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Misery

In the "Kill the Bitch" tradition of FATAL ATTRACTION, this adaptation of Stephen King's misogynist fable about a "serious" (male) author trapped by his own "frivolous" (female) commercial creation isn't quite satisfying either as a flat-out horror screamer or a psychological thriller. Paul Sheldon (Caan), the creator of the fabulously successful romance-novel heroine Misery Chastain, has a fan in Annie Wilkes (Bates) who is willing to die for him. The trouble is, after she discovers Sheldon has killed off his series of "Misery" novels in order to write "serious" fiction, Annie wants to take him with her. Director Rob Reiner is clearly more comfortable with the humor and humanity than the gory horror in King's grisly tale. William Goldman's script is similarly at its strongest early on when Sheldon faces off in a test of artistic mettle against Wilkes, the toughest editor of his life. When the horror comes, it feels forced and derivative. The climactic battle between Sheldon and Annie degenerates into yet another recycling of the unkillable movie killer gimmick of "Friday the 13th." Ironically, it is Bates's Oscar-winning work that subverts MISERY as a horror tale. She gives the role a subtle mixture of wit, energy, and psychological realism that undermines the pat, bloodthirsty resolution.