Fame and fortune, adoring fans, an easy existence free of financial care...sounds like the "Great American Dream" for sure. This is the life that author Paul Sheldon (James Caan) enjoys thanks to the success of his series of books about Misery, his fictional heroine. Now he has just completed a new book, his first that doesn't include Misery, and he leaves his secluded writing retreat feeling triumphant and excited about the new turn his writing career is taking. That is, until his car skids on the icy road and rolls down the mountainous terrain, badly injuring him in the middle of nowhere. When all looks hopeless, Paul is rescued by a burly woman who pulls him out of the twisted remains of his car and takes him home to recuperate.
Paul's savior, Annie (Kathy Bates), seems like a friendly country gal. A bit odd, maybe, and certainly enamored of Paul's work...even to the point of naming her pet pig Misery. It doesn't take long to figure out that what's wrong with her is more than a little oddity as Annie's behavior gets ever more erratic...and it becomes clear that she does not intend to let her favorite author simply return to the outside world.
In traditional Stephen King style, this film takes an unassuming situation that most people would consider one of the safest places in the world, and turns it into an experience from the darkness of nightmares. Of all writers, King is one of the few that has succeeded in scaring me at all...and of all horror films, those adapted from King's stories are some of the only ones worthy of the name in my book. As with movies like The Shining and Cujo, the "scare factor" does not depend upon blood, gore, and cheap thrills, but rather on convincing audiences that absolutely anything can turn against you, whether it be a father and husband, a beloved family pet, or a kind benefactor.
I must say that Kathy Bates makes probably the best horror antagonist that I have ever seen, precisely because she has the ability to look so sweet and kind. Bates' talent really shines throughout the film as she shows her ability to completely transform from her typically amiable type of characters into a violent, maniacal person capable of anything. Though James Caan was far from the first pick for his role, he did a convincing job that was, for the most part, excellent. There were only a couple of parts that he actually appeared to be acting, though in some of those parts his character really was supposed to be acting, so these may have been intentional.
Other than the two main characters, there's not a lot to say for the cast. Most of the movie centers around Bates and Caan, with some side scenes featuring Richard Farnsworth as the small-town sheriff who is out trying to find the missing writer. Anyone who dislikes movies that take place almost entirely in one place, and consist almost entirely of dialogue between two people, may wish to look elsewhere.
The film and sound quality reveal the movie's age as it was made in 1990, but these are only slightly below-par for current film standards and are relatively easy to ignore.
Overall, this is an excellent movie that may be more of the psychological thriller ilk than horror. Though I have read many Stephen King books, I have never gotten around to reading Misery, and so have no idea how close the movie stayed to the book, but as a standalone it is definitely worth the watch.