Watching Resolution: Gerald’s Game (2017)

7. A film based on a book: Gerald’s Game (2017)

List Progress: 2/12

Trigger Warning: Sexual abuse, sexual violence, gore

I really like horror movies in theory. I think the concepts and stories can be fascinating, the use of special effects can be brilliant, and they can be masterpieces of tone and emotion. I am also a huge scaredy cat who has been kept up at night by many a monster. Gerald’s Game (2017), a Mike Flanagan film based on the 1992 Stephen King novel of the same name, not only kept me awake the night after I watched it, but forced me to take a break during the movie itself because it turned my stomach so hard. But despite all that, I have to say I enjoyed it. At this point, I might just be a film masochist.

The set-up for Gerald’s Game is simple and incredibly effective. Jessie, played by Carla Gugino, is on a “romantic” save-the-marriage trip to a remote lake house with her husband Gerald. While engaging in some kinky roleplay, Gerald handcuffs both of Jessie’s hands to the bedposts, then promptly has a heart attack and dies. That is all set-up, and the bulk of the film is Jessie alone and restrained, in a room with her husband’s body and trying not to die. It makes for a wonderful closed-room horror story, from the very small and human struggles, like how much effort it takes for her to retrieve a glass of water from a nearby shelf, to the more haunting and supernatural, like the monstrous red-eyed Moonlight Man figure she starts to see lurking in the dark corners. And the horrors soon ripple out far beyond the confines of the room, as Jessie becomes immersed in memories of her childhood abuse at the hands of her manipulative father and how those have colored her life and her relationships with controlling men like Gerald. Gerald’s Game is an escape-the-room mystery, a character study, and a ghost story all rolled into one, and it is addicting even as it’s incredibly hard to watch.

If you are going to watch this movie, prepare for some gore. Then continue preparing yourself, because it is a higher level of realistic gore on screen than I’ve ever seen before. I had to take a break and walk away because my stomach was literally turning and I felt sick, but I came back and watched the ending later and was glad I did. A lot of people have written dismissively about the ending (which I will discuss at the bottom of this), but I found it pretty satisfying, if overly long. The movie on the whole has some pacing problems, there are probably about ten minutes of fat that could be trimmed, but that does not stop it from being incredibly engaging. And god knows I’ve been thinking about the Moonlight Man for a long time, which is the mark of some effective horror.

Would I Recommend It: Yes, but pay close attention to those trigger warnings.

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Spoilers for the ending; if you’re likely to watch it, I would not recommend reading this:

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I know people think it was cheesy and sapped some of the mystery out of Jessie’s experiences, but I actually liked that the Moonlight Man was real; it tied into Jessie’s whole journey of facing her monsters for what they are and believing her own memories and experiences, rather than letting them be overwritten by others. There are certainly some criticisms to be made about using a “Scary Disfigured Psychopath” trope to get that across, but I think the concept itself is very solid.

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