31 Days of Reviews: Gerald’s Game (2017)

It started as a weekend getaway to rekindle their marriage, but when their bedroom antics turn less than romantic, the game becomes one of survival.

Gerald’s Game is a film adaptation of a Stephen King novel of the same name. It is directed by Mike Flanagan (Ouija: Origin of Evil, Hush, Oculus), starring Carla Gugino (Wayward Pines, Watchmen, San Andreas) and Bruce Greenwood (J.J. Abram’s Star Trek, Double Jeopardy). It also features Henry Thomas (Ouija: Origin of Evil) and Kate Siegel (Hush) who both return to work with Flanagan and Carel Struycken (The Addams Family).

I’ve been looking forward to seeing this film since it was first announced. I’ve come to be a big fan of Mike Flanagan’s work. I had never read the Stephen King novel before seeing the film, so I was going into this as a completely blank slate. I had no expectations. I just knew it was a Mike Flanagan film, and it starred Carla Gugino. That sounded pretty good to me.

Screen Shot 2017-10-03 at 8.21.53 PM

It is a Netflix original, so when it was released on Netflix on September 29, 2017, I organized my evening plans around watching it. I’m very glad that I did. It’s definitely one of the better psychological horror films I’ve seen in quite some time. I would definitely recommend it (with some caveats which I will bring up in this review).

For this review, I’ll start with one of the most stand out parts of Gerald’s Game: Carla Gugino. She is amazing in this role. Her performance is mesmerizing. I don’t usually use the word transcendent, but that’s how I felt while watching her. She makes the situation believable and relatable. She portrays the emotions of someone in her predicament so well that I wanted to go out to that lake house and save her myself.

The power of her performance is increased by Flanagan’s use of tension through his directing and editing style. I held my breath. I covered my eyes. I cringed. I screamed. I had a full range of emotions through this film. I found myself screaming at the television on many occasions in the best of ways. “No! Not the moonlight man!”

I enjoyed the cinematography. There are a lot of great angles to illustrate how alone the main character is in her current plight. There is a great use of shadows to make the dark seem much more threatening than it would ordinarily be. It’s very engaging overall. That’s a pretty great feat, considering the majority of the film takes place chained to a bed frame.

Earlier, I said I would definitely recommend this movie, with a couple caveats. If you are squeamish, there are some pretty disgusting moments that happen. The biggest of these moments comes into play toward the end of the film when all of the main characters options have been exhausted. I’m not into gore. I had to turn away. That whole scene is extremely well done though. If you can make it through the handful of moments in the film, I would definitely recommend it.

The second caveat has to do with sexual assault. I feel the subject matter is handled very tastefully in this film, but it is an ever present theme from start to finish. I’m not saying this to turn you away from the film. My whole goal in bringing this up is just so that survivors of sexual assault can go into the film prepared for what they will see or feel. I know I felt a wave of anxiety due to my own experiences, so I just want others to be forewarned.

That note will take me into my next bit. The film ends with an epilogue of sorts. It’s a drastic change in pace from the rest of the film, and I’m sure there will be many who don’t like it. I know I was thrown for a loop at first. I’ve heard that the book does the same thing, and there is mixed feelings about it there as well.

This epilogue really does make the subject matter of the film all come together though. We see this woman grow. She overcomes her traumas. She saves herself and learns to live again. The final line of the film is just so powerful for me.

“You’re so much smaller than I remember”

I love it so much. Before this epilogue, you have a good psychological horror film. After the epilogue, you have a complete story of growth and survival. It ends everything on such a high note. I really enjoyed it.

Overall, I would most definitely recommend Gerald’s Game to anyone who is interested. It is another great film from Mike Flanagan. I can’t wait to see what he comes out with next.

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