Netflix movie of the day: Gerald's Game reveals the perils of sex-based games in spooky adaptation of 1992 Stephen King novel

Jessie lies handcuffed to a bed with Gerald on top of her in Netflix movie Gerald's Game
Gerald's Game is a tense psychological horror-thriller that'll appeal to Stephen King fans. (Image credit: Netflix)
Movie of the day

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Film adaptations of Stephen King novels are nothing new, but Netflix took its time in delivering a live-action movie based on one of the acclaimed author's literary works. When every other studio has had their pick of what many consider to be his best stories, though, there are only a few that haven't been adapted for the big and/or small screen – Gerald's Game among them.

And yet here we are, discussing the world's best streaming service's attempt to do justice to King 1992 novel of the same name. For the uninitiated: Gerald's Game is a psychological horror that begins with a sex game gone wrong. Jessie (Carla Gugino) and Gerald (Bruce Greenwood) decide to spice up their love life but, when tragedy befalls her husband, Jessie is left helpless as, well, she's been left handcuffed to their bed. Oh, and she has no way of getting the key to regain her freedom. Without spoiling anything, things go rapidly and horrifyingly downhill from there.

A game not worth playing, but a film that's worth watching

Of the seemingly infinite number of Stephen King movie adaptations, Gerald's Game is one of the better attempts to deliver a film befitting his rich source material. That's largely down to Gugino's incredible performance – "It's a barnstorming showcase for Gugino, so often underused, who tackles a difficult, physically restricted role with gusto," The Guardian wrote at the time of its 2017 release – and Mike Flanagan's keen directorial eye. 

If you're familiar with Flanagan's other works, such as The Haunting of... series and The Fall of the House of Usher (which are some of the best Netflix shows around), you'll know that he's more than adept at jump scares and psychological horror. Throw in some intricate editing and a suspense-filled screenplay – Flanagan penned it alongside Jeff Howard – based on King's novel, and you have all the ingredients for a modern day spooky thriller.

Given the critical acclaim it was met with, it's unsurprising that so many reviewers enjoyed it. The Hollywood Reporter said "the film is [Flanagan's] most accomplished to date, the result of the years he's spent giving a damn about his characters and their anguish. He's so good at it, he even makes it look easy". Uproxx was similarly effusive in its praise, saying: "Flanagan has a command of how to make the most of a single location, and Gerald's Game often captures a sense of mounting tension and fear through small touches."

CinemaBlend summed it up best, though, noting: "If this is any indication of what a continued partnership would bring, Netflix and Stephen King should look for as many chances as they can to stay together". Unfortunately, with Flanagan signing a first-look deal with Netflix's fierce rival in Prime Video, we won't get to see him tackle any more King-based stories for the former. Still, Gerald's Game is a flick we should consider adding to our best Netflix movies guide at some point.

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Carrie Marshall

Writer, broadcaster, musician and kitchen gadget obsessive Carrie Marshall (Twitter) has been writing about tech since 1998, contributing sage advice and odd opinions to all kinds of magazines and websites as well as writing more than a dozen books. Her memoir, Carrie Kills A Man, is on sale now. She is the singer in Glaswegian rock band HAVR.

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