No one would contest that Stephen King is a literary master, but there’s some debate about his cinematic adaptations. There are the great ones you already know (and love, probably) like Shawshank, The Shining, It, and The Green Mile. Then there’s some of the worse ones like The Langoliers, Children of the Corn, the Under the Dome television series and many, many more. Still, how do you have a Halloween filmathon without including Stephen King? I was going to try, but my plan was thwarted. My suggestion had been the remake of It from 2017 that I have seen a handful of times but having seen it so many times it seemed like something I could skip to make way for a film I hadn’t seen. Natalie though suggested today’s pick: Misery. It was, apparently, a tragedy that I hadn’t seen it so onto the list it went.
Don’t be fooled though by how that sounded because Misery is a solid film and an overall interesting and fun time. Do I think it’s my perfect Halloween time film after viewing it this first time? Maybe not as much as It or The Shining, but the film has a certain quality to it that fits right in on my list. If films about serial killers are Halloween fare, then why not the crazed fan film?
If you’re not familiar with the film like I was, here’s the brief version. Famous author, Paul Sheldon (James Caan), is on his way down from his snowy mountain cabin to deliver his manuscript to his publisher when he crashes his car. Lucky for Paul, he’s rescued by a former nurse, Annie Wilkes (Kathy Bates) who brings him back to her isolated cabin to nurse him back to health. What may be her dream come true meeting her favorite author quickly becomes Sheldon’s nightmare when she discovers he’s killed off her favorite character in his latest novel.
Easily the most worthwhile aspect of Misery is Kathy Bates. It’s no secret that this lovely lady has some incredible talent and she is certainly a tour de force in this film as the psychotic, obsessed fan. One of the aspects of her performance I found most fascinating was her ability to switch from this adorable, enamored fan to batshit crazy in the same scene. Bates deliver some truly chilling scenes in this film — from the moment she bursts into James Caan’s room after reading he kills her favorite character to the scene when she famously breaks his ankles with a sledgehammer. Bates delivers such a powerful performance that it’s worth seeing this movie just for her. That’s what hooked me in in the first place anyway and she definitely blew my expectations out of the water.
Another really strong aspect of the film is its ability to build tension. The structure of the screenplay (adapted by the famous William Goldman who also gave us The Princess Bride and All the President’s Men) is so careful in its delivery and the way it builds to the insanely tense finale sequence. In the capable hands of director Rob Reiner, the film is crafted with care. Goldman had wanted to keep some of the gorier parts of the novel, but Reiner was insistent they deviate from the book on this front to level the playing field and make this a more mental chess game of sorts between two masters. The result is a really solid and claustrophobic film.
If you’re looking for a new Stephen King film to watch and you haven’t given this one a shot, definitely take a chance on it. It’s got some truly chilling moments that might make it a perfect addition to your Halloween viewing this season.