Review: Love for King Adaptation Lost in Midst of ‘IT’ Frenzy

Carla Gugino stars as Jessie in Netflix’s adaptation of Stephen King’s 1992 novel, ‘Gerald’s Game,’ released Sept. 29.

The media has been filled with reviews of “IT,” the second adaptation of Stephen King’s 1989 novel by the same name.  However, the release of another adaptation of a different King book hasn’t received much attention at all.

On Sept. 29, Netflix released their original movie “Gerald’s Game” based on King’s 1992 novel. Married couple Jessie and Gerald Burlingame retreat to a secluded lake home for a weekend to rekindle their romance.

Their raunchy game begins with Gerald handcuffing Jessie to the bed and acting out an aggressive fantasy. Just as Jessie’s passion wanes, and the couple realizes the handcuffs aren’t going to save their marriage, Gerald suffers a heart attack, leaving Jessie handcuffed to the bed.

Out of reach of a phone, water and food, and too far away for neighbors to hear her screams, Jessie begins to hallucinate to compartmentalize her situation. She sees the restless ghost of Gerald, the devil on her shoulder, telling her she will never escape; she sees a version of herself giving blunt advice and encouragement; and in the meantime, she fends off a hungry stray dog chewing on Gerald’s corpse and a man “made of moonlight.”

Jessie’s hallucinations begin to reveal the untold story of her marriage and past, giving the viewer a fever dream-like glimpse into the secrets of Jessie’s life.

Although listed as a horror film, “Gerald’s Game” doesn’t follow the same cadence of slasher films or jump scares. Rather than gag at blood or scream until the throat hurts, suspense is what makes this movie shine. The gradual decline of Jessie’s mental state adds suspense until the end. Jessie’s hallucinations cause an immediate distrust of everything in the film. Is the stray dog just a figment of her imagination? Is the man in the corner, there one day gone the next, real?

It’s not just the set-up of the film that leads to its success. The actors in the film are entirely convincing. Bruce Greenwood is an expert of manipulation as Gerald. His villainy is his slimy misogyny — crude jokes and put-downs of Jessie are utterly convincing. Likewise, Carla Gugino’s Jessie is emotionally compelling. The viewer becomes utterly absorbed in her storytelling, from the beginning of her mental decline until the very end when she confronts the moonlight man.

While gruesome swathes of red aren’t at the center of this film, there still is plenty of gruesome images that would make anyone gag. If you’re not into blood or gore, you may want to skip over its bloodier parts.

However, this film should satiate fans of King’s work or just fans of thrillers. There’s plenty of twists for interest and enough suspense to keep the viewer holding their breath until the end. And even then, in true horror fashion, you’re not entirely sure if you got the whole story.

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