Leave it to Stephen King to find a way to make handcuffs in the bedroom not sexy.
That’s the case with his smaller known tale of matrimonial terror, Gerald’s Game. Obviously the 1992 novel has been around a while, but for most of its existence many have considered it unfilmable. Well thanks to Netflix, that’s now a concern of the past.
As of September 29th, the fearless streaming service has released their adaptation of King’s novel. Now King isn’t known for grounded storytelling; rather, he’s adored for his disturbed characters and darkly twisted imagination. On those fronts, Gerald’s Game is a true winner.
The setup is simple yet unsettling. Jessie (Carla Gugino) and her husband Gerald (Bruce Greenwood) attempt to save their troubled marriage with a weekend getaway at a reclusive lake house. That’s where Gerald handcuffs his wife to the bed as a freaky approach to spicing up their limp romance.
In vintage King methodology, Gerald suffers a heart attack and dies before un-cuffing Jessie from the headboard (of course he couldn’t use fuzzy cuffs because those break too easy). It’s a nightmarish scenario that immediately had me contemplating what I’d do in the same situation, heaven forbid.
Almost immediately (and often in eye-rolling fashion) the odds start building against Jessie. A starving, feral dog wanders into the lake house via a door the couple inexplicably leaves open and begins feasting on her husband’s corpse. She’s also frequented by a tall, gangly vision of a man who may or may not be a hallucination brought on by Jessie’s intensifying dehydration and mania.
Most of Gerald’s Game centers around Jessie speaking to herself in the bed. To be more accurate, she’s speaking to aspects of herself represented by ghostly manifestations of herself and Gerald.
With so few characters populating its story, Gerald’s Game rides or dies with its lead performances and thankfully Gugino and Greenwood came to play (see what I did there?). Both commit to the various versions of their characters and the way the two volley philosophies of life and death back and forth is so hypnotic that it alone sustains most of the film’s near-two hour runtime.
Gerald’s Game is at its most disturbing when it’s exploring Jessie’s traumatizing past via artsy flashbacks. This is also when the film is at its most compelling as Jessie is forced to finally acknowledge and confront her deepest, darkest secrets. At times Mike Flanagan’s (Oculus, Hush, Ouija: Origin of Evil) film feels more like a brooding coming of age movie than a straight horror thriller.
🎃🎃🎃 1/2 (out of four)
Director: Mike Flanagan Starring: Carla Gugino, Bruce Greendwood Rated: TV-MA Year: 2017
Did you all get a chance to check out Gerald’s Game on Netflix? If so, what did you think? Is it worth the hype? Let me know in the comments below!