed. I can see why this ending could be polarizing for some, but I loved it and I thought it added an extra layer of craziness to the already insane sequence of events that we just witnessed.
Overall, Gerald’s Game is fantastic. A truly unsettling, chilling Stephen King adaption that showcases fantastic performances from its cast, makes the most of its minimal setting and still manages to creep me out way more than any other horror movie I have seen in the last few years.
Buy tickets for BGCP Comic Con in and around Glasgow Scotland – BUY TICKETS
If you want to be part of the BGCP community, Join us on Discord, Twitter, Instagram etc then click HERE