Gerald's Game is a Stephen King novel adaptation that follows a woman who is stuck handcuffed to a bed after her husband suffers a heart attack. As her mind splits and reality melts away, she has to come to terms with what she is willing to do to survive and escape her predicament.
Gerald's Game Review
A simple plot with complex visual elements sounds like a recipe for failure, especially when considering that King adaptations have a knack for getting lost in translation. But director Mike Flanagan was able to embrace these challenges and come out on top. Flanagan's resume boasts a couple of films I hold in high esteem. Absentia is one of the greatest low-budget horror films I've ever seen, Hush was one of the better slasher films in recent memory, Oculus was a surprising gem, and Oujia: Origin of Evil out-did the original in every way. I should have expected him to handle Gerald's Game just fine.
Gerald's Game is one of the better King adaptations out there, and this rings true despite the psychological manifestations our lead, Jessie (Carla Gugino), suffers in which she sees projections of her husband and an untied version of herself as the two bicker like a shoulder devil and shoulder angel, respectively. Similar content has stifled many directors in the past, but Flanagan was able to find the proper way to communicate with the audience and the psychological misadventures of Gugino flowed perfectly.
Despite effective dialogue and great acting from Gugino and Bruce Greenwood (the husband, Gerald), the film never built sufficient tension at her plight. The scenario doesn't call for a dramatic increase in terror because, if it did, she'd be dead. And you couldn't give her an easy escape haphazardly, as that would erase her struggle through the second act. So instead we get a black drama piece that is more about Jessie's survival of a dark past helping her solve her current situation. And the film does well in letting it be that.
Despite limited moments of actual horror, the film doesn't drag. The dialogue exchanged with her projections does more than just carry the plot forward, as it legitimately develops who Jessie is, why we should care about her, and how she can beat this problem. The starving dog and mysterious, foreboding entity do enough to give you a feeling of dread beyond the mere worry that she could die of dehydration, but they are secondary to her dark progression as a character.
I've grown a lack of appreciation for unnecessary voice over at the beginning or end of films to explain a situation away, and this film is no different. I would rather the film had drawn out a bit longer and let the final act progress naturally, even if it made it feel a bit like LOTR: Return of the King. I'm sure that reference alone would have people disagree with me vehemently.