Mike Flanagan is well known at this point as a prolific Netflix filmmaker with such hits in his lengthy filmography as The Haunting of Hill House, Doctor Sleep, The Haunting of Bly Manor, and Midnight Mass. Before Flanagan became the household name that he is today, he wrote and directed one of the most mind-bending thrillers of 2017, Gerald’s Game, which is available to stream now on Netflix. The film holds highly favorable reviews and contains a shocking twist that will make you question everything.
Long thought to be completely un-filmable due to its dark subject matter and ethereal setting, Gerald’s Game centers on themes of women’s rights, exploitation, the occult, and sexual violence and manipulation.
Gerald’s Game stars a number of household names, as well as several frequent Mike Flanagan collaborators such as The Haunting of Hill House‘s Carla Gugino, Henry Thomas, and Kate Siegel. The cast also includes Star Trek‘s Bruce Greenwood, How To Get Away With Murder‘s Gwendolyn McCann, and The Addams Family‘s Carel Struycken. Flanagan co-wrote the screenplay with Jeff Howard, adapting the 1992 Stephen King novel of the same name.
Long thought to be completely un-filmable due to its dark subject matter and ethereal setting, Gerald’s Game centers on themes of women’s rights, exploitation, the occult, and sexual violence and manipulation. The film features some of the most graphic and bloody scenes in any Netflix film to date and manages to shock and awe audiences while spending most of its runtime in a single location.
Gerald’s Game follows Carla Gugino’s Jessie and Bruce Greenwood’s Gerald Burlingame as they prepare to spend a romantic weekend getaway in a remote cabin in Fairhope, Alabama. The pair have found great strain in their marriage in recent years due to a lack of sexual chemistry, leading Gerald to a host of affairs.
The wild experience of Gerald’s Game starts normal, gets weird, and then manages to become even stranger before it finally ends.
Though the two have mixed feelings about the future of their marriage, they have planned an elaborate sexual experience in the cabin, which sees Gerald handcuffing Jessie to the bedposts and enacting a sexual assault fantasy with her in an attempt to regain their spark.
Though Jessie initially agrees to Gerald’s sexual game, she quickly becomes uncomfortable with her lack of agency in the endeavor, leading to a heated argument between the couple. Just as Gerald is preparing to uncuff Jessie, he suffers a massive heart attack, landing on top of her while she is trapped in the cuffs. In a panic, Jessie attempts to resuscitate her husband, accidentally knocking him to the floor, leaving him lifeless and just barely out of her field of vision.
Jessie screams for help, but the cabin is highly remote, leaving nobody nearby to hear her. After hours of waiting in helplessness, a stray dog eventually pushes the unlocked door open and enters the home, biting out a chunk of Gerald’s arm. Though it seems that Gerald is certainly dead at this point, the psychological horror of Gerald’s Game has only just begun.
Gerald stands from the floor and begins monologuing in a twisted scene which Jessie quickly realizes, is all in her head. The hallucination of Gerald begins to taunt Jessie, continuing their fight from earlier while informing her that she is becoming dehydrated and only has a certain number of hours to escape before she becomes doomed to die cuffed to the bed. From here, the hallucination scenes only become more trippy and elaborate in Gerald’s Game, causing Jessie to relive a series of her most horrific emotional traumas.
In case you haven’t seen it yet, many critics consider Gerald’s Game to be among the best Stephen King film adaptations since The Shining.
As Gerald’s Game continues, Jessie hallucinates a creepy and mysterious bone-collecting giant inhabiting the spirit of death, as well as a number of allusions to her sexually abusive and manipulative father, who we see tormenting a 12-year-old version of Jessie in a highly disturbing flashback sequence. As she rapidly runs out of time to escape from the encroaching clutches of death, Jessie builds the strength necessary to smash a glass left near the bed and cut through her wrists enough to escape. The final act of the film then devolves into one of the most bizarre and absurd twists of all time as Jessie struggles to find medical help while bleeding profusely.
Gerald’s Game premiered to incredible reviews, culminating in a staggering 91 percent critical score on the review aggregate site Rotten Tomatoes, specifically praising Carla Gugino’s incredible tour de force performance as well as the brooding and atmospheric direction of Mike Flanagan. In case you haven’t seen it yet, many critics consider Gerald’s Game to be among the best Stephen King film adaptations since The Shining. The film is currently available to stream on Netflix.