The Most Uncomfortable Movie of 2017
Moments ago, I just finished watching the Stephen King adaptation directed by Mike Flanagan, Gerald’s Game. I don’t think I’ll ever truly recover from this bare-knuckle, unflinching and undeniably terrifying experience. I mean this in the best way possible, Gerald’s Game is the real deal people and the film that will have die-hard King fans salivating for more.
Based on the 1992 novel of the same name, Gerald’s Game follows an older married couple who are en route to a romantic weekend getaway, attempting to rekindle an old flame that hasn’t been lit for quite some time. Once they arrive at their sexual retreat, Gerald (Bruce Greenwood) takes it upon himself to live out a disturbingly dark fantasy with his apprehensive wife, Jessie (Carla Gugino).
Unfortunately for Gerald, just after he handcuffs his wife in the midst of his blizzard sexual fantasy, he suffers a viagra enriched heart attack and dies. Thus leaving our protagonist, Jessie, handcuffed to the bedpost without food, water, and a savage dog that keeps coming into their home.
Let me get this out-of-the-way, Gerald’s Game is not an easy watch. I found myself wanting to look away numerous times, fidgeting in my seat due to unapologetically realistic scenes and you know what, I ended up loving the film.
Carla Gugino gives a tour de force performance as the trapped and terrified wife. This isn’t your typical “damsel in distress” you may expect from the plot, far from it. As the hours go by, and the dehydration settles in, Jessie has hallucinations of her now late husband and a version of herself talking to her throughout the movie. The version of her husband, Gerald, is a sociopathic enigma, or in more laments terms, “The Bad Angel.” Her subconscious version of herself is a powerful, strong and intelligent representation of that corner of her brain she was too afraid to tap into, aka “The Good Angel.”
Gugino’s acting range is sublime, selling every frame of screen time she has (which is 99.9% of the film). The transformation from helpless and scared to survivalist is done seamlessly, never feeling like the decisions Jessie makes are out of character. A scene in particular towards the final act involving “an escape” had me shook, and will be a scene I won’t forget anytime soon, for better or worse.
I won’t get into any plot details, as this is a story best seen as blind as possible, but around the halfway point of Gerald’s Game, we dig deeper into Jessie’s past via flashbacks. Under a lesser director, these scenes could come across jarring and unnecessary, but Mike Flanagan proves time and time again that he knows how to properly tell a horror story. I’m not talking about ghosts or scary clowns, I’m talking about real life horror that happens every day. The scenes played out like a nightmare and really makes the character of Jessie fleshed out to the point that you feel like you know her personally.
This isn’t a casual Saturday night Netflix movie to watch with your buddies having a few cold ones. Gerald’s Game is a deep, disturbing and claustrophobic tale that showcases some of the best writing and acting these eyes have seen all year.