Plot: Paul Sheldon (James Caan) is a famous author with millions of fans, but he never expected that one of those fans might save his life. But that is what happens after he crashes his car during a blinding blizzard, only to wake up in a strange place with his legs immobilized. He suffered fractured in both legs, but Annie has taken good care of him and as soon as the roads are clear, she will get him to a hospital. As a token of his appreciation, Paul allows her read his work in progress, though she seems unnerved by the foul language written inside. Meanwhile, Paul’s new book has been released and Annie devours it in no time, but has a meltdown when she realizes her favorite character has been killed off. Now her tone has shifted, taking a darker presence and Paul worries if he will survive his biggest fan’s kindness. As he scrambles to come up with a plan, will Annie make sure his latest novel will be his last?
Entertainment Value: Annie Wilkes might be one of the most unlikely villains in horror cinema, but she’s also one of the most effective. Kathy Bates would win a much deserved Oscar for her performance in Misery, bringing the sweet, but unstable Annie to life in unforgettable fashion. Annie is indeed capable of violence and impulsive outbursts, but she also has a vulnerable side and is no mere maniac. The depth in Bates’ turn helps bring just enough sympathy to the character, giving us a villain that is never one dimensional. James Caan is also quite good, while Richard Farnsworth, Frances Sternhagen, and Lauren Bacall round out the supporting cast. Caan is often overlooked for his work here, but his desperation is palpable and adds a lot to the film’s effective sense of dread. The movie centers on Bates and Caan, so the two needed that twisted bond to work and it does, with an eerie, fragile relationship in place. The two work off each other well and Annie’s descent into madness is mirrored with Paul’s slide into desperation. The tension is consistent and slowly ratchets up the dread, but the movie also moves at a brisk pace. The intimate, personal nature of the material really makes things tense and in the end, Misery stands as an effective thriller and one of the best adaptations of Stephen King’s work. Anyone who appreciates great performances or stories should have this in their collection.
No nakedness. While Annie deludes herself into thinking romance is in the air, no such good times roll. There’s also a humorous scene where the sheriff’s wife tries to give out some road hand, but is denied. In terms of blood, we have Paul’s battered and bruised legs after the accident, a mild brawl late in the movie, a gun shot wound, and of course, the infamous hobbling scene. As notorious as the scene is, it happens mostly off screen and is more anticipation than carnage. It is still a memorable scene and has some wince inducing visuals, however. The dialogue sports a good amount of memorable and quotable lines, most compliments of Annie Wilkes. She is either a naive, bumbling super fan or a cold as ice bitch, depending on her mood, but both sides of persona are fun to watch. Her attempts to inject curse words into her normal conversations to illustrate to Paul why he doesn’t need to work blue are hilarious, especially when mentions telling a banker she has one bastard of a check to cash. Paul’s tiptoeing around Annie’s quirks can be fun as well, while Farnsworth as the local lawman has some colorful quips as well. In terms of craziness, we have a wonderfully unhinged Annie played to perfection, but otherwise, this one follows normal suspense/thriller guidelines.
Overall Insanity: 3/10