Movie Review: “Gerald’s Game” Is A Gripping Version Of A Bland Stephen King Book

“There really aren’t that many King adaptations as great as 'Gerald’s Game,' which is surprising but true.”


 

While trying to spice up their marriage in their remote lake house, Jessie must fight to survive when her husband dies unexpectedly, leaving her handcuffed to their bed frame.

Let me say this now and then I can drop it until that potentially rare day when a film is greenlit: I entirely support the Stephen King renaissance that began with “It,” added “Gerald’s Game” today, and will feature “1922” in a month. I entirely support this renaissance provided that there’s a remake at some point announced of “The Stand.”

“Gerald’s Game is my least favorite Stephen King novel. It always felt too removed from the world of Stephen King whereas every other novel feels much more directly from the hands of the horror masterpiece to my mind. There’s not a lot of Maine in “Gerald’s Game.” There’s no main protagonist that’s a writer. There’s no Randall Flagg. The plot is based on a lawyer and his trophy wife playing BDSM in the bedroom. The novel came out in what was maybe the low point of King’s career which began with 1987’s “The Tommyknockers,” included duds like “Needful Things,” “Insomnia,” and “Dolores Claiborne,” and didn’t end until King penned the classic, “The Green Mile,” in 1996. A King dud is still better than a plain old dud any day of the week, but there wasn’t much to “Gerald’s Game” that I found compelling, particularly as a 12-year-old kid who was reading his books for the first time. That said, I really liked “The Space Cowboy,” a lone figure that haunts the nighttime world of Jessie, the protagonist in the film.

“Gerald’s Game” was directed by Mike Flanagan, who directed the expert and surprisingly taut Ouija: “Origin of Evil” in 2016. Unlike some King novels, this isn’t a film that relies much on special effects either. Instead, Flanagan shoots a remarkably conservative, well blocked and well-lit film. Carla Gugino plays Jessie and her ability to cycle through a range of emotions like she’s thumbing through the phonebook is the reason why the film succeeds so majorly. There are also a couple of very fine special effects including a scene in which Jessie slits her wrists with a shard of glass.

The plot involves around Jessie and her husband, Gerald. During a roleplaying session involving BDSM, Gerald locks Jessie to the bed with handcuffs. Before Gerald can unlock her, however, he unexpectedly dies of a heart attack. Strapped to the bed in a secluded lakeside cottage, Jessie has a series of hallucinations and fever dreams.

This film is “50 Shades of Gray” with the exception being that “Gerald’s Game” is actually a remarkably good film. There really aren’t that many King adaptations as great as “Gerald’s Game,” which is surprising but true. I’d expect that before the King renaissance is over, we’ll see some really fine adaptations of other films too and then the whole thing will come crashing down in a glorious, cacophonous mess that will make “Maximum Overdrive” look like “The English Patient.”

Now streaming on Netflix


 

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