Sorry Pennywise, But This Is Stephen King’s Most Terrifying Villain


The big picture

  • Annie Wilkes of
    serves as a chilling reminder of the dangers of overzealous fans and the line between admiration and obsession.
  • Annie Wilkes' portrayal of Kathy Bates perfectly captures the transformation of a seemingly harmless fan into a terrifying captor in Stephen King's psychological thriller.
  • The real horror of
    lies in its reflection of real-life experiences with dangerously obsessed fans, showing the dark side of fandom culture.

Stephen King has written many races of villains throughout his long and illustrious career. From the everyday bullying of childhood to the abominations beyond this world. Despicable authority figures, abusive parents, or the abyss staring back at him. The sheer volume of his collected works makes it quite a challenge to choose who is the scariest Stephen King villain, both in their original literary form and how they were adapted to film. The easiest answer for the most recognizable and visually iconic villain is Pennywise from this, the child-eating clown whose power as an evil entity infects the town of Derry, Maine. While Pennywise metaphorically evokes a lot of very real things, especially around the time it was written, the abomination-demon-clown stuff isn't real. On the other hand, Annie Wilkes, the antagonist of his 1987 novel misery, adapted to film in 1990, it hits a little too close to home these days.

Everyone wants to adore fans until they get them, imagining what a great feeling it would be to mean so much to so many. Of course, many people may hate you with the same breath, and some people may love you a little too much or in a way that isn't exactly normal. This isn't the first story about a fan girl with a dark side. All about Eva won an Oscar for the same premise much earlier misery was written Despite this, misery it took him to his most insane and violent extreme as he boiled to a fever pitch. Annie Wilkes, played in the film by Kathy Bates, is a former nurse who has settled in rural Colorado. With no one but a pig for company, Annie loses herself in the romance novels of Paul Sheldon (James Caan), starring her favorite character in the whole world: Misery Chastain. As fate would have it, Paul Sheldon crashes her car in the blizzard and breaks both of her legs, and she is in a position to be his saving grace.


After a famous author is rescued from a car accident by a fan of his novels, he realizes that the attention he is receiving is only the beginning of a nightmare of captivity and abuse.

Publication date
November 30, 1990

James Caan, Kathy Bates, Richard Farnsworth, Frances Sternhagen, Lauren Bacall, Graham Jarvis

Execution time

Main genre

Castle Rock Entertainment

Paul Sheldon used to write for a living. Now, he's writing for a living.

Kathy Bates' Annie Wilkes is one of the original crazy fans

There was a long period when the obsessed fan was more of a comic book character than a real threat, mocked for being too invested in fiction, entitled and desperate, a subgenre of mocking nerds. The genius of misery it's that Annie's character is eased into the beginning, almost putting the audience in her shoes as much as Paul's, while she's still just a fan who saved her favorite writer. Paul means a lot to Annie, and his work brought her out of a dark place. Everyone has someone like that; a writer, musician or filmmaker whose art has touched them or kept them company in moments of loneliness. At first, it's easy to empathize with Annie Wilkes. From the moment he pulls Paul out of that overturned car, he's temperamental and bossy, but not necessarily something to be held back. She's a little too much. That is until she finishes the manuscript Paul gives her of his latest novel, and discovers that Paul is going to kill her Misery Chastain and move on with her career.


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This shift from sickening sweetness to screaming rage is perfectly encapsulated in Bates' performance. At first she seems like a nice and humble woman, with her attractive blue eyes and teacher's clothes. There is a small sanctuary in Paul's collected works, but this is not an obvious gift to his instability. When he has a full-blown meltdown over Misery's death, you're kind of shocked. Even if she's been a little weird, that hasn't made her a threat, until now. When it is discovered later in the film that he has an even darker background than suspected, it shows a clear pattern of his misinterpretation of the abuse of control he had over others with help and healing. This mixture of obsession and Paul's betrayal leads her to this explosion of violent acts, including the famous limping scene. Then comes the right when she threatens Paul to rewrite his last novel to get Misery back, the changes she tries to implement that contradict each other, how she wants it to be different, but also the same. That's when things, especially when you watch the movie now, start to get a little too real.

'Misery's Annie Wilkes is even more realistic in 2024

There are a few things that inspired the creation of Annie Wilkes, including Evelyn Waughthe short story of The Man Who Loved Dickens, and the substance abuse King struggled with. He has never said so outwardly misery it was an attack on his own fan base, even after they rejected his efforts to branch out with the fantasy novel Eyes Of The Dragon. After all, it wasn't a horror novel, it was something she hoped her young children would read. This is something that King's most vocal horror fans responded to with apathy at best and vitriol at worst. Although he dipped his toes into other genres, this was his first real diversion in themes and demographics. The Green Mile That was still a few years away, and the answer is ironic now, given that a hallmark of King's genius is his versatility. One would imagine that a writer at his level of success in 1987 would be concerned about an interaction like this. Probably not the kidnapping part, but certainly the worrisome reactions from die-hard fans who felt King should just write what and how they wanted.

The real horror of misery watching it, and reading the novel in 2024, is that we still see people like Annie Wilkes to this day. The reason over-fanatics aren't used as joke characters, aside from nerd culture being considered cool, is that their behavior isn't funny anymore. You think of the members of a certain fandom who relentlessly harassed actors because they didn't like the characters they played. Real-life horror stories of celebrity stalkers are disturbing on their own, but nightmarish encounters like these have been dangerous in real life, too. Such cases can have devastating results; the death of beloved artists like Selena Quintanilla, Rebecca Schaeffer, i Christina Grimmie they've seen King's fiction bleed tragically into reality.

The worst extremes of fandom don't perceive creators as people, but as vessels of these worlds they're lost in. If you're familiar with even smaller corners of the internet, you can see how people can get lost in fiction. Annie Wilkes is not influenced by malicious spirits like Jack Torrance, she is not a creature from another world. The horror comes from the fact that he is just an ordinary person that anyone can meet or has met. Their feelings of entitlement and ideas of parasocial relationships have become almost mundane in today's culture, allowing us to see the worst types of fans.

misery is available for purchase on Amazon.

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