Stephen King (novel), William Goldman (screenplay)
James Caan as Paul Sheldon
Kathy Bates as Annie Wilkes
Richard Farnsworth as Sheriff John T. 'Buster' McCain
Our story begins with Paul Sheldon (James Caan), a writer of trashy novels who has an auto accident as he travels to the isolated mountain cabin that serves as his “literary sanctuary”. The accident is bad…real bad…and it appears that his broken body will perish in the snow – until an angel appears. Annie Wilkes is Paul’s “Number One fan”, and happens upon the accident scene just in time to rescue Paul from his icy fate and bring him to her comfy country home to nurse him back to health. Wow, Paul is one lucky guy…or is he. You see, Annie is a little whacked in the head, and decides that the best way to show her adoration for her favorite author is to keep him prisoner in her home with no means of escape.
Misery is a true psychological horror film. There is no real gore to speak of. The scare factor is all in your head, and in the realization that Paul is powerless to defend himself against the crazy Annie.
The real strength of this film is found in the amazing performance of Kathy Bates. The academy award earned by Bates for her performance in Misery is well deserved, as she effectively conveys suspense, terror, madness, tenderness and psychosis with a single glance.
At Best-Horror-Movies.com I have received a few comments about Misery being included on a best 100 horror movies list – several of them contend that it is not a horror movie at all. I beg to differ.
Gore there is not, that much is true. But…if suspense, dread, fear and terror can be conveyed and communicated without a single gory scene then that’s the genius of horror cinema! It’s one thing to inspire fear by chasing young lovelies through the woods wielding a machete. It’s another thing to create the same type of heart-stopping angst through a simple phrase by a star-struck psychotic who has her victim in a position of utter helplessness.
Rob Reiner, the director of Misery, has had an interesting career – gaining notoriety as the actor playing “meathead” on the television series All in the Family starring Carroll O’Connor. His directing credits include This is Spinal Tap, Stand by Me and When Harry met Sally.
I believe, however, that Misery will be the achievement that he will be most proud of as he enters ripe old age. Between the intensity of Kathy Bates, the quiet panic of actor James Caan, and the brilliant ability of Rob Reiner to create a tone of dread and despair, Misery is a classic of horror that must be seen to be appreciated.