Released in 1990, Misery is one of Stephen Kings most successful adaptations. As at least at the time of writing this entry it’s his only film adaptation to win an Academy Award for Best Female Performance. An award that Katy Bates deserving won. Her performance was so good that Stephen King would go on to write another role with her in mind, that of Delores Claiborne and when he learned that she wanted to be involved in The Stand, he rewrote the part of DJ just for to be a part of it. As much as love Kathy Bates performance part of me can’t help but wonder how Jessica Lange would of done if she had won the role.
Misery author Paul Sheldon (James Caan), who is most famous for his romance series. Is leaving his vacation cabin in the mountains after finishing his new book, where he kills Misery the protagonist of his long running romance series. He kills off the character to get away from the romance genre as feels trapped in it. But fate intervenes and he crashes his car during a blizzard and is saved by a local woman, Annie Wilks (Kathey Bates). When Sheldon wakes up he’s under the care Annie Wilks, his rescuer. Who’s patched him after finding him as she used to be a nurse. She claims that the roads are impassable and that the phones are out, so Sheldon is stuck until she can get help. As Annie nurses Sheldon back to health, she gains his permission to read the newest Misery novel as Annie is his number one fan and she saved his life. This turns against when Annie becomes unhinged by the death of her favorite character and forces Sheldon to destroy the novel. Annie turns Sheldon into her prisoner, forcing him to write her a new novel in its place, one to her liking. The two become locked in an intense battle of wits. All while local sheriff Buster (Richard Farnswoth) tries to locate the missing novelist, with each clue bringing him closer to finding Sheldon and his captor.
The performances are absolutely fabulous, which is to be expected when an Academy Award is awarded. Even beyond Kathy Bates legendary performance the others hold up. James Caan balances off Bates unhinged rage with calm cool intelligence. While Richard Frarnsworth and Frances Sternhagen provide a much needed comic relief to break up the films intense atmosphere. But while their parts could have been over the top, the pair approach it in a very organic and natural way.
The set is amazing. When you’re not looking at beautiful snow-covered mountains, your confined with Sheldon his tiny room. Even when he manages to escape his room and explore the rest of the house it feels cramped and claustrophobic. With the house feeling oddly welcoming for the terror that the home hides.
I have to take this moment to mention briefly what could be the most memorable scene in the production. When Annie Wilks straight up, hobbles Sheldon. It’s on the scenes that I remembered distinctly viewing as a child and is one of the few scenes in a movie to give me nightmares later. I just wanted to state that the scene hasn’t lost any of the magic over the years and remains as unsettling now as it was then.
Final thoughts, simply amazing. I think that I could praise this movie all day, as I can’t think of a single moment out-of-place or such giant leaps from the source material for me to cry foul. The pacing of the film is solid, the acting is beyond memorable, the music is subtle and never intrusive. I feel hard pressed to give this film a perfect score. But on the other hand, this is a film that I revisit once every decade. It’s not one of my go to horror films, unlike the rest of the films that claim the lofty perfect score. So Misery instead gets a slightly lower score at 9.5/10.