It’s been a banner year for Stephen King fans everywhere, and Shout Factory sweetens the pot by giving Rob Reiner’s horror masterpiece “Misery” a collector’s edition. Based on the classic Stephen King novel, Rob Reiner who is no stranger to adapting King’s work, brings to screen a work of terror, dark comedy, and a demented commentary about the fans behind our work that also control our work. It’s a very volatile and sharp edged polemic about fandom when you get right down to it, and it’s never been more relevant than in the day and age where fandoms from all corners of the world have the loudest voices and sometimes can break the very thing they love.
“Misery” centers on author Paul Sheldon, a talented writer who has spent most of his writing career penning a series of dramatic books called “Misery.” Feeling like he wants to break out of his comfort zone, Paul, against the warnings of his agent, decides it’s time to end the book series by killing off the main character of the book once and for all. While traveling through a blizzard one day, he is involved in a horrific car crash that leaves him injured and debilitated. When he awakens, much to his surprise he’s not only been cared for by a seemingly kind woman, but she also happens to be a hardcore fan of the “Misery” Books. The frumpy, somewhat unassuming Annie Wilkes is a set in her ways homebody who worships Paul Sheldon. Once she learns that he plans to end the “Misery” series, she begins to slowly peel away her layers revealing a maniacal, deadly, and relentless psychopath who may not let Paul from her clutches any time soon.
Set in primarily one room, “Misery” watches like an expertly crafted stage play, where Paul has to reach down in to Annie’s level of sanity, and begin playing a game of cat and mouse. Every move he makes depends on whether Annie will inflict further pain on him, or allow him the luxury of peace. While there are glimmers of darkly comic overtones, especially in the disturbing way Annie takes the books seriously, “Misery” is a deliberately paced and brilliant horror film that manifests King’s seemingly worst nightmare. The performances are an absolute stroke of genius, delivering on every level of subdued, lifting the tension a notch every minute Paul is within Annie’s grasp. Kathy Bates gives the performance of her career as this warm presence that has her idol at her mercy, and inflicts suffering in ways only he can comprehend.
King is very clever in exploring the writer’s prisoner where Paul is forced to write a new book at the command of Wilkes, and momentarily considers death, rather than trot out another page. There’s also her medicating him in to submission, and the iconic hobbling sequence that’s become a mainstay in the pantheon of cinematic moments that made us cringe in horror. James Caan works beautifully off of Bates, providing an often underrated performance as a man who is the polar opposite of what Annie likely imagined and works toward tailoring him to become the very idol she worshipped through his novels. “Misery” is a film that also works as a statement toward the artistic condition, the hazards of fame, and the potential pitfalls that come with meeting your biggest fans.
It’s a masterpiece of horror that keeps you hooked until the final scene that sums up the whole of King’s experience as a world famous author.
Scream Factory brings over most of the extras from the 2009 Blu-Ray and 2007 Collector’s Edition of “Misery,” and have even added some brand new extras for the fans. The new extras include a thirty seven minute interview with director Rob Reiner, and a twenty six minute interview with make up artist Gregory Nicotero. They’re exclusive to this release. Topics discussed among the interviews are the startling effects, the Reiner honing his craft as a filmmaker, auditioning Kathy Bates, changing the book’s climax, and how the crew changed Annie’s process with Paul from an axe (in the novel) to a sledgehammer (for the movie).
Among the older but interesting extras, there are two audio commentaries with director Rob Reiner, and one with screenwriter William Goldman. There are the pair of featurettes “Misery Loves Company,” and “Marc Shaiman’s Musical Misery Tour,” and five fact based featurettes getting to the psychology of the film. Included are “Diagnosing Annie Wilkes”, “Advice for the Stalked”, “Profile of a Stalker”, “Celebrity Stalkers”, and “Anti-Stalking Laws.” Finally there is a pair of vintage trailers for “Misery.” It’s a compilation of some great and exhaustive peeks behind the film, and within the depths of the story.