One of the best adaptations of a Stephen King’s novel, Misery is a tense, taut & thrilling example of its genre that puts up a terrifying portrait of fandom gone a tad too extreme. Persistently looming with a sense of dread and uplifted by terrific performances, it’s a manifestation of every celeb’s worst nightmare.
The story of Misery concerns the author of a best-selling novel series who crashes his car during a blizzard and is rescued by a former nurse who considers herself to be his number one fan. But things soon take a turn for the worse when she reads his latest novel and discovers the ultimate fate of her favourite character.
Directed by Rob Reiner (best known for Stand By Me, When Harry Met Sally… & A Few Good Men), Misery is a filmmaking lesson in gradually escalating terror as Reiner slowly & steadily ratchets up the tension and unfolds the plot with such effectiveness that neither its disquieting chill nor the viewers’ interest is ever lost.
Reiner’s direction exhibits both confidence & composure but William Goldman’s screenplay is just as impressive, for every scene builds up on the one preceding it plus it’s able to carve moments of pure horror without relying on jump scares or any other cheap tricks. Humour is sprinkled throughout but it doesn’t lessen the film’s foreboding tone.
The minimal setting & isolated location provide just the right environment for its plot to unfurl. Camerawork is smooth throughout, capturing each & every event or expression in a clear-cut fashion while also making use of angles that deliver the maximum impact. Editing is expertly carried out and makes sure that every scene in the final print is relevant to the plot.
Coming to the performances, both James Caan & Kathy Bates are outstanding in their given roles. Caan plays an author who, following his accident, finds himself at the mercy of his dangerously disturbed caretaker. It’s a physically exhausting work but the veteran actor pulls it off with finesse. However, Bates is even better as the psychotic fan, and easily steals the show with her twisted & downright deranged showcase that’s inarguably her career-best performance.
On an overall scale, Misery turned out to be way better & far more involving than I initially expected it to be, and is undoubtedly one of Rob Reiner’s best directorial efforts. What drives this movie is the protagonist’s endless attempts to outwit his abuser, and it’s riveting to watch how those events play out. Functioning on more than one level, Misery is an unnerving & unsettling delight that delivers the thrills in heavy doses and still hasn’t aged a day.