Gerald’s Game is a Netflix Original Film based on a Stephen King’s book with the same name. The film adaptation was written by Mike Flanagan and Jeff Howard who have worked together in other horror films like Oculus (2013), Hush (2016), and Ouija (2016); and also directed by Flanagan. Gerald’s Game tells the story of a couple that takes a trip to a remote lake house in order to save their marriage while trying to rekindle their sex life. Unexpectedly, Gerald, who is played by Bruce Greenwood (Star Trek, I Robot) suffers a heart attack and dies while Jessie is handcuffed to the bed frame in what seemed an inconsequential sexual game. Now Jessie, played by Carla Gugino (Watchmen, Sin City) needs to find a way to survive and face her demons.
Whether it’s on the big or small screen, it seems we can’t escape the adaptations of this prolific author’s books. Gerald’s Game premise seems promising but stays there. Perhaps for the people who had read the book, there was some kind of empathy for the characters even before watching the film. But for the ones like me who did not read the novel (and now honestly I don’t think I will), that element does not exist and it is one of the film’s biggest flaws.
The acting was not bad although it was not extraordinary either. The cinematography was also above average despite alternating between the same locations for the whole film. The first twenty minutes of Gerald’s Game fail to pull us into the couple’s dynamics as we don’t really know anything about them, except for the obvious; and then when the flashbacks begin it’s like we finally get a glimpse of Jessie’s background and decisions that led her to where she is today. After that, we do get a sense of why Jessie is so traumatized. She has been repressing the sexual abuse she suffered by her father when she was twelve years old, which has obviously affected her throughout her whole life and now she is in this situation where she has to decide whether to be defeated by everything she has been through and die handcuffed to a bed, or, to fight for survival, and in a way also overcoming her atrocious past. Other than that, the film seems to drag on the same over and over. Her hallucinations and the power struggle between both characters (or maybe three) do not feel realistic. The dialogues between Jessie and her hallucinations attempt to give us a deeper and meaningful story that we are just not seeing on the screen. The main character fails to be engaging or relatable because of most of her contradictory decisions and lack of a bigger context, resulting in not caring about weather she lives or dies. The ending is a good plot twist that could have been better constructed but feels rushed; narrated by the main character and once again filled with unnecessary and a cheesy dialogues.
We all know that turning books into films is not an easy task, and many times it just feels reductive like in Gerald’s Game case. As I wrote before, I haven’t read the book, but the film lacked context, coherency, character development and interesting dialogues to convey the compelling and perturbed story that the book supposedly has.