I had heard and read nothing but bad things about Stephen King’s Riding The Bullet. In fact, I remember a review in Entertainment Weekly being particularly mean. Not that I judge the movies I am going to see by what reviewers think, but I had never heard of this movie and suddenly it was playing in multiplexes everywhere. Well, after screening it on DVD let me just say that, while it’s not the best movie I have ever seen, it certainly wasn’t that bad. In fact, in hindsight, it was nice to see a sort of old style horror story. One that deals with the idea of myth and legend as opposed to one where you go the whole movie seeing music video imagery, only to find out that the main character you have followed for the entire film is really dead.
Stephen King’s Riding The Bullet is the story of Alan. A guy who is hitchhiking home to visit his ailing mother. Along the way, he turns down many rides and does his best to abide by his conscience. He is haunted by many demons, the harshest ones being memories of his mother and deceased father. Eventually, Alan has to confront all these things in order to move forward in his life.
Now, this may sound vague and a tad confusing and I am sorry for that, but truthfully, I am not sure how fully I understood this picture. In fact, I think I am actually going to have to screen it again just to make sure I “got it”. A lot of people might scoff at this, and even wonder how I could like a movie that doesn’t make things as clear as possible? Well, my answer to this question is that I don’t necessarily like my movies to have easy answers. I don’t like to have everything explained to me. This isn’t true for every film just certain ones.
In the case of Stephen King’s Riding The Bullet, I allow for this confusion because overall I enjoyed the story and the way it was presented.
”Shooting the Bullet” Minifeaturette Gallery
These are 7 short and sweet featurettes about everything that went into the making of Stephen King’s Riding The Bullet. While I didn’t find any of them to be that in depth, I think that it’s cool that they cared enough to put 7 small pieces together documenting how certain scenes were shot, how the make-up for David Arquette was done, storyboards, etc. The fact that these pieces are short isn’t a drawback either, simply because there are so many of them.
The Art of Riding the Bullet
This is the artwork of Bernie Wrightson and while I may not be a huge fan of it, I really admire his style. I wish I had this person’s drawing abilities. The renderings he creates are downright scary. It isn’t anything that people into “gothic”(is that even the right word?) haven’t seen before, but lets just say that some of the “Betty Page-like” artwork he has come up with is right on in keeping with that tone and the tone of Stephen King’s Riding The Bullet.
Storyboard to Film Comparisons
More and more DVDs are having these. I am not that big a fan of them. I only say this because, as far as I know, the script is written, the storyboard artist reads it and then delivers their drawings. The movie makes it seem like everything is drawn before it is even shot. Certain scenes probably are, or chances are everything is redrawn when they decide on the shooting script. I just don’t know how important it is to see the magic behind the magic. I sort of like there to be some mystery behind the film.
Director Cast and Crew Commentary
There is one commentary track that is just with Director Mick Garris and another one with the films star Jonathan Jackson, producer Joel T. Smith, Director of Photography Robert New, and Special FX supervisors Greg Nicotero and Howard Berger. I dipped around both of these commentary tracks, and I have to say that I found each of them to be equally interesting. I like learning about how a film was made, why certain scenes were shot the way they were, but I really enjoy a good story about what was happening on the set, or how the film went from being an idea in someone’s head to a movie that made it to the screen. These tracks provide plenty of that and it was a treat hearing from Greg Nictero who has worked on such films as Kill Bill and From Dusk Till Dawn.
16:9 Widescreen. As I said above, I really loved that this movie was told in a more traditional storytelling style. I wasn’t inundated with quick images every 5 seconds. Sure, there were some of those in Stephen King’s Riding The Bullet, but for the most part, as this story was set in the 1960s, it seemed to be trying to adhere to that type of film language. On top of this, the DVD transfer and compression looked great. On some of the “minifeaturettes”, the compression was a bit pixilated but for the actual movie, everything looked really sharp and top notch. In the scenes that were quickly cut together, there was enough of the “old” style within them to make the scenes not seem so modern.
5.1 Dolby Digital. I didn’t notice anything that great about the sound design. This isn’t too say that it is bad it’s just that nothing really stood out. I never found myself thinking, “Man, the sound on this thing is just blowing me right out of my seat!”. Actually, I was mainly just engrossed in what I was watching. Taking in the scenes and sometimes listening to see if I could try and anticipate the scares that were to come. I find myself doing that in a lot of the modern day horror movies, but this was one of those times I just sat back, watched and listened.
With a blurb on the front from the master of horror fiction, Stephen King, that reads, “The best of the independent films made from my work since Stand By Me”, one might have every reason to be skeptical. There is a weird resemblance to the DVD cover of Christine(another movie that King penned). We see a red car, gravestones and Jonathan Jackson trying to hitch a ride. The back shows David Arquette having a somber moment in a cemetery and there are more blurbs by people like Frank Darabont and Tobe Hooper. Apparently, the press reviewers were off the week this DVD came out.
Stephen King’s Riding The Bullet is a good movie. It isn’t great, it isn’t brilliant and contrary to the opinion of Mr. King, I don’t think this movie comes close to being the best movie adapted from his work. I will say that this movie is good and I don’t think it should have been so easily dismissed by the critics and screengoers. For that, I have to put the blame on myself a little bit, but at the time this movie came out I didn’t have access to a movie theater. Yes, you read that right.
Okay, enough of the excuses. I look forward to seeing more of Mick Garris’s movies. I feel that this movie took difficult subject matter, situations that would be hard to pull off(like a zombie on a roller coaster) and this film just went for it. At all times, it seemed like it was earnestly trying to remain true to the story. From the setting, to the structure to the ending epilogue, I felt that I can understand why Stephen King said what he said. Like a lot of his work, it is embedded in real life feelings and emotions. In Stephen King’s Riding The Bullet, these things are never far from the surface and in the end they are all this movie is really about.
Stephen King's Riding the Bullet was released October 15, 2004.