Moral of the story of this film?
Men are dogs.
"Gerald's Game" is the 2017 film adaptation of Stephen King's novel, also named Gerald's Game. The film stars Carla Gugino (who plays Jessie) and Bruce Greenwood- who plays Gerald, Jessie's egomaniac, predatory husband. Before I fully delve into this film review, I just have to divulge that I have not read the novel.
Jessie and Gerald's failing relationship is introduced almost immediately in the film.
"This trip will be good for us," Gerald says to Jessie in the car, which translates to "having sex will temporarily amend our relationship and cover my emotional inadequacies with the only thing I have to offer- dick. From there, the movie takes its' audience on a roller-coaster of pain, gore, and satisfaction, making it one of my favorite Netflix originals.
Every detail matters in this film- from the dog, to the front door, to the glass of water, and the tag on her brand new silk slip. When Jessie and Gerald arrive at their secluded lake house, all of his false niceties and kindness slowly dim away, and his true nature is steadily revealed. Gerald was your basic, selfish husband who can't even get his dick hard anymore without Viagra and some rapey kink being performed. I mean what does he even have to offer to any woman in the world? He clearly doesn't care about his wife's comfortability, with his handcuffs and his clear ignorance of her unhappiness. He just wants to get his rocks off, in this damn vacation home for the weekend, then continue cheating on and ignoring his wife once they get back home. He couldn't care less about fixing his marriage. When his wife, very understandably, does not want to play out his rape fantasy, he starts with the verbal manipulation and victim blaming. And it works! Our protagonist is so worn down by her husband, she falls for his manipulation and agrees to try again. The ever dutiful and never complaining wife she's played her entire life only becomes more apparent as the film carries on.
But before things take off again- and Jessie subjects herself to humiliation and the perversions of her pig husband- Gerald dies. Thank God for it, but that puts Jessie in a perplexing situation of being handcuffed to a bed- without the key or a phone in reach- in an isolated lake house, where no one knows where she is, and no one will go looking. Too bad these people didn't have Amazon's "Alexa."
In the best Stephen King fashion, this movie contains some pretty disturbing images. **Spoiler Alert- a stray dog starts eating at her husband's corpse.** At this point, Jessie starts suffering some mad hallucinations from the lack of food, water, and the sight of her husband. Jessie manifests a version of her inner conscience- one of Gerald playing the evil angel, who talks too much, tears her down, and tells her to give up (just as he did in real life) and herself, (the good angel) making her face her past and keep fighting, which is something she stopped doing a long time ago.
The rest of the movie can be triggering for some. Jessie has gone through sexual abuse in her childhood, by the one person she trusted and loved most in the world, and in true childhood-trauma fashion, it chose the most inopportune moment to creep to the surface of her memories and cripple her when she is at her most vulnerable and lonely. Sounds familiar.
"Gerald's Game" offers a small example of how psychological trauma follows us in unique ways for everyone. Her passiveness through life- hiding behind the security of her husband, never objecting to his scrutiny or verbal abuse, and continuing to stay in an unhappy marriage- was not because she wanted to be loyal or even because she loved him, but it was because it's all she knew. Being subservient and passive to a man who didn't deserve her, who locked her in psychological chains.
Blaming a 12 year old for your perverted husband's and being jealous of your children is one of the most toxic parental traits. There's a very realistic portrayal of the manipulation of a little girl- a girl who was abused and manipulated into blaming herself. There's a part where Jessie tries to downplay what happened to her by saying, "He never even touched me." Jessie battles with breaking the chains off her inner child, locked in a never-ending red-stained, eclipse world, but she is also battling to break the chains of her current state- intertwining the both in a unique way.
This is definitely an edge-of-your-seat thriller, with some cringe, can't even look anymore, skin crawling, and realistic gore. It does suffer, slightly, because there's so much intense dialogue, but it gets to a point where it's almost too much talking. There are multiple 5-minute monologues given by mental-Gerald, when there just needed to be one, or two at most. Gugino does so much with so little though, since she spends 99% of the film in a single bed. She has to sell you on the emotions, the insanity, the desperation, the trauma and sadness, and the internal battle, as she tackles multiple demons at once. It's one of my favorite Netflix original horror movies, and it definitely deserves multiple re-watches.
starring, Carla Gugino, Bruce Greenwood, Henry Thomas, Chiara Aurelia, Kate Siegal, and Carel Struycken
written and directed by, Jeff Howard and Mike Flanagan