RIDING THE BULLET
Directed by Mick Garris
Produced by Joel T. Smith, Brad Krevoy & David Lancaster
Written by Mick Garris
Director of Photograpy Robert New
Music by Nicholas Pike
Cast: Jonathan Jackson, David Arquette, Barbara Hershey, Erika Christensen & Cliff Robertson
2004/98 mins/Color/5.1 Dolby Digital
1.85:1 anamorphic/English/USA/NTSC Region 1
Review from the Lions Gate Home Entertainment DVD
Does anyone else here remember the 1980s when Stephen King was truly king? While King was turning out books at an admirable pace, it seemed that a new movie based on King's work was appearing every month (there were three major motion pictures based on King's stories produced in 1983 alone). Although King has continued to write, we don't see as much of his work at the multi-plex these days (even though a quick glance at IMDB.com shows that there has continued to be a consistent supply of King adaptations). RIDING THE BULLET is the latest feature-film to be based on a work by King. And although the film did visit theaters for a short time, many missed it and will now have a chance to see the movie on DVD.
RIDING THE BULLET is set in October, 1969. Alan Parker (Jonathan Jackson) is a college student who has just been dumped by his girlfriend, Jessica (Erika Christensen), leading to a suicide attempt. After leaving the hospital, Alan is confronted with the news that his mother (played by Barbara Hershey) has suffered a stroke, so Alan decides to hitch-hike home to see her. As Alan walks through the darkness (on October 30th no less), he begins to reminisce about events with him mother, both good and bad. The already questionable activity of hitch-hiking is made even more dangerous as Alan begins to encounter unusual, spectral, and downright scary individuals and visions along the way. Alan soon finds himself locked in a battle with a ghost, struggling to save not only his life, but his mother's as well.
Anyone who has read any of Stephen King's works knows that the author has created a language all his own, using colloquial phrases, incredibly descriptive passages, and italics which serve as a characters inner thoughts. I have not read the novella on which RIDING THE BULLET is based (you may remember that King produced this story exclusively for internet distribution), but I could pick out every word which long-time King collaborator writer/director Mick Garris had pulled from the story. My wife (who also knows King) and I would nod to one another every time a "Kingism" came forth from the character's mouths. Thus, watching RIDING THE BULLET is very much akin to reading King. This comes not only from the language, but from the story as well. Many familiar King trappings, such as the University of Maine, classic cars, and secrets from the past, haunt the story as well. So, even though I haven't read RIDING THE BULLET, I sill feel very confident stating that this film is a successful adaptation.
But, like many King stories, RIDING THE BULLET is very hit-or-miss. The film works well as a simple genre piece, as Alan encounters many spooky things on his journey home. There's a nice mixture of generally creepy scenes and "jump" scares. Also, the emotional content of the story is effective as well. The flashbacks to Alan's childhood with his mother are well-done and give a great deal of weight to Alan's journey. The movie tells us about Alan’s childhood piece-by-piece and this draws the viewer into the movie. The problem is that these two factions don't always gel. RIDING THE BULLET can't seem to decide if it is a genuine horror film or a drama. And unfortunately for genre fans, the flashback scenes are often more intriguing than the macabre elements of Alan's trip. For that matter, some of the scary scenes come off as hokey. (Garris proved in “The Stand” and “The Shining” that he could create a truly spine-chilling moment.) The biggest problem with RIDING THE BULLET is that once the film is over, the viewer is left with a hollow feeling and many questions. What was Alan's journey about? Was any of it real? One gets the feeling that the movie wanted to be more than it was and just missed that plateau. RIDING THE BULLET is an entertaining film, and it does a fine job of capturing the essence of Stephen King, but don't expect it to be a new benchmark in King's horror film oeuvre.
RIDING THE BULLET shoots onto DVD courtesy of Lions Gate Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 1.85:1 and the transfer is enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. The transfer looks very good as the image is sharp and clear, showing virtually no grain. The picture is very clean and the image is very well-balanced. Much of the film takes place at night, and these scenes are never too dark and the action is visible. The colors look good and the dark tones are very rich. There is some subtle blurring during fast camera moves, but otherwise the transfer looks good. The DVD contains a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track which is very well done. The dialogue is sharp and clear, showing no distortion. The stereo effects are great, and the 60s music soundtrack sounds fantastic, especially the multi-layered vocals of “Time of the Season” by The Zombies. The surround sound effects are effective and the low-frequency rumble of the subwoofer adds to the fright scenes.
The RIDING THE BULLET DVD contains a few extras. We start with two audio commentaries. The first features writer/director Mick Garris (without Stephen King contrary to what some DVD stores have reported). Garris speaks at length throughout the film, detailing the writing of the script, his work with King, the actors, and the shooting of the film. Garris’ talk is very informative, as he speaks to the task of making the film while also talking about the technical aspects of what’s on-screen. The second commentary has Garris, along with producer Joel T. Smith, actor Jonathan Jackson, director of photography Robert New and special FX supervisors Greg Nicotero and Howard Berger. This is a fun commentary track as the group discuss the film and constantly crack jokes. This track provides many different perspectives on the making of the film ranging from the acting to the lighting. “Shooting the Bullet” is a series of short featurettes which document the making of the movie. “David’s Makeup” (2 minutes) looks at the special fx makeup used on actor David Arquette. Artist Bernie Wrightson, who supplied sketches for the film, is profiled in “Alan’s Artwork” (1 minute). We get a look at the vintage cars used in the film in “Picture Cars” (90 seconds). “A Cemetery Shoot” (3 minutes) offers a lot of behind-the-scenes footage from one scene in the film. A major stunt in the film is explained in “Fury Crash” (5 minutes). The shooting in the amusement park location is documented with “Shooting at Thrill Village” (3 minutes). And finally, we have “Storyboard Comparisons” for four scenes. The extras are finished off with a gallery of Wrightson’s art.
This Film Features:
Review by Mike Long. All Right Reserved. 2005. ©