Saturday, October 12, 2013

My years in horror: 1990

I've been rather open to what I consider for these listings. Heck, I gave the honor one year to a music video. So you might start to think that I may name certain TV miniseries 1990's best horror movie, but that's not IT.

 Sadly, I can't give this distinction to Clive Barker's Nightbreed, either. It's well-known how that film was reduced from its potential greatest by low-budget effects and a studio cut that took most of the gristle out. (I here the Cabal Cut is much better.)

So 1990's best horror movie is... Misery. 
 Right now, let's all agree that James Caan wasn't the best choice for author Paul Sheldon. There's a veritable who's who of Hollywood leading men who reportedly turned down the role and the general consensus was because Annie Wilkes overshadowed the male lead.

And rightly so. Annie Wilkes -- and here is where I get up on my high horse -- is not just one of the greatest female characters ever written for print or screen, but one of the greatest characters EVER created. Calling Annie Wilkes a female Darth Vader is an injustice. I would accept, with some regret, Wilkes being called the Darth Vader of Horror because that at least puts the male and female characters on level ground. And while Vader may be more culturally iconic, Wilkes is much more complex.

You see, there's a reason Annie Wilkes is the star of this story and not Paul Sheldon: Annie represents much more than Paul does. Paul is an average, weak human being, wrought with addictions and regrets. Yes, even successful people fuck up. We'll not get into any one author's personal past demons, but we should all admit that we have some and sometimes they lock us up in a room and don't tell anyone else we are in there.

Kathy Bates rocked this roll so much that she became the first Best Actress Oscar winner from a horror film (there had previously been one Best Actor win and one Best Supporting Actress win, but horror remains heavily unrecognized by the Academy). Bates captured the psychotic mood swings of Annie Wilkes and also brought an appropriate amount of sympathy to the character. Really, she just wants to help and to be loved. Unfortunately the love and help she can offer is such a sick and twisted kind that it leaves her alone and isolated in rural Colorado.

There are other minor characters and each does his or her job well enough. Lauren Bacall is still with us and still working, as is Frances Sternhagen, who also appeared in the adaptation of Stephen King's The Mist and his original miniseries The Golden Years. Richard Farnsworth passed away in 2000.

Director Rob Reiner had previously adapted King's novella "The Body" into the film Stand By Me. Barry Sonnenfeld, who later directed The Addams Family and Men in Black, served as director of photography for Misery and did a great job of showcasing the blizzards and the play of light and shadow inside Annie's house.

So there. We're into the 1990s with 19 years still to cover, which means I need to crank these out to catch up to this year and my 34th birthday.

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