Gerald's Game

Critics Consensus

Carla Gugino carries Gerald's Game's small-scale suspense with a career-defining performance.

90%

TOMATOMETER

Total Count: 73

72%

Audience Score

User Ratings: 3,298
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Movie Info

Gerald Burlingame (Bruce Greenwood) and his wife Jessie (Carla Gugino) attempt to rekindle the flames of their marriage with a retreat to their remote lake house. But when a dangerous sex game accidentally kills Gerald and leaves Jessie handcuffed to the bed, the latter is forced to overcome panic and hallucinations if she wants to escape. Based on the novel by Stephen King, Gerald's Game was directed by Mike Flanagan.

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Cast

Carla Gugino
as Jessie Burlingame
Bruce Greenwood
as Gerald Burlingame
Chiara Aurelia
as Young Jessie
Carel Struycken
as Moonlight Man

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Critic Reviews for Gerald's Game

All Critics (73) | Top Critics (9)

  • Unsurprisingly, the film is [Mike Flanagan's] most accomplished to date, the result of the years he's spent giving a damn about his characters and their anguish. He's so good at it, he even makes it look easy.

    Oct 3, 2017 | Full Review…
  • When it works, it's because of Gugino, the rare performer who can suggest victimized despair and empowered triumph.

    Sep 29, 2017 | Rating: C+ | Full Review…
  • The best King adaptation of the year so far.

    Sep 29, 2017 | Rating: 3/4 | Full Review…
  • It's a barnstorming showcase for Gugino, so often underused, who tackles a difficult, physically restricted role with gusto.

    Sep 29, 2017 | Rating: 3/5 | Full Review…

    Benjamin Lee

    Guardian
    Top Critic
  • Finally, after the abysmal The Dark Tower and the overhyped It, we have a Stephen King adaptation that's worthy of the brand.

    Sep 28, 2017 | Rating: 4/5 | Full Review…

    Kevin Maher

    Times (UK)
    Top Critic
  • In bursts, between the memories and the ghostly Who's Afraid of Stephen King? playlets, Flanagan shows that he probably could have made a leaner, meaner, more suspenseful film.

    Sep 28, 2017 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for Gerald's Game

  • Nov 07, 2018
    One of those single location films in the vein of Buried or Frozen, and again it surprisingly works really well. It's a character study of this woman more than anything else, and a damned intriguing one at its best moments. At its worst, it can drag a little, and sometimes get a little silly. The ending in particular I really didn't like. Not the ending of her story, that works out fine, but the ending involving the reveal of one of her visions that feels so goofy and tagged on that it just leaves you with a real awkward taste at the end. Still, the stuff that works in the movie works. More creep and uncomfortable than horrifying, but it does mess with your head in an effective way.
    Michael M Super Reviewer
  • Oct 22, 2018
    So, of course, no real annual horror fest would be complete without some sort of offering from the master of horror himself, Stephen King. King himself has written so many books that have inspired some form of adaptation that, even if I didn't pick something that was based on a book/short story/novella of his, it may have been some sort of six degrees of separation thing where, even if I'm watching something by someone else entirely, you might be able to tie it back to Stephen King somehow. Having said that, however, there's a few King movies available to me across Prime and Netflix, two of these being Carrie and The Shining. I think Pet Sematary is somewhere on there too. I could have also watched It: Chapter One if I hadn't already seen it over a month ago. Regardless, the point I'm trying to make is that when you think of Stephen King film adaptations, you tend to think about the adaptations of his more famous books, some of which I already mentioned. Those are the movies you would tend to gravitate to in a month where, theoretically, you should be watching all horror movies. Having said that, Gerald's Game, to a lot of people, is not the first King book that comes to mind when they talk about his works. In fact, my aunt, who's the biggest Stephen King fan I know, and my mom, who's more of a casual fan, both said that they could not get into Gerald's Game, in the slightest. My mom was less into it. The way I gather it, it seems that King, who's usually very heavy with the details, may have gone a little overboard with it in this book. My mom said she read something like thirty pages describing this person who was tied up or whatever, prior to the visions she has and everything, and she just couldn't take it. My aunt said that, while she loves King's detailing of events, it was also too much for her. So this is one of the few King books where, through secondhand accounts, I really do not know much about. I do know that it is about a woman whose husband has a heart attack and dies while they're playing kinky sex games, where she ends up handcuffed to the bedposts, but that's about it. That's all the knowledge I had. I do think, however, that it's a very interesting concept for a book, given that, as far as I understand, with the exception of flashbacks, it all takes place with Jessie handcuffed to the bed. It's one, static location with Jessie having visions and conversations with people from her own past for the entirety of the book. And I thought that would make for an intriguing film, if they ever did get around to making a movie, which they did. It is definitely very small-scale suspense, but I do feel that's why, in the long run, this movie works. However, while I'm gonna give myself a pass given that I watched Monster Family and that is most DEFINITELY not a horror movie, I'm still gonna count this as part of the horror fest, given that it has hints of horror. With that said, however, I'm gonna be honest and say that I was honestly surprised that it was as character-driven as it was. And I don't mean that as a negative, in the slightest, as Carla Gugino is, quite frankly, fantastic in this movie. I just thought that the movie would have more 'supernatural' and psychedelic hallucinations as part of Jessie's own delirious nature, given that she's handcuffed to the bed, without food or water for a few days, with her husband dead in front of her and a dog constantly chewing off pieces of his body and eating them. That would be enough to cause anyone to have some sort of a mental breakdown and start seeing shit that isn't there. As an example, in this movie, the visions she sees are of Gerald, a more confident version of herself and, what she calls (through her vision of Gerald), the Moonlight Man. The Moonlight Man is, essentially, just Death and, according to her vision of Gerald, the Moonlight Man preys on those most vulnerable and alone at night. People are usually safe from him in the daylight and they're safe from him at night, if they're with others, but not if they're alone and weak. Things that Jessie, in her current state, definitely is. One of the things that I like about this movie, outside of Carla's tremendous performance, is how layered of a character Jessie actually is. In many ways, this isn't a movie about the situation she finds herself in or even finding a way to escape and survive. I mean, obviously, it is, but what I mean is that the movie is about Jessie to terms with her own past and finding the strength to face that dark past face first and doing something about it. In many ways, ever since the solar eclipse incident, where, when she was 13-year-old, she sat on her father's lap while he, umm, masturbated, Jessie closed off a part of herself in a sort of metaphorical well, which is represented by the visual of the solar eclipse itself, and she became someone who, no matter what, would tolerate what was done to her. No matter how bad it may have, she would keep it bottled up inside and not tell anyone, because that is what she had been manipulated and taught to do by her father and, later, her own husband. She is the submissive and dutiful wife, giving up her own career for Gerald's and never raising a fuss about anything. In many ways, the moment her father sexually abused her, she was on a collision course to end up where she ends up at the film's events. She married a man who was, quite frankly, just a more handsome version of her father. She married the same man. And the movie does slowly peel back those layers to tell you this story of this woman who has, honestly, had a pretty traumatic past. Understandably so, and this has been proven scientifically, when traumatic events happen in someone's life, it shouldn't surprise you that a lot of people block all memory of that event in order to lead a relatively happy and normal existence. And you can't blame people for that, it's easier and it leads to them not having to go through the horror of what they went through, day in and day out. Watch Netflix's The Keepers to get a view on how that works. Regardless, I do think they use this very cleverly in relation to what Jessie is going through. Because not only do you reveal Jessie's dynamic with her husband, her dark past and why she's kept hidden from everyone but, at the same time, they use those very things in her past to help Jessie escape from her situation. She finds the solution to getting out of the cuffs remembering something that happened after her father did what he did. She crushed this glass in her hand after her mother asked if she and her father had a nice time watching the solar eclipse together. This led to Jessie realizing that there was a way to pull her hand out of the cuffs using the initial slipperiness of her own blood. This leads to, quite frankly, a brutal scene where she slowly, almost degloving (DON'T GOOGLE THIS) herself, but surely pulls her hand out of the cuffs. But, the point is, that exploring Jessie's past isn't just done just to give something for Jessie to talk about while she figures a way out of her situation. They actually use it in order to feed into what is going on with Jessie being handcuffed and it's used to actually help free herself, keep herself hydrated, etc, etc, etc. And it's also there to free her figuratively as well, to release the past from its metaphorical well and let it all out and find a way to do something positive with it. It's all intelligently-plotted. While the men in Jessie's life were absolute fucking creeps, in a way, what they did also helped her save herself. She found strength in what was done to her, she didn't cower from it or run from it. Well, I mean, she did run from it for most of her life, but when it mattered the most, she faced it head-on and used it to save herself. So, yea, I thought this was a damn good movie. I don't know if I'd say it was great, but it only really fell JUST short of being great. There's a few pacing issues at first, which I guess were understandable, but the movie provides an incredibly satisfying narrative and, on top of that, you have Carla Gugino's incredible and sympathetic performance to boot. Another issue, I felt, that held the movie back from greatness was the aftermath of what happened. I think the movie lost something as it opened up. I don't mind Jessie writing a letter to Mouse, as her asshole father called her when she was young, but it wasn't exactly the most satisfying of conclusions. Though I get that the point was to show that Jessie did use her dark past to make some positive changes in her life. In all, though, these are relatively minor complaints. As far as last year's trilogy of King movies, that all came out within six weeks of each other, It: Chapter One, this one and 1922 (placed in order of their release), I'd have to say that this might actually be the best actual movie of them all. This might seem strange to a lot of people. I enjoyed all three quite a bit, this one and It: Chapter One especially, but this movie is the better movie. To me, undoubtedly, It was the better horror movie. There's no real fucking debate there. But I just liked this movie slightly more than It. That's not minimizing what It did and what it succeeded at. It was very good, Pennywise was tremendous and the kids were great, but I felt that some of the members of the Losers' Club, in that movie, were a little underdeveloped. This movie, obviously, doesn't suffer from that as, essentially, there are only four real characters of importance. Jessie, Gerald, her father and the Moonlight Man and, really, the last three all help feed into the person Jessie is, so they're there to serve HER story and not the other way around. So, the smaller approach definitely helped in creating a tremendous character with Jessie and this movie absolutely delivered that. I would easily recommend this movie. It's very good and I might end up giving the book a shot as result, I know it's somewhere around here. This is a quality movie, to be sure.
    Jesse O Super Reviewer
  • Dec 08, 2017
    Mike Flanagan has absolutely bowled me over, yet again. We've had some good Stephen King adaptations in 2017 (and some bad ones, lookin' at you Dark Tower), but Gerald's Game gives Andy Muschietti's It a run for its money as the best one of the year. The core story of Gerald's Game is enough to earn it a passing grade, but everything surrounding it (and after it) elevates it to the next level.
    Gimly M Super Reviewer
  • Oct 23, 2017
    Quite honestly, it's very rare that a film unsettles me, so this is big of me to say, but I actually had to turn my head throughout my viewing of this film. Now streaming on Netflix, Gerald's Game is the latest Stephen King novel to receive a feature film adaptation, and while I probably won't find myself ever revisiting this movie, it's worth a watch if you can stomach it. Movies like the Saw sequels that have mindless and senseless gore will audience members in laugher, but when a film really brings you into its atmosphere and makes you care about what's happening, the gore can feel very realistic, which is why I caution my recommendation of this movie as a whole. Here is why Gerald's Game is impressively hard to watch. Although it may seem impossible to spoil a movie like this, the over-arching story is actually a spoiler itself. To put it simply, Gerald's Game is about a wife and her husband as they travel to a lake house in order to juice up their marriage. After handcuffing his wife to the bed in hopes of pleasuring her, a series of events lead to her being trapped on the bed, alone. Exploring her tragic backstory, while simultaneously showing her struggles throughout her current situation, there's absolutely nothing pleasant about this viewing experience. This is actually quite an impressive piece of storytelling. While this dark and twisted story will leave many probably not wishing to finish the movie, there's no denying that director Mike Flanagan has crafted another tense film. Helming solid horror flicks like Hush and Ouija: Origin of Evil, I knew that this film was in good hands, even though I truthfully didn't know much about it when going in. Flanagan does a wonderful job in sucking you into this premise, and I believe this easily could've been a very boring idea, even though my experience of this overall film did drag a bit. Although that should be a minor complaint, this aspect is precisely what will keep me from watching it a second time. I'm all for a movie taking its time to tell a worthwhile story, but I found myself bored quite often throughout the majority of the film. By the time the third act had hit, I was still very intrigued with what was going to happen next, but I wasn't as invested. Yes, the conclusion is satisfying, but even for a mere 100 minute runtime, I think it could've been shaved to about 80. From it's near silent score, to great direction, everything about this movie is atmospheric and well-done, but I wasn't sucked into this premise like I wanted to be. In the end, this is a hard movie to recommend, because even though the premise itself is interesting, it's very slow and it has some pretty brutal imagery that I even have issues with, and that never happens to me. Gerald's Game is a nice little thriller that's meant to unnerve its audience, and while it does just that, it's also a tedious experience in my opinion. There isn't much I can say without ruining the movie, but I'll warn you by stating that my description of it is unsettling at times won't even begin to cover it for some people. Overall, this is a well-made film with a solid ending, but I just wasn't invested enough to ever feel the need to watch it again. It's worthy of the praise that it's receiving, but it just wasn't for me.
    KJ P Super Reviewer

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