Review: Gerald’s Game (2017)

Gerald’s Game (2017)

Directed by: Mike Flanagan | 103 minutes | horror, thriller | Actors: Bruce Greenwood, Carla Gugino, Henry Thomas, Carel Struycken, Chiara Aurelia, Kate Siegel, Natalie Roers, Tom Glynn, Stu Cookson, Gwendolyn Mulamba, Ben Pronsky, Jon Arthur, Nikia Reynolds

Attorney Gerald Burlingame (Bruce Greenwood) has planned a weekend getaway for his wife Jessie (Carla Gugino) in ‘Gerald’s Game’. Their marriage has lost some of its luster, and he’s had their vacation home put in tip-top shape, including expensive steaks, Viagra… and two sets of handcuffs. Jessie hesitantly agreed, but it’s clear from the start that there is tension under the skin as she ignores or tries to neutralize his advances.

Jessie lets Gerald chain her to the bed with the handcuffs, but when it turns out that he has even more extensive sexual fantasies that he wants to indulge in on her and she rejects them, they get into an argument… and Gerald has a fatal heart attack. The real nightmare begins for Jessie when she is handcuffed to the bed and has no place to go in an abandoned summer house with no one around. A stray dog ​​she has previously fed poses a threat. As well as dehydration, lack of sleep and the tight handcuffs. Jessie gets hallucinations, of which she slowly begins to doubt whether they are really delusions or whether the creature she sees, the “Moonlight Man” (Carel Struycken), is actually in the bedroom…

‘Gerald’s Game’ is a strong psychological thriller with horror elements, based on the novel of the same name by master writer Stephen King. Shine roles are for protagonists Carlo Gugino and Bruce Greenwood who are both performing at their peak. Director Mike Flanagan (“Oculus”, “Ouija: Origin of Evil”) cleverly translates Jessie’s internal thoughts from the book into film: he turns them into conversations: first, in her hallucinations, Jessie only talks to a fictional Gerald ( or at least Jessie’s version of him) and later with an omniscient version of herself as well. It is sides of her personality that let her unsuspected powers emerge on their own and in which she also has to confront herself and her past in order to survive. A traumatic childhood experience surrounding her father Tom (a suitably creepy Henry Thomas) during a solar eclipse has been a pivotal moment in her development. She must deal with the event and turn what she perceives as a weakness into a strength that will allow her to escape a miserable death.

What Flanagan and his actors do masterfully is build up the tension and tighten the strings a bit like an instrument, so that you as a viewer are constantly on the edge of your seat. The flashback scenes with young Jessie (Chiara Aurelia), father Tom and mother Sally (Kate Siegel) break through that tension in their own way, but contribute in their own way to the penetrating atmosphere that ‘Gerald’s Game’ evokes. The film is almost without music, takes place largely in one room and there is little “action” except conversations between a handful of people: the film flies by and does not bore for a moment.

Flanagan is known for his expertise in making horror movies and he could have easily lost himself in the horror aspects of the story, but mostly holds back. Like King in the book, he focuses on the psychological aspects: processing trauma, the functioning of the human mind, dealing with extreme situations and that is what makes ‘Gerald’s Game’ such a good film. That does not mean that there are no unsavory or bloody moments, the film certainly does not shrink back, but it is functional and serves the story.
The storylines from the book are fully followed, which results in an ending that will not be to everyone’s taste. Without wanting to reveal what exactly is happening, the film loses some of its power in the last fifteen minutes, as the oppressive tone and the refined elaboration of Jessie’s thoughts are exchanged and a different path is taken. The ending fits and can in itself fit into the context of the story, but it can also be said that it is a bit far-fetched.

‘Gerald’s Game’ is a Netflix Original production from the online streaming service and certainly one that makes you want more of these types of movies.

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