The Reul reel: Misery


A throwback to an era of horror films that rose above the commercialization of blood and gore, director Rob Reiner’s 1990 adaptation of Stephen King’s Misery had me in suspense from start to finish with its emphasis on how true terror is based upon the realm of possibility.

Misery depicts the rescue of famous author Paul Sheldon (James Caan) by a retired nurse, Annie Wilkes (Kathy Bates), after getting in a near fatal car crash. Wilkes claims to be his biggest fan, and her idolatry rapidly turns into something far worse as Sheldon soon realizes that he may never leave her house.

I was impressed with Bates’ acting as a whole; her Oscar in 1991 for Best Actress in a Leading Role was well–deserved for her chilling depiction of pure insanity. Caan’s acting was superb as well; I found myself becoming more invested as the film progressed, and I witnessed his mental drive to live surpass his physical deterioration.

Additionally, I applaud Reiner for his usage of subtle foreshadowing by displaying shots of seemingly irrelevant objects or simple actions and then proving them to be important in the future. For example, when Sheldon leaves the confines of his room unbeknownst to Wilkes and accidentally leaves a penguin ceramic piece placed in the opposite direction.

However, for a film shot in such a small space, I wish that there had been more variance in camera angles and other elements of style to break up the monotony of watching Sheldon waste away each day. While the plot was suspenseful and entertaining, the film lacked a unique style in contrast to other adaptations of Stephen King novels, such as The Shining, which exhibited the same suspense, but also explored cinematography to a much deeper extent.

Granted, the film focuses more on the interaction between Sheldon and Wilkes to show how Wilkes’ psychopathic tendencies were not based upon a lust for murder, but rather an obsession—an obsession that starkly compares to modern day’s idolization of celebrities. Yet, I feel as though certain scenes were longer than necessary, such as the montage of Sheldon working on his manuscript.

Overall, I enjoyed the film and appreciated its usage of alternative  methods for instilling fear in its viewers than succumbing to the more common slasher horror. For horror fanatics and scaredy cats alike, Misery is a good option to kick off the Halloween spirit.