Aiming to rekindle their relationship, an older couple ventures to a secluded house for a weekend getaway. When the husband unexpectedly suffers a heart attack, his wife is left alone handcuffed to the bed. As time ticks by, her mind begins playing tricks, but could some of those tricks be real? Based on the Stephen King novel of the same name, Gerald’s Game is a rich psychological horror with mild frights. Showcasing how your mind can be your worst enemy.
Jessie (Carla Gugino of Wayward Pines) joins her husband Gerald (Bruce Greenwood) on a weekend getaway to a lake house in Maine, hoping to save their marriage that’s lost the spark. Gerald wants to play out a fantasy and handcuff Jessie to the bed in order to spice things up. After taking a Viagra tablet, Gerald and his wife begin to engage in foreplay. However, Jessie quickly feels uncomfortable and isn’t happy with her husbands bizarre rape fantasy. While arguing, he begins to have a heart attack and dies. Jessie still left handcuffed to the bed, alone, with no one for miles.
Unable to reach the phone on the nightstand, and failing to slip the cuffs off, Jessie’s mind begins to play cruel tricks on her. She sees her diseased husband, who begins taunting and discussing the issues they both ignored. While her subconscious manifests to motivate her to survive. However, that isn’t the only thing troubling her. Jessie is also haunted by her past, as well as a frightening vision of a man, who she believes is her minds’ idea of Death. But her husband poses the question – Is Death really there?
Directed and written by Mike Flanagan (Oculus, Hush, Ouija: Origin of Evil), this adaptation of Gerald’s Game plays with some of your biggest fears. Many of Jessie’s heightened by her inability to escape, both physically and mentally. It is equally sad, disturbing, and terrifying. A bit different than Flanagan’s other projects, shying away from the scares familiar in his work. Focusing more on the psychological side, which big horror fans may find a bit too tame.
Whether or not you’re a fan of a tamer horror film, I think viewers will recognize it’s biggest flaw being that, while the story stays interesting, the pacing takes odd turns. Mainly as Jessie remembers moments of a traumatic event from her childhood. Cinematically, the scenes seem disconnected and move a little slowly. It felt very out of place for how the rest of the film had been to that point. I felt they ended up more as speed-bumps and could have been filmed and edited a bit more cohesively.
Aside from pacing issues, a big saving grace for this movie was the mysterious, and absolutely frightening man who visits Jessie, of which she can’t discern as a hallucination or real. It’s the one part of the film that will leave an impression on you. It reminded me slightly of The Babadook, and the vision of him will make it hard for you to fall asleep.
With all the back and forth of pros and cons, the story stays fairly entertaining. Except for the end, when it takes a bit of a nosedive, as tone shifts completely. Finding itself turning into a “cheesy” narrative piece that undos a lot of the frights. Which was a shame that style and consistency was thrown out for the sake of a metaphoric, gift-wrapped ending. Though admitting this was certainly not a flawless film, I’d still say it’s worth the watch as a mild horror film for an October night.
Gerald’s Game is currently streaming exclusively on Netflix.