A sex game went inconceivably wrong. Rape fantasies. Dark daddy issues. Unsurprisingly, Gerald’s Game is based on a Stephen King novel. 2017 has become such a laborious task to cover everything related to King that a part of me wishes the celebrated author would leave us all alone. Little did I know that his material would creep onto Netflix as an Original. In the case of Gerald’s Game, I am rather happy it did.
The premise is not complex or difficult to get your head around. Imagine a marriage needing saving. Your sex-craving husband makes plans to whisk you away to a holiday home in the middle of nowhere. The finest foods are stocked in the fridge, fine wine and expensive champagne are cooly placed on the shelves and the entire house is pristine and clean. All that is required now is for both people involved to muster up enough sexual energy to enjoy each other. Unfortunately, Gerald (Bruce Greenwood) wants to impose a rape fantasy onto his wife Jessie (Carla Gugino) and to his dismay, she is not into it at all. Sound familiar? I’m joking. In the case of Jessie this is no laughing matter. Her husband collapses from a heart attack and she is attached to two sturdy bedposts by state of the art handcuffs.
For a story that involves mostly a bedroom, director Mike Flanagan does a sublime job to keep the plot interesting. Gerald’s Game displays more in its package than just a woman trapped in a room. The movie intricately brings demons to the surface that were unbeknown before her unlucky husband’s heart attack. The plot is astonishingly dark considering at the centre of it is an escape plan. The use of her imagination drives this movie forward with themes that represent the devil and an angel. Good thoughts and bad thoughts. The devil in the form of her husband and the angel is herself. Her hallucinations form part of Jessie’s fatalistic situation. With the movie toying with her gloom-ridden reality that she is very likely to die, as an audience you become engrossed with her efforts to live off the remaining juice she has left to live. Then you have the flashbacks to her horrific childhood which provides two narrative strings that are equally as interesting.
Gerald’s Game is obviously a Stephen King story but it is delivered with such belief and performance from the two leading actors that it is unusually one of his best adaptations. Carla Gugino is essentially doing a solo performance in a bedroom and she has to deliver credibility despite being attached to handcuffs. It is a stern job coupled with Bruce Greenwood, adding some dark sadism to the entire thing. A notable praise is that the premise is not dragged through the mud for hours and it stays within a respectable one hour and forty-five minutes, which just about justifies the story.
If all King movies were delivered like this then I would accept the constant dark themes thrown at us. Gerald’s Game is an adaptation delivered with care and precision with emphasis on good deliverance on dark themes and dialogue. If you are a fan of King’s work then you will undoubtedly enjoy this. If not, then there is also something in this for you.
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Daniel Hart is the Co-Founder of Ready Steady Cut and has operated as Editor-in-Chief since 2017.