It and Dark Tower weren't the only film adaptations of Stephen King novels to come out recently. On Sept. 29, Netflix released Gerald's Game, too, which isn't even the last King film adaptation to come out this year, as a movie based on 1922 is also coming out later this October. While you wait for that, though, Gerald's Game will fulfill all of your desires for scary Stephen King stories. The film takes place in a remote cottage on a couple's vacation that takes a dark turn when a woman, Jessie, is left all alone, handcuffed to a bed. So is Jessie from Gerald's Game a real person? She's not, though she has a lot of hauntingly realistic characteristics.
You can probably guess from the words "Stephen King" and "remote cottage" that Gerald's Game is terrifying, but the plot makes it even worse since it's basically every woman's nightmare. After Jessie's (played by Carla Gugino) husband, Gerald (Bruce Greenwood), handcuffs her to the bed in an attempt to rekindle their flame, she begins to feel uncomfortable and tells him to stop. Before he can un-cuff her, Gerald has a heart attack and dies, leaving Jessie to lie in solitude, re-living her traumatic past that involved childhood sexual assault. Not only must Jessie fear the resurfacing of her past, but she also fears the threat of dying of dehydration or being visited by harmful beings. Suddenly, vicious clowns don't even sound that scary, do they?
Even if Jessie isn't based on a specific real person, so many aspects of her character likely sound familiar. She may not be trapped in the house by someone intentionally, but Jessie's plight is reminiscent of true stories in the news about women being kidnapped and held captive. Not only is Jessie's entrapment something that could happen in real life, but her entire psychological experience is actually based in reality, as well. Once Jessie finds herself chained to the bed, feeling helpless, she becomes flooded with repressed memories of similar experiences she'd had as a child.
Suddenly, the line between reality and hallucinations, induced by stress, dehydration, and likely the putrid body of her dead husband lying at the foot of her bed, becomes blurred. While some thoughts Jessie has seem manufactured, others, dark memories from the past, feel clearer than they'd ever been to her. Part of what makes Jessie's epiphanies and flashbacks of her past so terrifying is knowing that some of the scariest visions she has are actually based on reality for the character, and could actually happen in real life.
It's worth mentioning, also, that all of the imagery of sexual assault are all too realistic in today's world. Right now, women are flooded with stories of assault and harassment, and even without the supernatural aspects of Gerald's Game, Gerald's initial refusal to heed Jessie's demands that he un-cuff her from the bed while he was alive is an all too real storyline that will cause many women to want to shut their eyes. Jessie later imagines Gerald as an overly critical, reproaching figure, and it's an evocative glimpse into how someone who has suffered from abuse can so deeply internalize their negative self-talk.
For a movie about a woman who literally can't escape a bed, there's a lot going on in Gerald's Game, which makes it all the more impressive. It's certainly a good reminder that every couple experimenting with BDSM for the first time should establish a safe word, and discuss it beforehand. As Gerald's Game successfully conveys, relationships and sex can be a great source for horror, and sadly this is a fact with which far too many women are familiar.