Gerald’s Game by Stephen King (1992)
Gerald’s Game directed by Mike Flanagan (2017)
Mike Flanagan is a well-known director in the horror genre, and I have even covered another one of his Stephen King adaptations-Doctor Sleep! I love the book and movie Doctor Sleep and if you haven’t watched that episode you definitely should!
Gerald’s Game is the sister book to Dolores Claiborne which I did a book vs movie for last year. In Dolores there were moments when she had visions of this girl, and later when the girl was a woman. In that video I wondered who King was referring to and in the comments, people told me it was Jessie from Gerald’s Game! So, I knew it was one I needed to cover! As in Dolores, in Gerald’s Game, Jessie has a couple visions of Dolores but if you haven’t read Dolores, you might be confused about those parts. These visions are even talked about in the Gerald’s Game movie.
As I talk about Gerald’s Game, there will be a light spoiler in regard to Dolores.
I absolutely loved Dolores Claiborne and it is my third favorite King book. Gerald’s Game has some similar motif’s such as an important event in both of their lives taking place when they were in the line of totality during the same eclipse. Both books also have girls who are sexually abused by their fathers.
Gerald’s was also reminiscent of Misery by Stephen King because we have a character trapped and is is trying to escape. In Misery, he talks about a game called Can I where a writer tries to get a character out of an impossible situation without cheating or playing the deus ex machina card. Gerald’s Game is basically just Stephen King playing Can I. I mean, it’s more than just that because there is character development but still.
Unfortunately, though I didn’t love Gerald’s as much as either Misery or Dolores.
The scenes with her father were very upsetting (in Dolores there were no descriptions of the abuse) and I really dislike the ending of Gerald’s. It felt like he tacked on a story that had very little to do with Jessie, like he should have just turned the last 75 pages or so into its own novella.
Ending aside, the novel itself is fine but nothing I would highly recommend to others.
Going forward there will be spoilers for both the book and movie!
Jessie being stuck
In both book and movie, Jessie and Gerald have been married for nearly 20 years and they go to their vacation home. In the book specifically, we learn that the last year (I think) they have started tying Jessie to the bed as a way to make their intimate life more exciting. It started with scarves until it progressed eventually to police grade handcuffs. Again, in the book, we learn that Jessie liked being tied and even liked the handcuffs the first time. However, after the first time, the novelty of it soon wore off and she doesn’t like it anymore but Gerald still does.
At the lake house, he cuffs her to the bed but soon into it, she says she doesn’t want to do this and is uncomfortable. Gerald gets upset in both, and when she asks him to unlock her, he says. “What if I don’t?” After this in the movie, he goes into kiss her and she bites his lip. He is startled and upset, and then has a heart attack and dies.
In the book he acts like her wanting out is part of the game but she can tell he knows she meant it and he is choosing to believe she is just playing. She ends up kicking him and after the kick he has a heart attack and dies.
The house is fairly secluded and there are no neighbors she can call to and there isn’t anyone that will even be coming by the house for a few days. The book takes place in the early ‘90’s but in the 2017 one it is modern day. Jessie has a cell phone but it is too far to reach and it is low battery anyway because Gerald didn’t charge it.
In the book Jessie starts having voices in her head. One of them is the voice of her former roommate named Ruth, another is a version of herself she calls Goody, another is the voice of her younger self, and every now and then there is a “UFO voice” that she doesn’t recognize.
In the movie, after Gerald dies, Jessie sees him get up off the floor but we see it is a hallucination. There is another version of herself that escapes the cuffs, and this too is a hallucination. This other Jessie and this version of Gerald are the two voices she talks to in the movie. I loved the way this was done! I assumed Bruce Greenwood, who plays Gerald, wouldn’t be in much of the movie since he dies so early. But this was a cool way to give him more screen time. Carla Gugino who plays Jessie is also incredible in the various versions of herself that she plays.
In the movie, when they are driving to the house they see a stray, mangy dog in the street and avoid hitting it. When they arrive, Jessie puts some meat on a plate to help the dog.
The door to the house had been open, and when Gerald fell off the bed, he hit is head and there is blood. The dog smells the blood and is able to get inside and starts eating him.
In the book, they hadn’t seen the dog until he comes inside after Gerald died. In the book we get sections from the dog’s perspective and I really liked those moments. Seeing from the dog’s perspective had me feeling so bad for it, that in the end I was hoping Jessie would adopt the dog. We instead learn that the police find the dog after her escape and shoot it.
When watching the movie, I realized how ridiculous it would have been for Jessie to adopt it. Not only does it now have a taste for human flesh, but seeing it eat Gerald in the movie I was like, yeah, no way I would adopt a dog after seeing it do that to a human! In the movie the dog also tries to get Jessie twice, which wasn’t in the book.
While Jessie is stuck, she has dreams and the voices make her think back to what happened during the eclipse when she was a kid. In the book she was only 10 if I am remembering right. Maybe pushing 11, but still, only 10. In the movie she is 12.
Regardless of her age, what happens is upsetting and gross either way. She is a “daddy’s girl” and doesn’t want to go with the others during the eclipse and instead stays at the house with her dad. As the eclipse is happening is when her dad molests her.
In the movie, her dad seemed like a creep right away and was giving bad vibes. In the book he was giving bad vibes too, but it seemed like in the movie it was so clear.
In both, he manipulates her into not saying anything to anyone afterwards. In the movie this is shown more blatantly but it is mentioned in the book as well.
Jessie never emotionally recovered from this and in the movie, there is a part where the other Jessie and the Gerald in her mind confront her about why she never told Gerald. She said it had nothing to do with her and Gerald. When it did, because that event effected every aspect of Jessie’s life. It made me think of a podcast where the person was saying when someone has going through something difficult, they think they don’t want to deal with it or process it and instead just want to bury it down deep so it won’t affect them. But when you don’t consciously face things that happen, your subconscious faces it instead and finds unhealthy ways to cope that just end up hurting you. The moral of the story is that your brain will find a way to “deal with” difficult things and if you leave it up to your subconscious it will just cause you pain.
Space Cowboy/Moonlight Man
The first night Jessie is there she wakes up to see a man in the corner. He looks creepy and smells like death and in the book, Jessie first thinks it is her father who has been dead for over 10 years now. In both, he leans forward and shows her this bag he is carrying which is filled with jewelry mixed with bones.
The next day she feels the man is death itself and that he will come for her the next night if she doesn’t escape. She also sees a footprint and a pearl earring on the floor, which is evidence to prove it wasn’t just her imagination.
In book and movie, we get a tense scene where Jessie is getting water from the shelf above their bed and makes a straw to drink it. In the book we also get a scene of her trying to use lotion on the shelf to make her hand slippery so it will slide out of the cuff but that doesn’t work out.
In both, she remembers the day of the eclipse and in the book the thing used to watch the eclipse had glass and her dad remarked how he doesn’t want to take her to the hospital because she has cut off her fingers.
In movie, when her mom gets home, she asks how it went at home and Jessie accidently breaks the glass cup she is holding and cuts her hand.
After this memory in book and movie, Jessie thinks about how slick blood is and she just needs to cut her hand and she will be able to slide it out.
In both, this is a gruesome scene where she cuts her hand after breaking the glass cup and pulls her hand through but basically skins her hand in the process.
In both she tries the phone but her cell phone is dead and in the book the phone line is dead.
She is able to unlock her other hand and bandages the bad one but then passes out. When she wakes up it is dark and the creepy guy is there but she gets away in their car. In book she hits a tree and passes out again until morning when she drives to a location with people who see her and help. In the movie, she crashes the car in front of some house or office place and gets out and people see and help.
When Jessie does escape, it is night and he is there and she gives him her wedding ring but it then able to escape in her car. But she then sees him in the backseat and crashes.
In both, after getting back home she isn’t sure after all, if he was real or a figment of her imagination. The police didn’t find her ring, or the pearl earring, but they also didn’t find the footprint.
In the book she gets the help of one of Gerald’s co-lawyers to help her know if this man is real or not. He finds out he is real and we hear this guy’s backstory and what he has done to people. He has recently been caught and jessie has this guy take her to the creepy guy’s arrangement.
In the book, she walks up to him and spits in his face and leaves.
In the movie, she sees his picture in the paper and learns about him. From there she goes to the courthouse to see him and she walks up to him and says how he is smaller than she remembers and walks out.
In the movie we also see that she has started a foundation for kids who have been sexually abused. In the book, we see her writing to Ruth, the friend whose voice helped her.
Thoughts on the end
In the book, the Moonlight Man played a bigger role, but it still wasn’t big enough to justify this end portion that goes over his life in detail. I get that her facing him in the courthouse is significant because she never faced her father and her spitting on this man is her also spitting on her father and even Gerald for the things, they had done to her. Even so, I just really didn’t like this end. It drags out way too much and just felt like another story entirely.
In the movie, finding the creepy guy seems even more out of place because he wasn’t even in as much as he had been in the book. Flanagan should have just changed the ending entirely from the book and given the movie something better.
I do like that she starts a foundation though. She says how she spent like 30 years not telling the story and how it ate her up inside, and now she says that story nearly every day and is able to free herself from it. As they say, “you’re only as sick as your secrets” so once you bring those secrets out in the open, you can finally get better.
Random final thoughts
In the movie, Gerald takes Viagra but that wasn’t the case in the book. In the movie, Jessie also realizes the similarities between her dad and Gerald but in the book, I don’t remember them having much in common. Aside from them just trying to control her and manipulate her in various ways.
In the book we learn that after the eclipse she started hearing voices in her head-voices who judged her and were paranoid. When she is 12 it is her brother’s birthday and she bends down to get a croquet ball and her brother “gooses” her, which is something I had never heard of. But apparently, it’s when you poke someone butt. Her brother does this when the song from the eclipse is playing and jessie is triggered and turns around and punches her brother. This ends up being therapeutic in a way and Jessie stops hearing the voices after this.
Book vs movie
I actually liked the movie better than the book. I found it more engaging and the acting was superb. It is also a faithful adaptation so there weren’t any changes that bothered me. In fact, my complaint is with the last ten minutes wishing they would have differed from the book! The movie ending is worse and more out of place than the book ending, but the book ending is still pretty out of place as well.