I know it’s cliche to say this, but this film is not as scary or as good as the book.
Although the film adaptation is scary, creepy, dark, and unnerving in its own way, the book exudes a visceral and insidious terror that devours the story from the inside out, and cannot be adequately described to someone who hasn’t read it and experienced it for themselves. It’s easily Stephen King’s most terrifying work, while being one of the few to feature literally no supernatural elements.
The film slots into that mid-budget range that seemed popular in the late-80s/early-90s, but has all but vanished from Hollywood now. Rob Reiner provides mediocre direction, James Caan’s portrayal of Sheldon is tepid at best, and although Kathy Bates is absolutely on form as Annie Wilkes, everything is ultimately limited by the adaptation of the story itself.
Too many extra elements and characters were shoe-horned in to appeal to the contemporary cinema zeitgeist, all at the expense of the story to be told, and the horror therein.
Frankly, I think Misery is ripe for a remake. Mainstream 80s cinema seems to contain so much spoon-feeding for the audience, and although I’m aware that many mainstream films released today are just as bad, filmmakers these days can get away with far more oblique offerings, such as Upstream Colour, The Master, Under the Skin, and Frank, an atmosphere for which the core of Misery seems well suited.
There are dozens of great contemporary filmmakers who could spin an exceptional low-to-mid budget adaptation in this style, with a more taut, sharp narrative truer to the novel, and with less of the cutesy parochial Reiner-esque intrusions.