Countdown to Halloween Part 1 – That Moment When You Forget About Much Horror Movies Trigger Your Flight or Fight Responses
Gerald’s Game | Directed By Mike Flanagan | Horror | TV-MA | 1 H 43 MIN
By Jocelyn Illing
Since we are now in the middle of October, I thought it was about time that I begin watching scary movies on the regular. Searching through my endless Netflix cue I had to decide exactly which type of horror movie I was in the mood for. Early 2000s supernatural? 1970s gore? One of the Chucky movies? Gerald’s Game had been on my list for quite some time and a friend had mentioned it the other day, so I thought why not? What I did not know when I chose to watch this film is that it triggers many bodily responses that I had never really experienced when watching a film. Clearly after my dry spell of not watching horror films, this was not the best way to ease back into it. However, although I felt my heart beat faster, sweat dripping down my neck, and my stomach churning so much I feared that something might come up, it was all experienced in the best way possible. These responses are perhaps one of the most powerful effects of cinema, and I welcome them with open arms.
Gerald’s Game begins with a simple premise; Jessie (Carla Gugino) and her much older husband Gerald (Bruce Greenwood) escape to their country cottage for the weekend in order to spice up their marriage. Almost immediately after they arrive, Gerald makes the purpose of this trip known, leading Jessie into the bedroom and, much to Jessie’s surprise, retrieving a pair of handcuffs that he had packed in his over-night bag. Now, if the two of them were on the same page in terms of their sexual kinks, I would have applauded them for their experimentation. Unfortunately, this is not the case. Upon being handcuff, Jessie shows extremely visible signs of discomfort and even expresses verbally that she does not give consent. Hushing her, Gerald continues his little game (see what I did there) until he gets his comeuppance. He has a heart attack and falls on top of Jessie. Alone, apart from the stray dog who gnaws on her husband’s corpse, and handcuffed, Jessie must race against the clock and find a way to escape before it is too late.
When I first started watching the Gerlad’s Game I was hesitant about the its potential. From what little I had heard of the film; I was afraid it was just going to be some torture porn film that would make me so uncomfortable that I would have to shut it off after the first 20 minutes. Thankfully, the film dug a little deeper into the characters and the scenario. The structure of plot (I’m going to try my best not to spoil it) invited us into Jessies’ psyche so that we can better understand her and so that her situation becomes even more real to us. This is partly how the film causes our bodies to respond in certain ways. We can empathize with her and steps into her shoes. Additionally, Gerald’s Game gifts us with many other horror movie tropes - such as gore, jump scares and ghosts - that act as delightful little cherries on top of this deliciously frightening sundae.
What I also did not think about when choosing to watch this film was how it would relate to my current situation. Although I am not handcuffed to my bedpost I have been “confined” to my house since the beginning of the pandemic. Staying in one place for two long and seeing the same people over and over again is enough to make a person to go mad. As I watched Jessie talk to herself and experience hallucinations, I could not help but feel her loneliness and fear of the future (to a lesser degree of course). Additionally, I began to think about what I would do if I were in her situation? Would I panic and give up or would I be able to find the strength in me to problem solve and fight my way out? I think that might be what makes horror films, such as this one, so scary; your ability to put yourself in the protagonists situation and think “what if this happened to be in real life.” Kind of a dark note to end this review but yeah.