There are two types of Stephen King fans: those who loved Gerald’s Game (1992) and those who hated it (to be fair, with King being so prolific, there are many more types of Stephen King fans). I hated it. It’s one of the few Stephen King books I would say is objectively bad.
I know that literature is always subjective, but in my mind, Gerald’s Game is not. So when Netflix aired the trailer for a Gerald’s Game movie, I got ready to re-live that excruciating read.
Gerald’s Game tells the story about a man and his wife who try to reconnect by playing sex games in a cabin in the woods. While she is handcuffed, she accidentally kills him. The rest of the book sees her trying to escape while facing real and imaginary dangers.
It’s a great premise, and I was excited to read it at first, but it turned out to be the worst Stephen King novel I’ve ever read.
Netflix series and movies always interest me because much of the content they’ve released has been excellent (and if you need to, find out how to watch US Netflix). Because of that, and also because I have to watch every single Stephen King movie adaptation, I gave it a chance. And somehow, it worked! It was a really good movie. It won’t win any awards, but it was exactly what a good horror should be.
There are 3 reasons I think the movie succeeded where the book failed.
Internal monologue has its place in good literature. Stephen King uses it a lot, and to great effect. The problem with Gerald’s Game is that most of the story was simply internal monologue. We had to stay in the mind of a person who is trapped for days with no one to speak to and no way to call for help. We had to experience part of that horror with her. There was no way it could have been an enjoyable read.
But on screen, the internal monologue is externally expressed. The acting is excellent, and a little bit of body language does more than pages of words can. We don’t have to get claustrophobic with her.
Gerald’s Game runs for 103 minutes. By movie standards, this is average. Compared to the 332 page book, it’s blissfully short. Reading a novel – even a relatively short one (in terms of King’s corpus) – is an undertaking. So, while the premise is excellent, it’s too much to be carried out over a long period of time. The action is spread too thin. But the movie can be watched in less than 2 hours. You don’t have to carry the stench of Gerald’s dead body with you for days.
We’re more woke
As much as I dislike the term “woke”, it fits here. In this day and age, when the issue of consent is being aired left right and center, we have a much more nuanced view of the subject than we used to. In the two and a half decades since the book was released, we’ve learnt a lot. While the book represented aggression in relationships, sexual hangups, and sexual violence decently, it was speaking to a different audience, one which had a more limited view of the subject. It was necessarily less nuanced. The movie, however, is speaking to people who have been bombarded with thought pieces on these matters. The protagonist’s struggles are therefore more relatable, and have a part in our societal dialogue.
Categorised in: Horror Movies
This post was written by Nadia Vella