Oh, to be a writer. To be famous. To be respected. To be revered. To be…..the object of an obsessive fan who has no intentions of letting her prize go. That last part might have some of us rethinking our respective career choices, no matter what they may be. From the dark, brilliant mind of Stephen King, and adapted into film by Rob Reiner, we get Misery, which is, if you think about it, a play on words. Misery is both what our main character endures and what he writes, that is, the titular character of his ever-famous series of novels. Ones that Annie Wilkes could probably recite in her sleep. We meet Paul Sheldon, speaking to his publicist about his new novel, where he decides to kill of that beloved main character, Misery Chastain. He could never imagine what horrors await him because of this life-changing decision. He has always gone to the Silver Creek Lodge to write his novels, as it has become his ritual and part of his good luck charm. As he leaves, a huge blizzard breaks out, and already we know there is going to be major, hardcore trouble. His car skids off the road, down a cliff, and he is seemingly stranded….until a bulky, bundled-up nurse, Annie Wilkes, “stumbles” upon him, and takes him to her house to nurse him back to health.
Already we think this is kind of weird, but only because we know that whatever happens in the first five minutes of a movie usually foreshadows what is to come. He has horrible injuries and cannot move without being in pain, and for a few days, doesn’t know who or where he is. Waking up, he learns that Annie is “his number one fan”. She really means it, and slowly begins to prove it. Grateful, Paul gives into his pain and continues to rest. Annie makes her feelings clear when she asks to read his new manuscript that she also rescued from the snow-covered vehicle. He obliges, but soon learns this might not have been the best decision. She is offended by the profanity within, and lets him know by flying off the handle, and revealing some serious sociopathic behavior. Paul, a little concerned, lets the incident go. Then, she asks him to burn his new manuscript, because it is filth and she believes God has entrusted her with his care and rehabilitation. Completely in shock, he complies after he realizes she has sprayed him with lighter fluid as well, and that she is basically his only path to survival as he is confined in bed. Meanwhile, Paul’s publicist has begun to worry about him not showing up on time, and calls down to Silver Creek. The sheriff and his wife (who damn near steal the show with their sarcastic, adorable flirtations), ask around, and find out he left on time, just never made it back to New York. He notices Annie in town, yelling at a driver for cutting her off, and asks about her. He discovers she’s always the first to buy Sheldon’s new books at the store, and that she has recently come in to purchase typing paper. Hmmm….what could she need that for? Well, she’s lost her mind when she reads that Misery Chastain has been killed off in the latest novel, and makes Paul write a new version! Any shred of sympathy we might have had for Annie Wilkes is now long gone.
Paul now knows that he has to remain calm and pacify Annie if he is to survive this psychotic ordeal he’s found himself in. After Annie discovers he’s been getting out of his room (she locks him in), she decides to hobble him. That is, break his fucking ankles so he cannot escape again. This scene is one of the most iconic in horror history, well, movie history in general, for that matter. It makes us all cringe, and damn it, it looks real, doesn’t it? After recovering a little, she still wants her Misery back. He begins writing feverishly, and we can tell he has some sort of plan in mind. The sheriff has now decided to go out to Annie’s house and investigate. Annie sees him coming down the driveway and throws Paul down the stairs into the basement. Seriously, this guy’s poor legs, I mean, come on. The sheriff asks her some questions and she reveals her love of Sheldon and the Misery novels, and tells him that she has been so distraught at his “disappearance”, that she began to write her own novel (Paul’s forced manuscript). Not really finding anything interesting, the sheriff leaves, just as Paul knocks over a grill in the basement. Hearing this, the sheriff comes back into the house and sees Paul, and he is shot by Annie. Paul’s just about at the end of his rope, after Annie reveals that she plans to kill them both after he finishes Misery’s Return. He plans to trick her and tells her he loves her. This calms her down, for now. That night, he asks her to have dinner with him, and she is, of course, in heaven. Paul has threatened to burn the new novel that reveals all of Misery’s previous mysteries. He sets fire to it, and as Annie tries to put it out, he attacks her, as best he can in a wheelchair with virtually no use of his legs. She shoots him in the shoulder, but he is determined to make it. Eventually, he has won, and Annie is left dead on the floor, covered in blood.
Of course, a movie review cannot really do this film justice. It’s one of those that has to be experienced, as you embark into the horrifying world of complete, paranoia-inducing madness. This is a major classic that makes even the most hardened horror buff cringe (hobbling…yikes!). Anytime someone says they’re a “number one fan” of something, you will think of this movie. It is amazing how well Kathy Bates plays a psychopath. I mean, it’s uncanny. And for a man who spends nearly the entire movie in a bed being abused and terrified, James Caan definitely puts on one hell of a show. The setting is beautiful, and scary when you think about how far away you can really be from safety and civilization especially with broken legs. This is one movie that is not to be missed, and even if, by some small chance, you don’t like it, you will always remember it, and its villain, Annie Wilkes.