• JFS the Reviewer

Misery (1990) 30th Anniversary review


Background

Misery is a psychological thriller film that came out on November 30, 1990. It was adapted from the Misery novel, which came out on June 8, 1987 and written by Stephen King. The novel was inspired by Stephen King after the fans reacted negatively to his 1984 novel, The Eyes of the Dragon, which contained none of the horror theme that was what made his reputation. Another inspiration to writing the novel was due to his addiction with drugs and alcohol, which he struggled to overcome.


The film was directed by Rob Reiner, who also directed This Is Spinal Tap (1984), the Princess Bride (1987), When Harry Met Sally…(1987), A Few Good Men (1992), and his final film he directed was Shock and Awe (2017). The film was also produced by Steve Nicolaides, Rob Reiner, Jeffrey Stott, and Andrew Scheinman, who was also the producer in some of the films Rob Reiner, including And So It Goes (2014).


The two production companies were Castle Rock Entertainment and Nelson Entertainment, while distributed by Columbia Pictures. The film had a budget of $20 million dollars and made back $61 million dollars in the box office. The film received positive reviews from critics, while also praising actress Kathy Bates, who played the antagonist, for her performance. After 30 years though, does the film still hold up and what is it about this film that makes it so popular?


Plot:


The novel focuses on Paul Sheldon, an author of a best-selling book series, but decided he was going to end the series to focus on something new. During a drive through a snowstorm, Paul gets into an accident and is saved by a nurse Annie Wilkes, who found him. She brought him back to her home, where he suffered some injuries. She also revealed to be his “number one fan” and cares for him until he feels better.


At first, she appears innocent and nice, until she reads his manuscript for his final novel, where the main character she loves so much, dies. This brings out a dark side of Annie and soon the rest of the novel is Paul trying to survive against her. Even try to find a way to escape, before she tries to kill him. The film follows the same path as the novel, but we get to see the evil side of Annie on the big screen.


Seeing her going from being a sweet innocent woman, to this psychotic monster. We even find out about her past and how she was wanted for multiple murders. The film does a good job building up the tension, keeping you hooked on what is going on, and makes you wonder how Paul is going to get out of this alive. With each time it looks like hope has come for Paul, it is dashed away.


It all builds up to the final act, where Paul is forced to make a new novel to bring back the main character. However, he ends up burning the manuscript and Annie tries to stop him. The two character end up trying to kill one another and you can’t help but root on for Paul to win. Paul manages to finally kill Annie and makes it out of house alive, while clearly traumatized with what he went through.


The film and novel may be fiction, but there is some truth to them. There are people out there who do become obsessed with famous people. Those who are extremely popular and are loved by everyone. There are also the crazed fans with psychological problems, that end up trying to do whatever it takes to meet their idol.


Even going down a dark path. Sadly, there are famous people out there that seem aware of these crazy fans and take advantage of their undying loyalty for them. However, there are sane famous people out there, who understand that there are crazy fans out there and they have the be careful with them. They know that if they do something that threatens the reality these crazed fans have about them, then they can lose it, and do something dangerous.


Misery is a worse-case scenario for anyone who is famous and gets trapped with a crazed fan, who would do anything to keep them. Even if it means threatening their very lives. I love this film for how real it feels and how it does make us realize there are people who are a lot like Annie. Willing to go as far as she has to make sure the reality, she has built around herself isn’t shattered or gets tainted.


It’s a story really that could work today and where people with problems let their obsession drive them down a dark path. I don’t see much flaw with it, except of course the times where we know Paul isn’t going to be able to escape. We can see his attempts failing, but it doesn’t mean we don’t get invested with the story, especially with what Paul is put through. I’m only thankful that Stephen King went with the ending we got from both film and novel.


The darker version I found out he was going to go with was…yeah, not something I would want to see and would have been depressing.


Characters:


James Caan played Paul Sheldon, our main protagonist of the film, while Kathy Bates played our antagonist Annie Wilkes. I love the performance from both great actors, who did a fantastic job with their roles. Paul is a famous writer of a famous book series but wants to write serious stories. He decides to kill off the main character of his book series, so he can work on something new.


After finding out how Stephen King was inspired to write this book, I can see a lot of himself in his character, Paul. At first, you aren’t sure if you should root for Paul, until you see and even feel the horror he goes through. I love how his character tries to do all he can to keep Annie from hurting him and does all he can to keep her happy. Until he realizes that, once he does finish the new novel, she will kill him.


So, if he goes out, he’ll make sure to take her down with him. You cheer him on and want him to defeat Annie. He’s essentially the underdog here, since he has two broken legs and has to fight this dangerous psychotic woman. The ending of the film is different form the novel, but you can tell what he went through messed him up.


Left him traumatized, especially when he had a vision of the waitress approaching him, believing it was Annie and when she told him she was a fan of his, his response tells you how it made him feel.


The star of the film though must go to Kathy Bates. She not only did an amazing job with her performance as Annie, but it’s this performance that got her an Oscar for Best Actress. She appears nice, sweet, innocent, and a good person. Until, she shows the dark side of herself and makes you fear her.


It also made you worry because anything Paul does or says could end up upsetting her. She could switch from being a nice innocent person, to be this monster, who is ready to kill you. It was terrifying, especially when you realize that there are people like Annie out there. They could appear innocent and sweet but could flip the switch and become this monster.


Someone who if you get in their way or if the famous person, they are obsessed with does something that shatters the reality they build around themselves, they could snap. Stephen King took his experience with his crazed fans to bring to life one of the most dangerous horror villains of all time.


Special effects/music/settings:


The film doesn’t have any special effects really. At least, nothing CGI or anything that appears fake. They did a good job with setting the film in a house, far from civilization. Snow covering much of the area they are in and having most of the film shot in the bedroom. The way they shot the film was also done well, especially when they build up the tension.


This film doesn’t have jump scares or has a monster to frighten the audience. The monster is Annie and how dangerous she becomes over time. A good example of this is when she breaks both of Paul’s ankles, which was shot so well. It looked so real and you can’t help but cringe when she does it.


It’s one of the most cringest moments in any horror film and any Stephen King film. It’s up there with the Pet Semetary scene with the scalpel cutting through the Achilles Tendon.


The music really helps build the tension and suspenseful moments throughout the film. The music was done by Marc Shaiman, who had worked on other films like Big Business (1988), The Addams Family (1991), Sister Act (1992), My Giant (1998), and the last film he was on working on the music was Mary Poppins Returns (2018). They did a great job with playing the right kind of music for the right kind of scenes, especially the ones that are building up to something happening. Not like other horror movies where the music is building up to something intense, but then it stops and it ends up being a cheap jump scare, which you can see coming.


Final Thoughts:


Misery is a great film and novel, which is pretty much a nightmare scenario for any celebrity to ever go through. It has a great plot, which does a great job building up the tension in the film and gets you behind the main character. You want to see him survive and make it out of the hell he is in, in one piece. While also enjoying the great acting between the two main characters.


I love James Caan’s performance in the film and how he plays as the poor unfortunate soul, who suffers at the hands of an obsessed fan. Kathy Bates in my view though is the star of the film and she did an amazing job with her role. Playing as the crazed psychotic fan and the one you want to see get what is coming to her in the end. To pay for what she did to the main character, especially to the man’s poor legs.


I love the setting for the film, how it was shot, for the music, and for everything else. The film is still up there as one of the best films, adapted from Stephen King’s novels. If they did try making a remake out of this, I wouldn’t be surprised if they try having the roles be reversed. Where Paul ends up being a woman and Annie is a man. I hope they don’t do that and keep it like from the film.


Although, I hope they don’t make a remake out of this. Maybe make a movie, which is a little similar to this film. I know though that won’t happen since this is Hollywood we’re talking about. And knowing them, they will make a remake of this film, soon.

7 views