Why distress can be tougher in 2020

Jesus Christ, another piece about watching movies in the infinite soul sucking that is this politically corrupt pandemic year. I know. I know! Full disclosure, if it were up to me, I’d fire completely harmless features on how often you watch Pedro Pascalthe chin is clean The Mandalorian Then log out to partake in a Thanksgiving dinner without worrying about sneezing into the sweet potatoes and killing a significant portion of the state of New Jersey. But that’s not the reality. Reality lives day in and day out with a virus that is rising again, and reality is the impossibility – especially when it’s your job – to separate the art you are consuming from the context in which you are consuming it. “Turn off your brain and enjoy it.” is a privilege of the carefree mind but also ignores the fascinating ways that great art can bend through time; How a great movie can look completely different at another point in your life. This point? It was lonely. It was scary. It was misery.

Smooth transition: misery hit theaters this week 30 years ago.

Misery is a success story full of little miracles. Rob Reiner isn’t the first name that comes to mind when it comes to horror, but Misery marks his second time converting the works of Stephen King into a classic, after Stand by Me. It’s also a book that has nothing to do with working as a film. Misery is an isolated two-character affair that leans heavily on the inner thoughts of its main character Paul Sheldon, a writer who is held captive by his number 1 psychotic fan, Annie Wilkes, after a car accident. The casting didn’t make things any less complicated. You are known to be in a bad mood for Paul James Caan– Accepting the role after almost a dozen initial decisions rejected it – on the other side of personal decline and in search of a career comeback. For Annie, Kathy Bates in her first major film role at the time, a relative unknown to general audiences outside of Broadway.


Obviously, Misery’s success cannot be denied three decades later. Bates won an Oscar for best actress for her role. Caan added another vital role to his legacy while barely moving his legs. The sight of Annie completely crushing Paul’s foot with a sledgehammer – a feat of practical wizardry that was whipped by him Robert Kurtzman, Greg Nicotero, and Howard BergerKNB EFX Group – is rightly listed alongside some of the most iconic horror images of all time. The film holds up, I say, and the most obvious parallel is between the horror of being locked up by an obsessive fan and the horror of being locked up for an all-consuming virus. It’s not the same scenario, but they share the senseless feeling of having our hands metaphorically – in Paul’s case literally – tied to our side by something unreasonable. This is the undercurrent of misery that remains vital over the years. It’s only the Annies who change. For King it was dope. “Annie was my drug problem and she was my biggest fan,” he told The Paris Review in 2006. “God, she never wanted to go.”

Today’s Annie Wilkes doesn’t love us, but God she doesn’t want to go.

Misery James Caan

Image via Columbia Pictures

But that’s not even the scariest part of Misery in 2020. It’s not just Bates’ ever-changing performance or the claustrophobia of Barry SonnenfeldHitchcock-inspired cinematography. It’s the normal, steady passage of time that doesn’t stop because you can’t leave the house. The gist of the film is that Annie forces Paul to write another entry in his hugely popular romance “Misery Chastain,” and the terribly familiar sight in Misery becomes someone who, amid all this terror, just … has to go to work. He has to work while pretending that his situation has not turned into a constant state of fight or flight. Even if it’s just the moments when he sits at the typewriter while his fingers move, he has to briefly turn off the constant claxon sirens of fear in order to survive. (One disturbing remark that the book touches more than the movie is that in those moments Paul can’t help feeling excited about the work, even under the circumstances.) It reminds me of how normal isolation has become and how disturbing it is is that we had to normalize it in the first place. Thanks to 2020, the scariest sequence in Misery is the montage of Paul’s work, day after day, as the snow turns into rain. A reflection of everyone in America who realized that “two weeks of quarantine” meant something that had no clear ending and still has to just get to work.

I don’t know what “the other side” of our situation is. Paul Sheldon dumped Annie Wilkes’ shit out of him and then smashed her head with a ceramic pig that medics have told me is not a legitimate way to beat COVID-19. But I keep coming back to the last scene of misery, 18 months after Paul’s escape, when the author was sitting in a restaurant – imagine! – and told one editor that he would rather not “dig up the worst horror of my life just so we can.” make a few dollars. “But he still sees Annie walking towards him with a knife, not the actual Annie, but a ghost that he still thinks of” every now and then. “The most terrible thing about Annie – about Misery – is that there aren’t any There is “other side”; there is survival and then there are scars that will last the rest of your cockadoodie life.


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About the author

Vinnie Mancuso
(1510 articles published)

Vinnie Mancuso is Senior Editor at Collider, where he is responsible, among other things, for all things related to the 2018 film ‘Aquaman’. You can also find his opinions on pop culture on Twitter (@ VinnieMancuso1) or be called out of a window in Jersey City between 4am and 6am

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