The Harshness of Reality

When it comes to horror movies, I am a rather hard fellow to impress because I’m quite skeptical of superstition. Ghosts and graveyards aren’t too scary to me, since I have never had a supernatural experience and don’t believe in such things. However, realistic horror with elements that actually exist—serial killers, and such like it—catch my attention very quickly.

The movie Gerald’s Game is a thriller based on a book of the same title, written by the king of modern horror novels, Stephen King. It is a frightening and clever story about a woman’s struggle to survive a challenging situation with only her negative thoughts to keep her company. (Spoilers ahead.) Most of the film takes place in one room, where Jessie (Carla Gugino) meets her daunting task of escaping from a bed she was handcuffed to. Her husband Gerald (Bruce Greenwood) is no help, having died after handcuffing her in an attempt to “spice up” their sex life. Not long after her realization that she can’t escape—and that her husband is certainly dead on the floor in front of the bed—the mental image of her husband and her inner-self appear to her in physical form. First, they mock her for being so foolish, and tease her about a scarring event that occurred when she was a little girl, but then they help her remember what her mind already knows, reflecting on both her past experiences and her current surroundings so she can fight for her life.

This film isn’t based on the usual “jump-scare” theatrics, but instead uses the more sinister, practical idea of an accident that leaves one helpless and alone. The only part of the film that appears unreal is the figure that lingers in the corner of the room at night while Jessie is trapped. She closes her eyes when he comes, telling him, “You’re not real. You’re just moonlight,” but her mind’s version of Gerald tells her repeatedly that it’s “Death,” and he’s coming to claim her if she doesn’t escape.

The film primarily focuses on Jessie and her own thoughts and memories as the entertainment for the viewer. Jessie’s visible and audible creations of herself and her husband, while constantly taunting her, also help reveal certain traits Jessie has that she was formerly unaware of. While at first seeming supernatural, the visible embodiments are only representative of her own thoughts while she is there alone, and I found that the pragmatism was enjoyable. Jessie’s clever way of utilizing certain tools was satisfying to watch, and the voices in her head were a good representation of the inner-critic that I’d like to believe all people have.

Now that I’ve mentioned the realistic horror of the film, I should say that anyone who happens to enjoy supernatural or jump-scare movies with many surprises, might not care for this film too much. While it is scary in a more sensible way, the scenery doesn’t change at all in the moments that matter most, and there are no particular entities or scenes that will make the viewer jump out of their seats.

I am always harsh to judge a horror movie, because I am not intrigued by the typical “demon-possession,” or “haunted-house” ideas. They are too unrealistic to me, and when used in a horror movie that is meant to scare me, they don’t do a great job. A film about a serial killer, a terrible accident, or an unfortunate situation that the character or characters must escape, is more my style. The situations presented in such movies are usually logical and could possibly have happened to someone. Supernatural events might be scary to some, but for me, it’s being able to imagine myself in a horrific and realistic situation, which could potentially happen, that is truly terrifying.

If, like me, you’re sick of the impractical superstition of most horror films, then I promise you that the one hour and forty-three minutes it takes to watch Gerald’s Game will be more than worth your time.



Gerald’s Game is available to stream on Netflix.