If you love suspense and love a GOOD Stephen King adaptation, you might want to decide to watch Gerald’s Game on Netflix and oh boy, I was happy with what they’ve done. Ever since watching “A Good Marriage” I have been waiting for someone who has guts to tackle Gerald’s Game and make it into a feature length movie. Thank you Netflix!
The book is a thriller like no other. Written in 1992 (when you couldn’t just say “Siri, call the police”), the book centers around Jessie who escapes with her husband to an isolated retreat in order to bring some kinkiness into their marital life. While Jessie had some mild role-play in mind, her husband had other plans. He handcuffs her to the bed with real cuffs (not the pink fuzzy ones) and wants to re-enact a rape fantasy, where she screams and struggles and cannot break free.
Any normal woman by now would have sensed that this request comes from a slightly deranged mind and when she asks him to stop and he refuses, she kicks him hard in the balls.
The pain and the shock and probably the viagra he’d swallowed, cause him to have a heart-attack and fall to the floor.
So that’s how the book starts. Thrilling so far, you think, but wait, there is more. The keys to the handcuffs are not within reach and there’s no-one to help her break free.
“When all the normal patterns and routines of a person’s life fell apart—and with such shocking suddenness—you had to find something you could hold onto, something that was both sane and predictable.”
The book continues to follow Jessie as her fight for survival is bound to break her psyche and she hears her voice (the sensible one) and also her dead husband’s – both cheering her on or telling her she does not have a chance. In the midst of it, she remembers fragmentary scenes from her past, as she was just a girl, an innocent girl, and a beast wearing the face of her father, changed her life.
Wrenching and premature rites of passage, precipitated by a life-threatening relationship between parents and children, occur frequently. In Jessie’s case, her innocence and faith are violated by her beloved father’s sexual abuse of her. Like King’s other sacrificial children, Jessie has not escaped the consequences of this violation; she has only repressed the memory. Hence, her development as a woman is radically altered as the romantic musical refrain “Tammy’s in love” shifts to the incipient sexual violence of “a woman likes it that way.” She is emotionally traumatized as evidenced in her lack of desire for career, children or any other intimate, ongoing relationship.
This book is not about the external monsters you would expect in a horror book, but the human ones. You can see social issues expand before your eyes and a strong female lead emerge from the ashes. I loved how claustrofobic this novel was. It all happens inside a single room in a time span of 48h.
You get to experience her predicament almost first-hand, from the wild hope inspired by a bottle of cream within reach, to the ecstasy of being able to get a drink of cold water—all without bringing her handcuffed hand to her mouth. Few novels, even those devoted to an interior monologue, get within the skin of a character as well as King’s depiction of Jessie’s captivity.
As she tries to escape, she needs to escape her past and her present together
[Gerald’s Game] goes straight to the oldest, reptilian part of the human brain: fight or flight — but here, flight’s out of the question. This is true horror — helplessness.
When she does break free, it’s through force of mind over body – by pulling her hand through the cuff, breaking off her entire layer of skin.
“I’m peeling my hand, she thought. Oh dear Jesus, I’m peeling it like an orange.”
He escapes the house and the nightmare and comes to term with the abuse she suffered as a child. Happy end.
Where’s the supernatural?
Throughout the book, there are two almost-supernatural elements. A dog that keeps on coming for more dead-man meat (reminding me of Cujo), and a stranger, tall and gangly, who keeps on staring at her through the doorway.
You don’t know whether he’s real or not, whether he’s bringing death or just there to see her die. When you find out *spoiler*
that he’s actually just an escaped mental patient with a murderous history
you feel kinda cheated. “Oh, he was just a human”. But was he? Who could sit by and watch another person go through waves of suffering without being the slightest bit moved? Well, maybe this guy, but still.
10/10 read, give it a go and let me know what you think