Friday, October 6, 2017

Movie #426: Misery

Misery is a horror movie based on the novel by Stephen King and starring James Caan, Kathy Bates, Lauren Bacall, and Richard Farnsworth. Bates deservedly won an Oscar for her performance.

Paul Sheldon (Caan) is a bestselling author who's made his fame writing romance novels about a 19th century woman named Misery. His latest novel, though, kills her off, enabling him (he hopes) to write something else for a change. He's on his way home with his new, non-Misery manuscript when he gets caught in a blizzard and crashes his car, only to wake up in the home of a former nurse named Annie Wilkes (Bates).

Wilkes is a capable health care provider, and knows Sheldon's work and life inside and out. She's also completely nuts, and (this gets elided a lot when talking about it) a fucking serial killer; she was responsible for a spate of baby deaths in Denver before fleeing to the tiny town where Sheldon goes to write his novels. Wilkes keeps Sheldon prisoner, and things are tense enough, but then Wilkes reads the new Misery novel, realizes Misery is dead, forces Sheldon to burn the only copy of his new book, and forces him to write a new book bringing Misery back from the dead.

In the end, of course, Sheldon turns the tables on her and escapes, but the real meat of the story is the punishment that she inflicts on him, his desperation to escape, and the dependence that he feels on her. Evidently King wrote this book with Wilkes as a stand-in for drugs, and for his own fears that he'd be chained to horror forever. This metaphor comes out a lot more strongly in the book, as does the sheer brutality of the situation (in the book Sheldon becomes hopelessly addicted to painkillers). In the movie, though, the horror is a lot less gruesome but a lot more real because it's more believable. Likewise, the small cast (basically just Caan, Bates, Bacall as Sheldon's agent and Farnsworth as the unfortunate sheriff) contributes to the claustrophobia of the situation.

All it all, it's hard to watch in places but it's one of my favorite horror movies and one of the best King adaptations.

My grade: A
Rewatch value: High

Next up: Miss Congeniality