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Movie Review | Gerald's Game

Nobody wins.


Movie summary: A couple tries to spice up their marriage in a remote lake house. After the husband dies unexpectedly, the wife is left handcuffed to their bed frame and must fight to survive and break free. (IMDb)

I honestly have no idea where to start with this review of Gerald's Game, because the movie - and, I assume, the original novel - don't really have a story that allows for a consistent narrative. I've read that many people considered the novel to be unfilmable and this proves them right in a way, but is still enjoyable to watch.

And I do want to stress that last part: this movie is a perfectly 'enjoyable' way to spend just over one hundred minutes - in as much as you 'enjoy' horror movies, especially where a victim of abuse suffers through even more torment throughout this story. Much like Cam, there's a gruesome scene at the end which is just as hard to watch as the one in that movie.

There's also plenty of creepiness thanks to the nature of the abuse Jessie (Carla Gugino) experiences, a starving dog and the Moonlight Man (Carel Struycken) - the less said about the latter the better, as his true nature is left unknown until the very end of Gerald's Game. As something to watch for Halloween, this is a pretty good offering.

The biggest problem I have is that it almost feels like three stories that were meshed together to become one and, while each plot on its own is fine, the whole is less than the sum of its parts. Plenty of people might watch it and be fine with how the threads weave in and out, but it's now pretty clear to me why this movie caused such a wide range of reactions when initially released.

The central plot is exactly what's described in the summary, with Jessie struggling to even survive not being able to leave the bed and involves an element of body horror as she suffers physically from her confinement. At a base level, an interesting situation that can be wince-inducing to watch.

This is complicated through her hallucinating visions of both Gerald (Bruce Greenwood) and herself, who mainly taunt and advise her respectively. Jessie has a lot of psychological issues that she works through with these 'spirits' and Gugino especially is stellar throughout all of this - which is effectively a stage play and close to a one-woman show.

The last strand are the flashback sequences to a younger Jessie (Chiara Aurelia) and a disturbing experience from many years before that she had kept to herself her entire life, that her current situation and relationship with Gerald has brought to the surface. There's also some particularly shocking revelations for her as she explores these memories that startle even the imaginary Gerald.

None of these threads really works without the others because they all inform and support each other, but they just didn't tie together neatly enough to be satisfying for me. Each plot has moments which work really well, or two of them combine perfectly at certain points, but there was never a grand unifying moment that brought all three parts together.

I have to apologise for the wishy-washy nature of this review, but Gerald's Game makes it difficult to come down with any great in one direction or another. At best, I can only repeat that I really did enjoy watching it and loved Carla Gugino as Jessie, but that lack of even a single, truly cathartic moment means I can't wholeheartedly recommend it.

Gerald's Game is a strange that I don't really know what to think of - it's well-made and well-acted, but the story never really settles on being one thing or another and the resultant mish-mash doesn't really work, but also does? It was certainly enjoyable to watch and very creepy at times, but just lacking that binding factor to bring everything together in a truly satisfying manner.




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