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Thursday, August 25, 2011

Misery (1991)


I'm always fascinated to see how certain books might be transcribed from the page onto the big screen- especially when it's a book by one of my favorite authors.  Usually, they aren't as good... but sometimes, they are just as good as- if not better than the book.

Paul Sheldon is an author who is well known for his "Misery Chastain" novels to point where he feels that he'll never be known for anything else.  After a car accident leaves him stranded in the middle of a blizzard, he finds himself being nursed to health by Annie- his "number one fan."  Soon though, he learns just how far some fans will go to keep him from killing off their beloved character Misery...

I absolutely loved the book by Stephen King and was hopeful the movie would retain the book's integrity and mood.  I wasn't disappointed.  Kathy Bates was just simply mind blowing as Annie- and deserved to win the 1990 Academy Award for Best Actress in a Leading Role; 1990 Golden Globe Award for Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture; and the 1990 CFCA Award for Best Actress.  It was a joy to watch her switch between a sweetly innocent woman to a raging cyclone to a cold blooded bitch.  Her acting added so much to the tension and mood of the film.  I also liked James Caan as Paul Sheldon.  It may not seem it, but it does take skill to act like a person who's legs are unable to be used.  You got a real sense of the fear and panic the character was experiencing from his acting.

The story itself is tightly woven together with only minor changes from the novel.  Usually those changes detract from the movie, but in this case, a couple of them actually ADDED to the movie.  One scene in particular stands out as being better than what I read in the book.  In the book, Annie takes an axe to Paul's feet- which is pretty messed up... but in the movie, she takes a sledgehammer to them instead.  Watching her do that was just cringe inducing.  As someone that watches horror movies where body parts fly off due to axes and chainsaws, this scene was far worse then the bloodiest hatchet scene.  The sight of the ankle bending unnaturally, the crunch and snapping sound... it stays with you and pops up for nights afterwards in your dreams.

It's not a gory movie- relying on suspense, mood, tension and the slow build-up to the scary parts.  I loved it. I often found myself leaning forward in my seat, caught up in what was happening to the characters.  You come to care about the characters... you even come to care a bit about the psychotic Annie.  She's not evil in the classic sense of the word.  She's not seeking to kill just to kill.  From her point of view, everything she's doing is just and right.  That sort of villain is rare to find in horror movies, and it added depth to the story.

I have always felt that "Misery" was one of the best adaptations of a Stephen King story, and firmly believe this deserves a spot in "The Good".

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