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At-A-Glance Film Reviews

Misery (1990)



Reviews and Comments

One of Stephen King's non-supernatural horror stories, Misery is the genuinely unnerving account of a novelist who (very stupidly, if you ask me) drives too fast in a snowstorm down roads with no rail guards, crashes, and gets rescued by a woman proclaiming herself to be his "number one fan." The novelist is played by an appropriately subdued James Caan. The number one fan is played by Kathy Bates in a truly masterful performance that earned her an Academy Award. The director is the versatile Rob Reiner, noted for eliciting great performances from his actors. He does that here, and he wisely subdues some of the more grisly scenes from the book, leaving more to the imagination. Imagined horror is always scarier than something seen -- ideally a horror film should show just enough to set the imagination off on a wild frenzy, and that's precisely Reiner does here.

The story, for a non-King fan like myself, is refreshing in that it does not fall back on stock King character types -- Caan and Bates work wonders together. Even more refreshing is that Misery doesn't wallow in heavy handed brooding. It's horrifying, to be sure, yet there is a sense of humor sprinkled lightly over the surface. You'll laugh during Misery, but not heartily -- the terror is ever so close to the surface, and the faintest scratch will expose it. And there's at least one scene that will etch the film on your subconscious for a good long time.