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Misery: Freakishly Frightening Thriller

It is a known fact that Stephen King is a Hollywood favorite. Almost 50 of his novels have been adapted to screenplays (I’m not counting the numerous TV adaptations) over the last 27 years!!

Misery was adapted for film in 1990 and remains one of the few Stephen King works to make the transition well.

The original book is also great and some parts of it have been altered for the film. King is good at creating believable characters & situations and the tension is gradually built up until it becomes unbearable. The situation is truly horrible but this film is more psychological than blood drenched, the way the book is.

The dark thriller zone / genre has been attempted multiple number of time in the last decade, but how many of them actually stand out and grip you? Too many wannabe psychological horror movies have been made. But none of them, no matter how twisted they think they are, have been able to re-capture the creepiness, the intensity, the way Misery does. Maybe the last great movie of this sort was made by the “King of macabre” Alfred Hitchcock. On various levels, Misery reminds you of Psycho.
Misery presents you with the eeriness, loneliness, tension, horror, and the works. And how?

Misery is a story about the unfortunate exploits of a novelist Paul Sheldon (James Caan) and his obsessively sadistic “number one fan,” Annie Wilkes (Kathy Bates).

From an acting standpoint, Misery is a whopping success. Kathy Bates won Best Actress in 1990 for her portrayal of Annie Wilkes, and I can’t imagine a more deserving recipient. The tone is absolutely unnerving as Bates lulls the audience to sleep with her happy-go-lucky side, only to catch us by surprise with her pulse-pounding outbursts of uncontrollable rage. Moving flawlessly between innocent sweetness and spiraling out of control with rage, Bates owns your attention every time she steps into a scene, keeping us guessing with the ever-shifting personality of her character.

James Caan is equally impressive in the role of Paul, which requires him to remain in a bed or a wheelchair through the entire length of the film. Sheldon is a good victim because he isn´t an idiot, he plays along, he doesn’t spit in the baddies face giving them no option but to kill him, instead he bides his time and formulates plans. This role was offered to William Hurt, Kevin Kline, Micheal Douglas, Harrison Ford, Dustin Hoffman, Robert DeNiro, Al Pacino, Richard Dreyfuss, Gene Hackman, Robert Redford and Warren Beatty, all of whom declined. In hind-sight, everyone who passed on the role would have whined. Caan does a splendid job in making the audience feel sympathetic towards him and cheer for him throughout the movie.

For a director who had made movies like, When Harry Met Sally & The Princess Bride, this was a change of pace for Rob Reiner, but he does a nice job, demonstrating his considerable range as a director. He handles it with a certain smoothness that feels right for the movie. The camera work employed here is excellent. Some shots in particular such as having the camera placed in the bed staring directly at the door help to create moments of claustrophobic suspense. The stark cinematography by Barry Sonnenfeld is also good, especially in the night scenes. They’re lit in such a way that even a closed door looks scary.

Oh, and Buster (Richard Farnsworth), the town’s easy-going sheriff and his very horny wife, Virginia. He’s the other main character in a way, because he’s a very normal person as well as a great problem solver. He chips in with his own trademark casualness.

Almost no one involved with the film ever returned to the horror genre again. But they crafted one of the most satisfying psychological horror films I’ve ever seen. As blasphemous as it may sound, Rob Reiner went ahead and out-did Hitchcock.

Misery will grip you and present a fascinating character study in psychosis. The in-your-face violence may prove to be too much for many adults and teens alike, but this is what makes the movie what it is.
Go for it, for it has every element to make it a superb thriller. It involves a car crash, revolver, shotgun, wheelchair, a typewriter (with a missing N) and a sledge hammer!!

If you like your movies to be crazy, grim, fuelled with tension, this may just be the right movie for you.

By: Shrinivas Vasishta
Posted: April 24, 2013, 3:30 pm


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