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February 10, 2016

Addendum: Movie Review || Misery

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After being pleasantly surprised by Stephen King's 'Misery' novel, I was starkly disappointed in the film version. Rob Reiner's film has filtered the book down to the least possible physical horror and turns Annie's psychological problem into nearly no more than a celebrity obsession that's gone out of hand.

I suppose that the film was more targeted at the psychological thriller buffs than it was to those with an affinity for the horror genre. This could explain why James Caan's Paul Sheldon seems to be more perturbed at being at the mercy of Kathy Bates' Annie Wilkes than terrified and broken, as the novel's version is. Sheldon in the film is calm and collected, despite Wilkes' psychological breaks and rapid mood changes. Her proclamations of love for him merely brings to his face the annoyance any celebrity would feel when yet another fan praises him and puts her intentions strictly into 'stalker' territory. He really seems rather irritated at his situation, certain that his survival is a given and that the mad woman he is living with is not that crazy. It is only near the end of the film that Caan allows the audience to see how much he hates this woman. But therein is the problem: the novel's version of Sheldon's reasoning for killing Annie is because he can see no other way to survive and this makes the situation seem a lot more terrifying than in the film.

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And even though the film is meant to be a thriller, in comparison to the terror that the novel's Sheldon experiences - from rushing through the corridor in a wheelchair as Annie's car comes up the driveway to having his foot and thumb cut off, from being thrown into a damp, rat-infested basement to a very real fear of starvation, and the fact that she has also made a codeine addict of him - the film has no comparison to the thrill of this. Even Sheldon's own near-madness at the end of the novel - when he and Annie cackle together over the fact that she's never eaten caviar before - is missing, giving the film a hollow ring rather than the deep, bone-thrumming hum at the book's horror of Sheldon's truly dire situation. For if he does not kill Annie, he will die. If he remains undiscovered after killing Annie, he will die. There is no echo of the relief of survival and escape in the film.

Rather, as a viewer, it felt confusing since we are meant to be afraid of Annie Wilkes with no reason other than her mood swinging from one end of the spectrum to the other. The situation only really becomes serious after Sheldon sees her scrapbook recording her evil deeds, once she hobbles him and kills the police officer. And even then we know that Sheldon will be rescued because we see the police investigating the couple, discovering Annie's history, and even visiting her house. It is the uncertainty of his survival that would have made this movie more striking and memorable.

Are you a fan of the book or the film?

{Image credit: Facebook/Misery}

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