Director(s): Rob Reiner
Writer(s): William Goldman (Based on the novel by Stephen King)
Starring: Kathy Bates, James Caan, Richard Farnsworth
One of the greatest feelings in a horror flick that centers around suspense is the crippling feeling of utter ANXIETY. I know that’s strange to call that clawing feeling of being on the edge of your seat to the point where you want to bang on a table or turn your head away as being something pleasant but that’s the true power of film; an escapist fantasy that pulls you away from reality and lands you in the middle of whatever dire situation the characters are in at the moment. There is a nice euphoria that comes with most horror flicks, whether it’s from the jump scare from the creepy little girl ghost or the sweat that comes with the cringe in an ultra-gory scene filed blood/guts, you have a rush of calm and happiness once the scene is over and by the time the movie ends, a nice collection of euphoric moments have accumulated in your system.
I can rattle off tons of flicks that triggered my anxiety demon to the point of crossing that line of pleasure to pain but for me, the earliest memory of pure anxiety had to come from the classic flick, Misery. Sure, I’ve seen tons of scary movies before then (even at a young age, yes, “tons” is still an accurate description) that had plenty of jump scares that caused enough sweat to soak plenty of blankets but Misery was the first time that the plot cut so deep to the point where I was questioning why I was putting myself through this kind of mental pain. Let’s fast forward all the way to present day where I think we can all agree that 2020 has been…well…I feel like everything that’s been said has already been well said so there’s nothing new I can say that can sum up what a cluster f*ck the last year has been so let’s go with the word…unfortunate. Something however that we can all relate to this past year is the feeling of feeling trapped. No matter how you feel politically, spiritually, scientifically we can all agree that at some point this in 2020, we looked at our current situation and thought something to the effect of “F*CK, I need to get out of here!”
The flick itself has a simple yet frightening plot; an author is rescued by his biggest fan after an auto accident and as she takes care of him in a remote location during a harsh winter, he begins to realize her intentions may be much more wicked than he imagined. First off, the performances in this flick are stuff of legend; horror movies in general do not get much love during award season but Kathy Bates won a Best Actress award for her portrayal of one of the greatest horror icons of all time, Annie Wilkes. Her character’s slow reveal from rose fan to sinister villain was so well done that you find yourself strapped to a bed like the main character, Paul Sheldon (played beautifully by James Caan). Throughout the flick, it’s scenario after scenario of strategy from Paul trying to escape Annie’s crazy cabin of horror and for every time Paul comes up with something to better his captor, you end up sitting in your seat and can’t help but imagine yourself in the same situation. Throughout the flick, there were plenty of scenes that one can claim as victories…but also plenty of scenes of failures that came with consequences that you started to feel in your soul. There are plenty of legendary scenes from the consequences that had audiences reeling but in particular, the scene where Wilkes presents the art of Hobbling is one that made my pupils as wide as saucers as Caan does an amazing job playing up the utter pain his character goes through during this amazing scene.
If scenes with Caan weren’t stressful enough, there’s also the addition of the Sheriff of the isolated town (played brilliantly by Richard Farnsowrth) that slowly but surely comes close to the truth behind the disappearance of the famous author. At this point the bumbling character that gets close to the truth is pretty common in suspenseful flicks but this Sheriff wasn’t a doofus at all, he was actually a kind hearted soul that you knew was getting closer to the truth and you were rooting for him as he got closer to the the horrifying truth. The whole movie in general was just a crazy rollercoaster containing different levels of anxiety that was rewarded with payoffs that left you feeling satisfied, until the next horrifying moment. With a movie with such few characters, it relied heavy on the performances of the main leads and every single one of them delivered to the point where you’re quite surprised when the movie seems to be over and your left with a fond feeling of relief and you start replaying the movie in your head seeing how you might have out maneuvered Annie Wilkes.
Perhaps it’s that hope of possible relief around the corner is why I find it quite fitting that Misery has been swirling around my head lately, a sort of subconscious call back to my childhood screaming at the television where analogously I’ve been yelling at our current reality. In a year where we all lost so much, whether it be friendships, faith or at worst, people, I feel like the spirit of a homicidal Annie Wilkes is like a dark cloud hanging over everyone’s head, keeping everyone hostage in whatever cabin they have in their heart. For me, I choose to be Caan; keep fighting, legs broken, spirit shattered, no matter; JUST KEEP GOING because laying down is just not an option.
Life is FAR more interesting when we take interest in things that scare us.