Gerald’s Game (2017) Review: Disturbing but Lacking

Synopsis: 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.Gerald's Game (2017) Review Poster
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Ludwig von Stroodle:

The setup for this Stephen King thriller is fairly straightforward: a married couple tries to rekindle their relationship with a rustic cabin getaway. During an attempt to spice things up in the bedroom, Jessie (Carla Gugino) is handcuffed to the bed, but she quickly feels uncomfortable and calls it off. Her husband Gerald (Bruce Greenwood), transitions from rape fantasy to actual attempted rape before a kick to the jewels leads to a fatal heart attack. Jessie is left trapped and alone with her husband’s corpse just a few feet away.

One of the things that most interested me about this movie before seeing it was the central question: how were the filmmakers going to handle a story that follows just one character, alone? In the book, as Jessie’s mental state deteriorates, she devolves into speaking with imagined versions of Gerald and herself. That could have gotten ridiculous real fast, but the filmmakers made it work. And because it was all in her head, the shades echoed Jessie’s fears… delivering some chilling lines that would have sounded odd coming from actual people.

What didn’t work for me was the connection to Jessie’s past. The trauma of her current situation stirs up memories of the abuse she suffered as a child. While handled tastefully enough, I felt like it ended up detracting from the story. The abuse was part of the novel, so I don’t blame the filmmakers for keeping it a central part of the plot… but for me, those memories did too much to ground the movie in reality. I was much more interested in the other part of the story.

For me, far more chilling was the briefly explored question: what if you don’t actually know your spouse at all? If Gerald turned out to be the kind of person who would rape his own wife, what else was he hiding? Were those last minutes of his life the real Gerald? Jessie will never know. I couldn’t imagine living the rest of my life wondering something so devastating.

Also worthy of note was the situation Jessie finds herself in: the whole handcuffed to a bed thing. The bedposts and cuffs wouldn’t break, which leaves just one option. I’m not a squeamish person; I deal with blood and guts fairly regularly, but her escape had me a little nauseous. The camera doesn’t turn away, and you can’t see that and not imagine yourself in her place. It’s rough.

Overall, I felt Gerald’s Game was a decent movie, but it unraveled towards the end. As the movie reaches its conclusion, the filmmakers go back and shed light on all the creepiest parts… and, as per usual, some things are better left unexplained.

Ludwig von Stroodle’s Rating: B-
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Ludwig von Stroodle

The Codex Mortis Horror Hosts (Ludwig von Stroodle and Calamity Brains) are married and live in West Virginia. Pretty much everyone who sees their cabin agrees that it would be an ideal setting for a horror movie. Their pets include a black widow spider, a smart dog, and a stupid dog. When they aren’t watching horror movies, they can be found at whiskey festivals, Renaissance fairs, and board game nights.

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