Misery (1990)

1990’s Misery is one of the finest book to screen King adaptations of all time, in my humble opinion. While this new dearth of King adaptions continues unabated with varying degrees of success or abject failure (*cough: The Stand), no one has (as yet) touched it, or even broached remaking it. Maybe they’re afraid to? And so they should be.

"perfectly holds true to King’s material without hitting the Xerox button"

While most King books rights are snatched up before or as soon as they are released, one of the world’s greatest writers had a special attachment to this particular tome and held out when the movie folk came calling. That was until Rob Reiner, who had impressed the author with his adaptation of King’s short story The Body with the film Stand By Me, made the offer to produce or direct it.

This is indirectly one of King’s most personal stories and an exploration of his feeling trapped by his own success. His protagonist, Paul Sheldon, is a highly successful author of period romance novels and his main character Misery has become the focal point of his entire career. But burned out from Misery, Paul has been hard at work on something new up in the Colorado Mountains and, unbeknownst to the world at large, has sealed the fate of Misery already. Also, unbeknownst to Paul, quietly watching outside his hotel in the cold is his ‘number one fan’ Annie Wilkes. When Paul leaves the hotel, his newly finished manuscript in hand, and drives off home into a horrific storm, a series of unfortunate events will see him badly injured in a car wreck, bedridden and at the mercy of one bat-shit crazy Annie Wilkes.

This film is a master class in subtlety, building up tension carefully and patiently. King’s novel is one of this reviewer’s favourite, but what the film brings is a more reserved depiction of violence instead of King’s patented horrific imagery. So, when Annie does turn violent, the juxtaposition from her thinly veiled pleasantry to deeply troubling psychosis is very effective.Misery (1990)

Any changes from the novel are minimal and only serve to highly this extremely focused and clever William Goldman script. As stated, some of the violence has been lessened, but not watered down. They have invented a husband/wife relationship for the sheriff that serves to remind the viewer of the world at large, and give a moment to breathe from the ratcheting fear in Annie Wilke’s little microcosmic prison.

This is essentially a two actor show and Kathy Bates and James Caan are unbeatable, with Bates, in her Hollywood debut, earning an Oscar and gifting the silver screen not just Broadway, with her awesome skill as a performer.
Reiner had never directed a thriller before, but for a first timer in the genre, he seems to have made the perfect debut. He, along with cinematographer (and future A-list director) Barry Sonnenfeld construct an always riveting moving image, which is some feat considering the bulk of the film takes place in one room. The editing by Robert Leighton is first rate as he takes seemingly innocuous moments and uses them to increase your pulse exponentially.

I imagine the smile of Stephen King’s face when he saw what was accomplished when he first viewed this film.

Misery is, in this reviewer’s eyes, one of the finest of the King pantheon of films and still stands the test of time all these years later. Inevitably, it will be remade, but unlike most of King’s book adaptions, I hold this film in the regard of The Shining and The Shawshank Redemption: unbeatable. It perfectly holds true to King’s material without hitting the Xerox button. Any deviation only serves to enhance what was already brilliant.
Masterfully, beautifully, horrifically perfect.

5/5 stars


Misery (1990)

4k details divider

4K Ultra HD + Blu-ray Edition

Home Video Distributor: Kino Lorber
Available on Blu-ray
- October 12, 2021
Screen Formats: 1.85:1
: English
English: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1; English: DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0
Discs: 4K Ultra HD; Blu-ray Disc; Two-disc set
Region Encoding: 4K region-free; blu-ray lokced to Region A

Cannot emphasise enough how excited I was to hear that a UHD of this film was coming. It’s a seemingly generous package that Kino Lorber has licenced to release, but as we dig a little deeper I’ll explain how much reuse there is within.


Okay, this is where the money has been spent. This 2160 Native 4K scan will underwhelm in the introductory scene, with softer shots (probably accurate of Sonnenfield’s choices in camera) at the start. However, past the intro credits, things get amazing fast. While Misery is a deliberately muted pallet, the careful placement of hotter colours, particularly reds, boldly stands out in a crisp and detailed frame throughout. Flesh tones have taken on more intensity, wrinkles in people, clothes, bedding, and snow reveal detail never before seen. The glint in Wilke’s crazy eyes as she goes off tap at Paul for killer her Misery really stood out for me: the crazy detail in shading and the white of her bulging eyes made me sit forward in amazement. This isn’t a modern day HDR extravaganza but contrast is a massive uptick from previous releases and a fine print of this epic film.


Here’s where the reuse begins. This is not to say the DTS-HD 5.1 isn’t a beautiful surround experience. It truly is. But I would have liked to see a new 7.1 ATMOS mix. I think this is a great mix, but if they were going to the trouble of a definitive remaster, the soundtrack deserved the video’s attention to detail as well.



  • Commentary One
  • Commentary Two

Special Features:

Sigh... You get the all the special features from the Scream Factory release (among others) from long ago, but, as with all new media, if they don’t offer anything new, I see no point in reviewing the same stuff over again. It just seems the days of studios or physical media producers no longer wish to put the finance into making decent supplementary content anymore. Generous but long outdated commentaries and featurettes aplenty. That just makes me sad.

  • Misery Loves Company
  • Marc Shaiman's Musical Misery Tour
  • Diagnosing Annie Wilkes
  • Advice for the Stalked
  • Profile a Stalker
  • Celebrity Stalkers
  • Anti-Stalking Law

4k rating divider

  Movie 5/5 stars
  Video  4/5 stars
  Audio 3/5 stars
  Extras 2/5 stars

Composite Blu-ray Grade

3.5/5 stars

Film Details

Misery (1990)

MPAA Rating: R.
107 mins
: Rob Reiner
William Goldman
James Caan; Kathy Bates; Richard Farnsworth
: Horror | Thriller
This Christmas there will be... Misery.
Memorable Movie Quote: "You want it? You want it? Eat it! Eat it till ya choke, you sick, twisted fuck!"
Theatrical Distributor:
Columbia Pictures
Official Site:
Release Date:
November 30, 1990
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date:
October 12, 2021.
Synopsis: After a famous author is rescued from a car crash by a fan of his novels, he comes to realize that the care he is receiving is only the beginning of a nightmare of captivity and abuse.


Misery (1990)