Psychological Horror...meet Annie Wilkes.

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I find it hard to characterize Annie Wilkes as anything but a psycho.  She is clearly suffering from some type of mental illness that seems to border the lines of being manic-depressive, and is also suffering from a severe case of paranoia.  Annie lives in a world where everything and everyone is out to get her, so she develops a way of living that only makes sense to her.  She goes about her daily routines and emphasizes the importance of keeping up appearances so that no one has anything to complain about. I think the example that stuck out most to me, regarding her paranoia, was when she left hairs around the house to see how many times Paul had gotten out.  She was so frantic about this that she accused Paul of going upstairs and wheeling himself out into the barn while both of his legs are pretty much shattered.  Hmmm....

Throughout the book we are introduced to 4 stages of Annie. First, we have her level state where she is both loving, and kind to Paul.  She gives him his drugs on time, she attempts to make him comfortable, she feeds him, gives him his bed pan, etc.  Then we are introduced to the enraged version of Annie were she lashes out at Paul, curses extravagantly, amputates Paul’s left foot and then cuts of his thumb. When she stabs/runs of the young cop at the end, she even does so without feeling, only to blame Paul for his death. Then, what I found particularly interesting, was that she typically went into a depressive state after this, which caused her to binge eat, neglect her body and slip into a state of self hate.  When she feel hard enough into this black hole, she would then hurt herself by digging her nails into her face, and slapping herself as hard as she could.  Now frankly speaking, if that doesn’t say “Hi, I’m psychotic” I’m not sure what does.

King’s portrayal of Annie Wilkes follows the tradition of psychological horror that we have been studying this semester because it allows us to witness a character who doesn’t understand the limits of her own mind.  Annie is disturbed and has a sick sense of control over the story’s protagonist, so we see as much of her thought process as we do of Paul’s.  To me, this is the ultimate in the psychological horror stories that I have read so far, because the story is horrifying in both the protagonist’s and the antagonist’s mind.  It’s not often that you get to witness the break of sanity between the good and the bad guy.

I don’t want to sound cliché, but I do think that her femininity does make her stand out from what we have read so far.  Annie is holding the cards in this story and she is the one calling the shots.  She is a complicated character with a horrific past, and she isn’t afraid to do what it takes to get what she wants.  Now while Nola was clearly psycho in The Brood, she’s no match for dear Annie.  In my eyes, Nola lost her mind way before the movie started, and she wasn’t fully aware of what she was doing…and she certainly wasn’t in the right frame of mind to be making decisions; now I’m not trying to say that Annie is sane, but the girl definitely knew what was going on, and she made sane decisions (in her mind) to the best of her abilities. She was able to plan out a course of action, keep Paul alive and out of control (until the end), and hide her tracts well enough to escape conflicts with the law.

Annie Wilkes may be psycho…but she does psycho well, if not better than most of the characters we have read so far.

While we are still on the topic of dear ol' Annie...I wanted to include something in this blog about the concept of horror and romance within Misery.   While this is without a doubt a psychological horror story, it also has the potential of being a (demented and twisted) love story.  Annie states (several times) how much she is in love with Paul, and that she has gone beyond just loving his mind and his stories.

Now one of my classmates wrote about the relationship of the horror genre to that of the romance world, and I think that our collaboration is noteworthy in including in this post. The following is my response to his thoughts on the subject above, but for more of what he has to say, one can check out his blog!

(My response)----I think you open up with a great point of how both horror and romance focus on the body, but in different ways.  Horror views the body as something to be tainted/defiled, whereas romance views it as an object of chastity or pleasure.

I liked that you stated "In romance, especially the more graphic/erotic areas, the descriptions get right to the flesh of things with genitals and breasts, deep breathing and pounding, every look interpreted through a lens of sex, every conversation potentially leading to a steamy moment."  While this is true of romance literature, I think it corresponds with the horror genre as well.  Most sex scenes in horror movies/literature portray the antagonist in a vile form of lust for their victim.  For instance, they will focus on defiling the body or torturing it before they have their way with it.  For example, I just watched House of Wax again this weekend, and when one of the brothers captures the girl down in the basement of the gas station, he glues her lips shut and only then proceeds to kiss her (or some variation of that).  So like you said, the reader/viewer forms a bond with the character(s) and then experiences some terror/pleasure of what happens to them while they read/watch.  I think the two genres have a lot more in common than people give them credit too.


-Quotes and ideas regarding the horror and romance genre were by and inspired from David Johnston.

1 Comments

Marcus Christian said:

You've hit this one on the nail. Annie is a psycho's psycho. If she were a real character, she'd be a case study in psychosis.
I, like you, found it laughably horrific that Annie thought that Paul could get upstairs and out to the barn. I almost wonder if she really put the hairs there in the first place.
Truly a psycho.

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