'Gerald’s Game': A Horror Review
The month of horror is upon us so what better way than to honour it with viewing a brand new horror / thriller brought to you by the creator of all things creepy: Stephen King. If you didn’t get your fill with the recent release of King’s novel adaptation ‘IT’ then satisfy your thirst with the Netflix produced psychological horror, released on the 29th September: ‘Gerald’s Game’- another of King’s novels adapted for film. This flick, directed by Mike Flanagan, will get your heart racing and your mind boggling; the simple premise of being trapped with no escape is sure to terrify – this movie will certainly cement this fear.
Jessie (Carla Gugino) and her Husband Gerald (Bruce Greenwood) retreat to their secluded lake house for a weekend of romance involving 2 heavy-duty pairs of handcuffs; what could possibly go wrong? When the kinky sex game goes awry it leaves a traumatised Jessie handcuffed to the bed frantically trying to escape while Gerald’s body lies on the floor after a fatal heart attack. The concept of a remote getaway with no one around for miles screams cliché – but this is no been-there-done-that teen slasher where zombies eat everyone alive. ‘Gerald’s Game’ is a serious mind twister; when Gerald kicks it and Jessie begins fighting her own destructive psyche it leaves the audience questioning what is real and what is a figment of her imagination. Not only this, but the terrifying notion of what you would do in Jessie’s seemingly impossible situation claws it’s way into your mind leaving you emotionally distraught.
It is not intensity of the score or jump scares that make this film terrifying but the simple fact that it seems so real. Usually with King adaptations there is a strong supernatural element, a demonic clown or a possessed car for instance, but with ‘Gerald’s Game’ what torments you is the psychological warfare occurring in the mind of the protagonist and how this has the ability to transfer itself onto you. However, it is a blessing that you are subtly reminded that this is only a movie, for example with Gerald’s reference to another of King’s novels / movie adaptations: ‘Who could possibly hear you scream, except Cujo over there?’ this nod to King’s novel about a rabid murderous dog reminds viewers this is merely a work of fiction – soooo meta.
There were moments when watching particular scenes where I found myself shielding my eyes in terror. For example the simple task of Jessie obtaining water makes you scream internally with anxiety. The film does take the traditional horror route at times and if you aren’t a fan of gore then be warned, as there is one scene so horrific wincing in discomfort is just the tip of the blood soaked axe. The fast paced nature of 'Gerald's Game' means it takes so many turns and at times it's difficult to ascertain what exactly is going on; especially as Jessie’s dark past returns to haunt her. There are some scenes that some will certainly find disturbing making it extremely uncomfortable viewing (Content warning: rape / sexual abuse). The film largely sticks to King’s original plot, which may have resulted in an upsettingly convoluted ending. It is as though two movies have been playing the whole time, the viewer is allowed to watch one whole but only privy to seeing the end of the other. Despite this struggled ending the message of the negative impacts of male dominance over women and toxic masculinity is effortlessly portrayed.
As King adaptations go I wouldn’t put this up there with the work of art that is ‘The Shining’ or ‘The Shawshank Redemption’ but this is so different and tantalisingly original that it makes it essential viewing.