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A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Gerald's Game is a horror movie based on a Stephen King novel. A seemingly fragile young wife accedes to her husband's wishes for some "kinky" sex when the unthinkable happens, and the woman is captive with no means of escape in an isolated house, alone ... or is she alone? The movie is filled with intensely suspenseful scenes: nightmarish images and music, terrifying sounds, and graphic violence and bloodletting, which work with the theme of a woman's ongoing lifetime imprisonment (body, mind, and soul) to create an ominous, desperate struggle. Expect gruesome sequences (spoiler alert): a feral dog chewing on a fresh corpse, a frightening apparition of a zombie-like giant on the move toward a trapped victim, the sexual assault of a young girl, and the escalating attempts of the woman to free herself, no matter what the cost to her body. All this is combined with a sadistic villain who torments his victim relentlessly. Language is scathingly mean-spirited and includes a litany of obscenities, including "f--k," "s--t," "c--t," and other shaming put-downs. And then there's the sex. It's always menacing, with the victim unable to fight back. No overt sexual activity, just threatening behavior, such as hovering over the woman about to strike. Heroine wears a thin slip throughout, heightening her vulnerability. Strictly for horror fans who don't mind the "eww" factor along with some strong conceptual content. Definitely not for kids.
What's the story?
The marriage of Gerald (Bruce Greenwood) and Jessie Burlingame (Carla Gugino) is strained when GERALD'S GAME opens. Hoping to rekindle their feelings, they leave for a weekend at their second home, which is beautiful, isolated, in a lush setting. Gerald has brought along some handcuffs, intent upon introducing some spice to what has been a fading sexual relationship. After only a short time in the handcuffs, feeling trapped and increasingly frightened, Jessie is finished with the game. But Gerald isn't ready to unlock the cuffs. He continues the "game" until tragic circumstances prevent him from stopping it, even if he wanted to. Jessie is trapped, alone, imprisoned on the bed, without food, water, or any means of communicating with the outside world. No one will find her. No one will be able to help. A series of mounting events and extraordinary beings put Jessie in more jeopardy -- and those real events are joined by the eerie presence of the couple's two alter egos, who appear to the terrified woman and either mock or try to support her.
Is it any good?
Carla Gugino gives her all in a stellar performance; the production is first-rate, suspenseful, thought-provoking, and smart, but the gore and sexual threats make it tough going for the squeamish. Fans of Stephen King's book may be surprised by some of the changes to the story, but it all works as a movie. Gerald's Game is a tight thriller with a strong psychological core. Other performances, including those of Bruce Greenwood, Henry Thomas, and a very expressive dog, are first-rate as well. Still, there are moments that are hard to watch for any but horror fans. No kids.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the gruesome violence found in many horror movies. Many teen and young adult fans find the genre to be "fun" (e.g., Scream, A Nightmare on Elm Street). Gerald's Game isn't meant to be fun. It's neither exaggerated nor filmed for humorous shock value. Do you think the movie will appeal to the typical horror fan? Why or why not?
Do you have a brutality tolerance level? How much gross violence is too much for you? Try to determine what exactly makes you turn away from a scene because you simply can't watch.
Why is it important for families to understand the impact of violence on kids?
Think about the art direction. How did Mike Flanagan and his team use the lighting (both exterior and interior), doors and windows, furnishings, and even the fabrics to contribute to the overall mood?
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.