The best adaptation you could hope for of the source material, with a spellbinding narrative, terrific atmosphere, and a powerhouse performance by Carla Gugino.
Plot: When a sex game goes awry, Jesse Burlingame (Carla Gugino) finds herself handcuffed to a bed while her dead husband (Bruce Greenwood) lies at the foot of the bed.
Story: In my opinion, of all the weird and wonderful stories that have come from Stephen King’s pen (or in modern types, computer keyboard), this was one of those stories that I never thought anyone would or could adapt. The narrative mostly takes place in the lead character’s mind, given voice by hallucinations of people she knows. To film a movie like that would be difficult, to say the least.
Enter Mike Flanagan. He seems to have a knack for adapting Stephen King’s stories (see Doctor Sleep for further evidence), and he hits a home run with this movie. Gerald’s Game is not your run-of-the-mill horror story. It’s a harrowing psychological thriller that delves deep into the guilt of a woman who has unknowingly been caught in a cycle of abuse all of her life and is finally ready to face her demons under the most intense of circumstances. While it’s not for the faint of heart for sure, it’s a relatively upbeat tale, a rarity for a King story.
The movie’s pace runs well, and even though most of the film takes place in one room, you never feel bored. Most of that can be attributed to Gugino, who is really marvellous in the lead role. It can’t be easy to be tied to a bed for the majority of the story, and her character goes through psychological hell, but Gugino’s grounded, earnest portrayal of Jesse Burlingame was terrific and worthy of awards. I am not squeamish, but at one point, even I had a hard time watching the screen as Gugino desperately tries to get herself out of her impossible situation. That speaks volumes about her performance.
I likewise enjoyed Bruce Greenwood’s performance as the titular Gerald – on the surface, a caring a loving husband, but beneath, and selfish and domineering monster. Carel Struycken as the Moonlight Man is terrifying, and though his screen time is not long, his presence dominates when he is not present.
For a small-scale movie, this film was surprisingly well-shot. It’s one of those films where you take note of the lighting, as the afternoon’s long shadows and the darkness of rooms plays a part in the narrative, for you never know what is going to emerge from pitch black. The cinematography is stunning, exhibiting small-town life in a picturesque way and doing a magnificent job of portraying the all-important eclipse.
So, if you are a fan of Stephen King’s Gerald’s Game, and even if you aren’t, I highly recommend checking this movie out on Netflix. While it’s not as flashy as some of King’s other adaptations, the excellent acting, atmosphere, and unfolding story will keep you spellbound and on the edge of your seat.