By Nicole Zamlout
Horror has held humanity entrapped since the dawn of time — perhaps because there really are monsters that go bump in the night.
Or perhaps it’s because the real monsters are all too human.
This is the thought Stephen King may have had when he wrote the story, “Gerald’s Game.”
The Netflix adaptation of the same title certainly did, which made it amazing to see how the worst monsters look all too similar to us.
The premise seems familiar to King fans: a married couple that struggles with intimacy and communication goes on a romantic getaway for the weekend.
It quickly spirals into dangerous territory when the husband, Gerald, dies unexpectedly.
This leaves his wife, Jessica, alone and handcuffed to the bed in a remote cabin.
The story took a surprising turn as we see into her memories, which unfold the story of a dark secret that led her there. As she fights to survive both her present predicament and the possibly of real monsters haunting her, she also battles her inner demons. In short, it’s a premise that can spin a tale we haven’t seen before.
Some important things to note about the film is the fantastic cinematography, the perfect uses of plausibility and impossibility in the narrative (in the form of the elusive “Moonlight Man”) and the incredible acting done by the leads. All are worth merit, and all helped piece the story together into a horrifying story of hope.
What truly surprised me in this narrative is the exploration of what Sigmund Freud theorized to be the battle between the life instinct and death drive. In one of his lesser known works “Beyond the Pleasure Principle,” Freud theorized that humans have two drives.
The life instinct, Eros, wants us to procreate and interact with our fellow humans.
The other is our self-loathing, jealousy, anger and aggression. This one is called the death drive or Thanatos.
In the film, Jessica becomes panicked and sees manifestations of herself and Gerald as she tries to figure out a solution to her impromptu imprisonment. The manifestation that appears as herself is her life instinct trying to keep her on track and focused on staying alive.
Gerald is her death drive, trying to sidetrack her and crush her hope of survival.
This war perfectly personifies this concept without being heavy handed or taking away from the film.
The fact that this film dives into concepts like this while also scaring us with the possibility of the supernatural hanging too close is masterful to say the least.
The director, Mike Flanagan, certainly knew that he wanted to illustrate the true horror of those kind of uncomfortable situations while staying true to King’s style of seamlessly interweaving the known from the impossible.
Above all though, he knew that this was a story of hope. “Gerald’s Game” is a story about the resilience of the human mind and soul, how we can break free from the chains we and others can put ourselves in and one that reminds us how we can look at the sky without fear after the eclipse has passed.