This writer really suffers: Misery


Watched just the movie I needed last night, the eve of Halloween. Misery, the 1990 film adaptation of Stephen King’s novel, is a genuinely scary tale about the horror in everyday situations.

Celebrated romance novelist Paul Sheldon (James Caan) has just completed a manuscript he hopes will take his career in a new direction, when his car careens off a snowy mountain road and down a steep embankment. He is rescued by Annie Wilkes (Kathy Bates), who claims to be his No. 1 fan. She takes him to her remote Colorado home, sets his broken legs and proceeds to nurse him back to health. When Annie reads the final novel in Paul’s Misery series and finds that he’s killed off his heroine, she is horrified. She makes him burn his new manuscript, locks him in his room and forces him to write a sequel titled Misery’s Return.

Apart from the grotesque hobbling scene in which Annie breaks Paul’s feet with a sledge hammer (in the book, she chops off a foot with an axe), Misery is light on the blood and gore. There’s plenty of suspense as we watch Paul snoop around the house while Annie is away, and wonder whether he’ll be caught.

But what is really scary about this story is knowing that these situations actually occur: witness the real-life kidnapping victims who have been held prisoner for years.

The cat-and-mouse dance between Caan and Bates takes the film to an even higher plane. Caan’s role is a reactionary one; his Paul Sheldon exudes frustration from the confines of his bed. And Annie Wilkes was a career-making role for Bates. In split seconds, she switches from a resourceful mother figure into a madwoman…barking mad! Not surprising that the part earned her an Oscar for Best Actress.

Kept me on the edge of my seat right until the end.

About rosemarymccracken

Rosemary McCracken is a Toronto-based fiction writer.
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