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The Deep Meaning Behind ‘Gerald’s Game’ (And How It Will Scare You Out of Your Pants at the Same Time)

‘Gerald’s Game’ is more than just your typical horror film.

Picture from the movie 'Gerald's Game'

For those who know me, it is a well-known fact that I love horror movies. I grew up with movies like The Shining and The Exorcist and remember the thrill I would get from watching them, and how I would stay up all thinking about the frightful stories. Unfortunately, I have not been able to feel that in a while and no horror movie has had that impact. They were all predictable, cheesy, or I had built a sort of tolerance to horror after seeing so many typical movies. Sadly, I assumed there was no chance of being scared again. That all ended after Netflix’s Gerald’s Game.

Based on the Stephen King novel, Gerald’s Game is about a woman who is handcuffed to her bed during a sex game with her husband, and after he dies unexpectedly from a heart attack, she is left alone and must fight to survive all the while hearing strange voices and experiencing hallucinations.

If you haven’t seen the movie, I would recommend you do so right away. If you have, here is why many critics think this is the best King movie adaptation, and how it is not your regular horror film.

The movie focuses on the main protagonist Jessie. Throughout her life, she was abused by her father and later the patterns continue with her husband. When she is tied to her bed in a sex scene the film, she relives the sexual abuse she experienced by her father and comes to a realization of the poor relationship she now has with her husband. What Stephen King was exploring in this sordid tale was how many sadistic and violent offenders, like her father and husband, do not view the humanity of others and objectify them during heinous sexual acts.

This is expressed most in the film in the last ten minutes when it is revealed that the “Moonlight Man, who the viewer thought was one of the hallucinations of Jessie’s, was, in fact, an actual person: a serial killer and a necrophiliac who stood nightly by Jessie’s bedside. With this new knowledge, a second viewing of the film releases a whole new dimension of horror—and proves that Gerald’s Game has an intellectual horrific depth.

In the last few moments of the film, Jessie is able to confront the “Moonlight Man” (whose real name is Raymond Andrew Jourbet) and as she bravely walks up to him, he turns around and says to her “You’re not real. You’re only made of moonlight.”

Scene from ‘Gerald’s Game’

At that moment, Gerald’s Game became more than a sexual horror film. It highlights its existence as a powerful drama about abusers and their perceptions of their victims. In the courtroom when the “Moonlight Man” speaks those eight words to her, it is shown that he does not see Jessie, a person, as real. He just saw her, along with his many other victims, as an object to be maimed and killed.

“You’re so much smaller than I remember,” Jessie says to him, then turns her back and walks out of the courtroom. In the moment when she turns her back on her tormentor, she is also turning away from her father and her husband. She decides to face her trauma head-on rather than bury it inside her. This allows her to take the power away from those who have harmed her and gives a beautiful and cathartic end to the film.

Gerald’s Game is powerful. The message of confronting one’s fears engulfs you until the end, and without it, Gerald’s Game would have just been another scary movie. All in all, it is a symphony of suspense and scares, and spiked with the perfect morality tale. Gerald’s Game shows that even in the genre of horror, these important themes can still be present.

So go to Netflix and watch Gerald’s Game. The entire movie straight to the end will keep you on the edge of your seat.

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Written by Nilofer Rolston

Nilofer Rolston is a Pakistani Canadian and a passionate intersectional feminist. She is an inspiring novelist who likes to read, write, and watch scary movies in her spare time.

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