Literature / Gerald's Game

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First edition cover

A horror novel by Stephen King. The setup is rather High Concept — during a bondage game proposed by husband Gerald, things go south. Gerald himself ends up dead, and protagonist Jessie Burlingame finds herself in a whole heap of trouble when she's still handcuffed to the bed.

Somewhat amazingly, a film adaptation was produced by Netflix in 2017, starring Carla Gugino as Jessie and Bruce Greenwood as Gerald.

Definitely not to be confused with Geri's Game.


But you said these tropes sounded like fun:

  • Adapted Out: Ruth Neary, Nora Callahan, Meggie Landis, Brandon Milheron...basically, if the character wasn't in the house with Jessie in the book, they don't show up in the 2017 film.
  • Affectionate Nickname: Jessie's father calls her "Punkin". In the movie, he calls her "Mouse".
  • Amplified Animal Aptitude: Prince's intuition is described by King in a way that doesn't feel that farfetched.
  • Amoral Attorney: Gerald is slowly revealed to be one.
  • Ascended Extra: In the book, Gerald lies dead on the floor and never shows up in Jessie's head at all. In the 2017 movie, he serves as a major hallucination that tries to talk her down and manipulate her.
  • Attempted Rape: Causes Jessie to kick Gerald in the groin, giving him a fatal heart attack.
  • Better Than Sex: When Jessie finally gets rid of the handcuffs, she feels ecstatic, and thinks that if sex was even half this good, people would be doing it on every street corner.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Jessie successfully broke free of the handcuffs and she even started a foundation to help victims of sexual abuse. But her husband is still dead, her world was turned completely upside down, and it seems her nights were (and may continue to be) plagued with visions of the Moonlight Man. Though she did confront said Moonlight Man on his court date and said essentially that she’s no longer afraid of him.
  • Body Horror
  • Bondage Is Bad: Surprisingly averted; it's the motivation that can be bad, yes, but not the act itself. Of course, you probably won't want to run off and play with some handcuffs right after reading this.
  • Canon Welding: In the 2017 movie, when Jessie is coming to terms with the likelihood that she's going to die when the Moonlight Man returns, Gerald tells her "All things serve the Beam." This could be either a Shout-Out to The Dark Tower, or have considerably deeper implications.
  • Chained to a Bed
  • Cool Old Lady: Meggie Landis, the housekeeper Jessie hires to take care of her after her ordeal in the book. She doesn't show up in the movie.
  • Contrived Coincidence: Gerald's Game is set in motion by the stars aligning in such a ludicrous fashion that you kind of have to laugh. But the protagonist's ensuing predicament is awful enough that you won't be laughing for long.
  • Creepily Long Arms: One of the more noticable traits of The Space Cowboy.
  • Creepy Souvenir: The Space Cowboy's attire is littered with the bones of past victims.
  • Daddy's Girl: Jessie was like this... until her father sexually molested her.
  • Dangerous Key Fumble: Befalls Jessie when she tries to escape in her car.
  • The Darkness Gazes Back: Jessie never is sure whether or not there is someone in the shadows, watching her at night.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Ruth Neary, the voice in Jessie's head that belongs to her old college roommate.
  • Determinator: In between increasingly unsettling and haunting flashbacks that go way back to her childhood, the book is sectioned with Jessie's various attempts at releasing herself from the handcuffs.
  • Disabled Character, Disabled Actor: Joubert has acromegaly, as does the actor who places him, Carel Struycken.
  • Gory Discretion Shot: Due to her angle on the bed, Jessie is mostly able to only hear Prince eating Gerald's corpse. Mostly.
  • Gunman with Three Names: Raymond Andrew Joubert, although the name only comes up in the book's denouement.
  • Hearing Voices: In the book, Jessie hears four voices in her head: Ruth Neary (her old college roommate), Nora Callahan (a psychiatrist she stopped seeing), "Goodwife Burlingame" (a version of herself that is a devoted wife), and her 12-year-old self from the day the eclipse happened. In the 2017 movie, these are condesned into two characters: Gerald and herself as she is now.
  • Humanoid Abomination: How Jessie sees The Space Cowboy, in her dazed and near mad state.
  • I Love the Dead: The creepy stranger Jessie sees is Raymond Andrew Joubert, a necrophiliac serial killer and cannibal, who regularly broke into crypts and mortuaries for years and violated male corpses.
  • I'm a Man; I Can't Help It: How Goody Burlingame, the more submissive voice in Jessie's head, tries to rationalise Gerald's attempt at rape.
  • Kinky Cuffs: After a while, Gerald only finds Jessie sexually attractive if she's tied to the bed. Unfortunately, he likes to use real handcuffs. However, he could only get the type made for males; this is what makes Jessie's escape possible.
  • Life-or-Limb Decision: Not exactly, but close enough. Jessie eventually breaks a glass and effectively degloves her hand, so blood would serve as a lubricant and allow her to pull her hand through the cuff.
  • Like Parent, Like Spouse: Jessie's inner self speculates that her sexually abusive history with her father is why she married Gerald: an older man, someone who objectifies her, and happens to be a lawyer as well. It's the only dynamic she really knows.
  • Living Shadow: How Jessie percieves The Space Cowboy
  • Looks Like Orlok: The creepy stranger, mostly.
  • Meaningful Background Event: References to a dog barking in the woods are spread throughout the first two chapters or so.
  • Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane: Jessie remains uncertain if the "Space Cowboy" is just a hallucination or an apparition of Death itself. He's real, but a merely a mortal Serial Killer.
  • Parental Favoritism: Jessie was her father's favorite out of his three children. Their close relationship took a dark turn however when he sexually molested her.
  • Parental Incest: And not just confined to backstory either. No, King tackles this ugliness head on.
  • Psychological Horror: In spades.
  • Shadow Archetype: Possibly the Space Cowboy to Jessie, given his implied back story.
  • Shout-Out: In the film, “Gerald” calls the dog “Cujo”, which is another Stephen King work. He also mentions that all things serve the Beam.
  • Signature Style: Stream-of-consciousness writing? Italicized, parenthetical snatches of phrases representing the main character's little brainfarts? Multiple contexts for the same phrase, all of them disturbing? Must be a Stephen King book.
  • Spared by the Adaptation: In the book, Prince (Jessie's canine visitor) is shot by police. The film version doesn't tell us the dog's ultimate fate.
  • Too Dumb to Live: The couple break one of the most intrinsic rules of bondage in that the restrained person must always be able to escape or call for help if the restrainer is incapacitated for any reason. Likewise metal police handcuffs are not recommended for the same reasons.note  Justified in that the fact that he didn't bother with any of the safety measures and insisted on real handcuffs is used deliberately to establish Gerald's character. There's also the fact that, at the time the novel was written (1992), the internet effectively did not exist for the average person, removing one of the primary means of easily discovering typical safety procedures for this sort of activity. You would have to know someone "in the scene" or do a lot of surreptitious research, neither of which Gerald is likely to do, not to mention he's not exactly the type who would care that much about his wife's safety anyway.
  • Urban Legend: A much darker take on an old yarn regarding, of all things, Batman.
  • Vomiting Cop: Sheriff Norris Ridgewick throws up, when he finds what is in the truck of Raymond Andrew Joubert, a necrophiliac cannibal (for example, a sandwich with a human tongue) but manages to get out of the truck just in time. A character says that "the State Police would have torn him a new asshole if he'd puked on the evidence. On the other hand, I'd have wanted him removed from his job for psychological reasons if he hadn't thrown up."

Alternative Title(s): Geralds Game

http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Literature/GeraldsGame