By Jack Martin
It’s kind of amusing that the company who made “Netflix and Chill” a thing would produce a horror movie about a sex game gone wrong. But that is exactly what Netflix just did with its new original movie Gerald’s Game now available for streaming. Don’t let this movie’s slightly uncomfortable premise turn you off though, because Gerald’s Game is a smartly written, brilliantly acted, and yes a very chilling psychological thriller.
Based off one of Stephen King’s lesser known novels, Gerald’s Game begins with married couple Jessie and Gerald Burlingame (played by Carla Gugino and Bruce Greenwood) arriving at their remote vacation home for a romantic weekend to try and spice up their marriage. After handcuffing both of Jessie’s hands to bedposts, Gerald suddenly has a heart attack and dies leaving Jessie trapped in a terrifying life or death situation.
Perhaps what works best about Gerald’s Game is the fact that the story is so strong. The film never goes in the direction you think it’s headed and keeps upping the suspense by hitting Jessie with one terrifying obstacle after another. There is never a moment that you feel you can breath easy because there is always another bomb just around the corner. It is a testament to the strength of the filmmakers that they were able to turn a film with just one location and two main actors into a frighteningly gripping movie from start to finish.
Of course, much praise must go to Gugino who gives a powerhouse performance in what at times feels like a one woman show. She absolutely sells the terror, desperation, and slow descent into madness without making it seem forced. At the same time, she gives Jessie a strong personality and convincing grit in her determination not to die. Gugino also essentially is forced to play two versions of the same character as Jessie starts seeing a hallucination of her own subconscious inside her head which manifests as a more confident version of herself. This hallucination then acts as the angel on her shoulder. Gugino is able to make this manifestation feel like a completely distinct character and the way she plays off herself is impressive to watch.
Bruce Greenwood also delivers a masterful performance as the the film’s titular Gerald. Greenwood’s character is chillingly uncomfortable to watch in the absolute best way. Gerald is aggressive, and hides a twisted personality beneath the smiling face of the loving husband. Greenwood is great at hinting at this dark side of Gerald though subtle character choices and dark dialogue. However when his character dies, he returns as a manifestation of all of Gerald’s darkest aspects inside Jessie’s head and Greenwood is able to go full psychopath here taunting her in her attempts to escape.
Adaptations of Stephen King’s books have set the bar high in terms of expectations thanks to his works being the basis for true horror classics such as The Shining, Misery, and recently It. However, Gerald’s Game deserves a place among the best of King adaptations and is absolutely worth a watch for those looking for a chilling movie to celebrate Halloween