There are some films that just gain a reputation, and become legendary based on that reputation. All too often, these films very rarely live up to their reputation. However, Misery’s reputation for being the ultimate film about obsession and insanity lives up to the legend it has received. It is as terrifying and brilliant as everyone makes it seem, and then some.
Kathy Bates – an actress so beloved, but all too often ignored and overshadowed by other actresses. If anything, Misery proves that she ranks amongst the greatest actresses of all time. In what could have very easily been a one-note, over-the-top performance, Bates brought a strange charm to Annie Wilkes, making her seem like your favorite aunt on one hand, and your worst nightmare on the other. She is incredibly sinister, and the sweet, humble personality we know Bates has contrasts perfectly with her performance as Wilkes. Nevermind Freddy Krueger, Pennywise and Jason Vorhees – Annie Wilkes is the scariest movie “monster”, because sadly people like her do exist. There has not been a more terrifying figure in horror cinema since the “other” Bates trotted across our screens almost exactly thirty years earlier.
Rob Reiner made a bold choice to direct this, as he was primarily known for his romantic comedies. At the core, Misery is not unsimilar to Reiner’s previous films. They all focus on the relationship between people, and it just so happens that Misery is about a relationship – an insane, intense, terrifying relationship, but one nonetheless. Annie even believes they are in the beginnings of a romantic relationship – and what setting for a meet-cute is more appropriate than a car accident? This could very well be the most terrifying romantic film ever made, because after all, obsession is just a one-sided romance.
What makes Misery stand out to me is its sense of humor. It is in no way a comedy, but it is darkly funny throughout. It has a very bitter sense of humor, including Annie’s aversion to swearing, but delight in smashing her hostage’s feet with a sledgehammer. It is quite caustic and funny in places, which makes it even scarier, because instead of being a straight-up dramatic horror, it brings a terrifying humor to the story which makes it seem all the more unsettling.
Misery is a film that makes you uncomfortable, uneasy and absolutely terrified. There was absolutely nothing Paul Sheldon could have done to prevent the predicament (unlike other horror films where those teenagers choose to go swimming in the lake at midnight). It is the best performance of Kathy Bates’ career, and I just feel sorry for all the other actresses who turned it down, because I would be mighty proud if a film like Misery was the crowning achievement in my career.