6+ Thoughts I Had Watching Stephen King's Misery For The First Time

 Kathy Bates in Misery
Kathy Bates in Misery

Misery is a movie that I have always wanted to watch, especially because it is one of Kathy Bates’s best performances. However, it has also always been a movie that I planned to watch after I read Stephen King’s original book of the same name. I completed the book in 2014 and loved it, but I just kept delaying watching the film.

Logically, I should have watched it in 2014 after I read the book. Therefore, I could have judged the differences and rode the high of finishing a book I really enjoyed. But that didn’t happen. I can’t recall why I never watched the movie after finishing the book, maybe it was as simple as it just wasn’t on any streaming service I subscribed to at the time. Nearly a decade later, I finally watched Misery. 

I have some thoughts.

Kathy Bates in Misery
Kathy Bates in Misery

The Film Never Lets You Get Comfortable

Okay, maybe Misery has a moment of peace right after Paul Sheldon (James Caan) finishes his final Misery novel, but once Annie (Kathy Bates) appears on screen, peace has left the building. I have seen many Kathy Bates performances over the years, and she’s been great in all of them. However, there is something so creepy and eerie and scary and frustrating about her performance as the infamous Annie Wilkes that you can’t turn away from.


It’s not surprising that she won an Oscar for this performance. What makes it more impressive is that she won an Oscar for a horror movie role, which we all know is a genre often overlooked by the Academy Awards, despite the many great horror movies that deserve Oscars. Annie makes the movie uncomfortable from start to finish. Even after her death, you’re like Paul still looking over your shoulders.

Unlike some of the other Stephen King great movie villains, Annie doesn’t have paranormal abilities. This makes her one of the scariest types of villains: the kind you could meet in real life.

James Caan in Misery
James Caan in Misery

Misery Does Suspense Really Well

Many horror movies have to rely on jump scares, blood, gore, and creating these elaborate creatures to create suspense and fright. Misery doesn’t need any of this to scare. There are very few actual violent moments and very little blood and gore. Instead, just Annie’s outbursts and our fear of her are enough to bring suspense.

One of Misery’s scariest scenes just involves Paul trying to move around the house without doing anything that Annie notices and then trying to make it back into his room before she returns. I had so much anxiety watching that scene. The film uses its limited space, a few close-ups, and just the threat of a smothering figure to make things suspenseful. That’s how great cinema is born.

Richard Farnsworth and Frances Sternhagen in Misery
Richard Farnsworth and Frances Sternhagen in Misery

Buster And Virginia Are Couples Goals

Sheriff Buster (Richard Farnsworth) and his wife Virginia (Frances Sternhagen), if I remember correctly, are not in Stephen King’s Misery book. I wish they were in it because they became one of my favorite parts of the movie.

This is one example of when a movie makes changes for a film adaptation and it works. Virginia and Buster’s sarcastic nature and banter are what I want from fictional couples. I cannot stress enough that they may have become one of my favorite film couples. I wish someone would make a prequel about them. The world needs that more than it needs an It prequel.

For me, Buster and Virginia’s romantic beginnings could easily rank among the best romantic comedies if it was turned into one. Solving crimes together and being super sarcastic and bantering? Give it to me now.

Kathy Bates in Misery
Kathy Bates in Misery

If Annie Burned My Book Draft, It Would Be Over For Her

The moment Annie has Paul burn his manuscript, I knew she was pure evil. If you’ve ever tried to write a novel, you can understand how difficult it is to complete. Therefore, Annie forcing Paul to burn something he put so much time and effort into — even in draft form — is an act of violence.

There is no way to forgive that type of behavior. This is what makes his own revenge sweeter. He gives her a taste of her own medicine by burning the book that she loves before she reads how he finishes it. That is my favorite kind of petty.

Richard Farnsworth in Misery
Richard Farnsworth in Misery

Almost Everyone In This Movie Is So Good At Their Jobs

Annie is clearly mentally unstable, but before she gets caught killing babies, she does a good job of covering up her crimes. I hate to say it, but she also seemed to be a pretty good nurse before she got caught.

Paul may hate the Misery novels, but they’re hits. Very few novelists achieve that level of success. I assume that he’s a good writer or a really good marketer.

Buster is one of the best movie sheriffs of all time. I have never seen a fictional sheriff so good at his job. This is why I find his death hard to believe. The Buster I believe in would not be so careless as to go to Annie’s home alone without at least trying to get some type of backup, especially when he suspected her. He was a nearly perfect sheriff until this decision.

Kathy Bates in Misery
Kathy Bates in Misery

Misery Shows The Extreme Version Of A Stan

Stephen King’s original book and the movie adaptation both share in their commentary about the relationship between authors and their fans. Sometimes fans can inspire authors to write better. They also are the reason authors have so much success, especially to the degree that Paul achieves. However, it can also become a smothering relationship that forces a writer into a box. Some fans — very extreme ones — sometimes believe that they know and understand the characters better than the author. Therefore, when authors write something that fans don’t like, then the fans can become haters really fast.

This was true in the 1990s and 1980s, when the book was written, and it’s still true today. Most fans aren’t as delusional and depraved as Annie, but social media can lead to some intense fan and author interactions. Annie is what happens when a fan loves a character too much and takes that to a violent and dark level. Thankfully, most book fans don’t take the Annie approach to their favorite author or books.

James Caan in Misery
James Caan in Misery

Other Thoughts

Misery is one of the best Stephen King adaptations and here are some of my other thoughts.

  • I am still very mad that Buster died. Why couldn’t he just go get backup?

  • Honestly, I am more likely to read a Misery book than the book Paul wrote at the end of the movie.

  • The cover art of the Misery novels is A+ work. They very much look like classic romance novels.

  • With Rob Reiner directing this film and William Goldman writing the script, of course, Misery was going to be a success.

  • I hate to admit how much I worried that the pig Misery would be murdered.

  • James Caan was equally brilliant in Misery. His character is so intentionally funny at times.

  • Showing that Annie voted for Nixon is such a clever funny thing to add to her scrapbook of crimes.

  • Now I want to read another Stephen King book, especially to finish my quest to read his most well-known novels.

From what I remember from reading Misery, the movie doesn’t completely follow the book but it does enough to be a pretty faithful and entertaining adaptation of Stephen King’s novel. Read the book and watch the movie.

Stream Misery on HBO Max.