Horrific Scenes From Non-Horror Movies: ‘Misery’ (1990)

We all know that horror movies are supposed to be filled with well horror or scary scenes. So sometimes it can be tough to truly shock viewers because they have seen it before or are simply ready and braced for something awful. However, there are times in non-horror movies where there are scenes that are more unsettling, intense, and horrific than the entirety of some horror movies. These scenes can catch the viewer off guard because they come at us unexpectedly or simply show the disgusting real side of life.

In this series we will take a look at some of the best and most memorable scary, unsettling or all-around horrific scenes from movies that are generally considered to not be in the horror genre. Let me know what you thought about the scene and share some of your favorite scary scenes from non-horror movies. Maybe it will be featured in a future post. Enjoy!

*Warning: May Contain Spoilers*

Misery (1990)

Scene: The Hobbling

Misery is about a successful romance writer Paul Sheldon, played by James Caan (The Godfather, Thief), who is in a car accident in the middle of nowhere and just so happens to be rescued by his “number one fan” Annie, Kathy Bates (Fried Green Tomatoes). The accident leaves him bedridden from broken legs and a dislocated shoulder with Annie, who is a nurse, taking care of him in her home. Out of gratitude he decides to let Annie read his latest manuscript. When Annie discovers that her favorite character, Misery Chastain, is being killed off, she flies into a fit of rage letting Paul know that no one knows where he is and locks him in the room. With Annie in complete control, she forces Paul to burn the manuscript and begin writing a new one which keeps Misery alive. Paul firmly believes that Annie might kill him, so he complies with her wishes.

As Paul begins to heal and get better, he attempts to rescue himself. He sneaks out of his room knocking one of her ceramic figures, a penguin, off a table but he catches it and places it back. During all of this he discovers that Annie had been on trial for the murder of several infants but was acquitted due to lack of evidence. One day Annie drugs Paul and straps in to the bed which brings us to our scene.

I’m sure you all figured out the scene the moment you read which movie I was covering. The sheer thought of this scene sends shivers up my spine. I’m not the biggest Kathy Bates fan but can recognize that she deserved the Oscar she won for this role and the evidence is in the scene alone.

Paul awakens to Annie letting him know she is aware that he has been out of his room. When Paul denies this, Annie reveals even more to her crazed madness. Annie has seemed in control the entire time of Paul’s stay but with one simple line she lets us all know that she is an out of control mess with extreme OCD.  “Paul, my little ceramic penguin in the study always faces due south.” Gulp! As Paul continues to deny this and feeling under his mattress, Annie lets him know that she is onto him by revealing his pick lock and the knife he is currently searching for. “Last night it came so clear. You just need more time. You’ll come to accept the idea of being here.” Then Annie informs Paul of a practice administered to native workers who were caught stealing from the mine they were working at and that the practice was called “hobbling”. Um what? Like many of you and Paul, I began squirming in my seat when Annie places the wooden block between Paul’s feet. As Paul begs, Annie lifts a sledgehammer to her face and tells him, “Shhh Darling. Trust me. It’s for the best.” and whack. Annie smashes Paul foot with the sledgehammer breaking his ankle and while Paul screams in agony, Annie gets set up to break the other ankle letting him know “Almost done. Just one more.” And another whack. We zoom in on Annie’s face as she stares at Paul, “God, I love you.”

Simply excruciating, right? Just kill me please and thank you. I mean with how calm Kathy Bates plays this scene, the subtle piano music playing in the background and the trepidation James Caan conveys, this is just a tremendous scene that is extremely unsettling. Even more impressive is how short of a time we even see his foot contorting around the block after the impact. I mean it’s literally a split second, but it is etched in your mind as if you were watching the bending of it in slow motion for an hour straight. We don’t even see the second hit but the guttural impact of the whole thing is just masterfully done. But what’s even more sickening is that the book version of this scene is even worse. Annie cuts Paul’s foot off with an ax and cauterizes the wound with a propane torch…