Review: Gerald’s Game (2017 film)

Posted: September 29, 2017 in Review, Scary Stuff
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

I read the novel Gerald’s Game earlier this year just in preparation for this movie. I heard what it was about (see my summary below), and I was like, “Shit, I gotta read this.” And I did, and I found it really intense. It was filled with some of the usual Stephen King cliches, those quirky sentences and weird things he likes to do, but my God, it was intense. Nothing I couldn’t handle, but still very intense. I could understand why my mother found it so difficult to read she had to skip to the end just so she could sleep at night.

This evening, after a long training trip for work and after hearing that this Netflix Original was really good according to early reviews, I sat down in my hotel room to watch the film. And I can say without hesitation, this was an amazing psychological thriller, scarier than It, even. And unlike It, I would not recommend my mother see this one.

Gerald’s Game follows Jessie Burlingame, a housewife played by a convincing Carla Gugino, who goes with her husband Gerald, played by Bruce Greenwood, to their lakeside cabin for a weekend away. However when a kinky sex game goes wrong, leaving Gerald dead and Jessie handcuffed to the bed, struggling to survive as the stress causes her mind to unwind and her worst nightmares to come to life.

So like I said, this film is great, with Conjuring-level frights at certain points. The filmmakers used camera angles, light, colors, and especially sound to highlight the horror of the situation. The sound is noteworthy, because it’s used so sparingly once the movie really gets started. After Gerald dies, Jesse starts screaming, and there’s background music, but the shot changes to outside, and all we hear is birdsong and some muffled screaming. This highlights all the more how this could actually happen in the real world. It’s beautiful.

I also like some of the changes made from book to movie. The writers and directors managed to translate what some might correctly term as an unfilmable story very well to the screen by changing some of the weirder elements of the story, namely all the voices in Jessie’s head brought out by the stress with their own distinctive personalities, into just three personalities: a more ballsy version of herself, Gerald, and her father. They also switched from having Jessie being in nothing but panties to wearing a slip, saving this film from being just titillating torture porn. And they actually manage to get in some slightly funny moments to make sure the story doesn’t get too dark (or maybe I’m laughing at weird stuff to relieve myself of tension).

But the best part is definitely the climax. My God, did that scene make me cringe! That could not have been easy to film (on so many levels), but it pays off so well. I actually cringed in my seat and let out exclamations of disgust and horror after seeing that scene.

There were only a few things I didn’t care for. In one scene, Jessie’s narrating a dream she had at one point as a child, and I feel like that would’ve been better shown than told (I sound like a high school English class typing that, but I don’t care, it’s true). There’s also a lot of dialogue in the film that, while it would fit in a King novel, never would fit in real life, let alone in a movie. And while the way the story is wrapped up kind of works in the novel, I feel like it might’ve been done better if it was done differently in the movie. It’s not bad, it’s actually decent, but it could’ve been done differently and possibly much better.

Also, that ending forgot about the dog. Just saying.

All in all though, this is a fantastic movie, a psychological thriller that scares, grosses out, and even manages to integrate themes of misogyny and the effects of sexual abuse into the story without feeling forced. Heck, it’s even got some dark humor at times…if you see it as humor. I could honestly see this film getting some academic examinations in the future just based on how well it’s done. It’s that good a film.

On a scale of 1 to 5, I’m giving Gerald’s Game a well-deserved 4.7 out of 5. Unless you’re my mother, go to Netflix, eat some popcorn, and go to bed with your arms close to your chest because you’re afraid you’ll wake up with your arms cuffed to the bedposts. I know I will, especially that last part.

Goodnight Followers of Fear, and pleasant nightmares!

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