Ladies of Horror May-hem: Annie Wilkes


Oh, Annie Wilkes, you crazy dirty birdie, you.

That’s right, denizens…my selections aren’t always going to be the heroines of the story. And that’s the only spoiler that I’m going to give you for Misery and its leading lady. Yes, this movie came out in 1990, but I know that some of you haven’t yet seen it. Or some of you haven’t seen it in a long time. I urge you to remedy this. This might very well be one of the best screen adaptations of a Stephen King horror novel yet filmed (I would even contend that it holds its own against non-horror adaptations like The Shawshank Redemption).

The plot revolves around writer Paul Sheldon, most famous for a series of novels featuring a character named Misery Chastain. When Sheldon crashes his car during a blizzard while driving through an isolated section of Colorado, he’s lucky to be rescued by Annie Wilkes, a local nurse who just happens to be his “number one fan.”

No three more frightening words exist in the English language, thanks in great deal to Kathy Bates. In fact, the role of Annie Wilkes not only instantly tagged Bates as a major-league Hollywood player, but also earned her a Best Actress Oscar, the first ever awarded to an actress for a role in a horror movie. Even King loved her performance—so much so that he wrote his novel Dolores Claiborne with Bates in mind for the lead role, and he changed the gender of a character from The Stand so that Bates could be in the miniseries.

[Loba Tangent: I’ve not seen the latter miniseries, but if you’ve never seen Bates as Dolores Claiborne, then I would highly recommend that you do. It was definitely an under-appreciated film, IMHO, again made brilliant by Bates, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Judy Parfitt, and Christopher Plummer, whose character tangles with Dolores in the most engagingly antagonistic ways.]

The combination of Bates’s amazing translation of Annie Wilkes with King’s writing, William Goldman’s screen adaptation, and Rob Reiner’s direction created a perfect storm of horror genius with this movie. For me, Annie Wilkes stands among horror’s elite as one of the most traumatizing characters ever to darken an entryway…while holding a sledge hammer. And a log.

And that’s all I can say about that…you cock-a-doodies.