Director - Stephen King
Year - (2004)

The category of Stephen King TV and film adaptations has been a mixed bag. On the one hand, youve got the best that horror/sci-fi has to offer in terms of The Shining, Firestarter, Carrie, Kingdom Hospital and The Stand. On the other, youve got Cujo, Dreamcatcher, Rose Red, Secret Window and The Langoliers. While no one can argue against the variety and creativity of Kings works, transferring an otherwise great novel into a movie is a tricky business.

Riding the Bullet, the latest adaptation of a Stephen King novella, falls into more of the middle territory. While not a bad movie, it never really gets to that classic status that only a few of Kings works have ever achieved. Ive never read the novel its based on, so I cant comment on its faithfulness to the source material. However, under any other scope which youd examine a traditional thriller, in terms of action, direction and suspense, Riding the Bullet delivered well enough to make me feel like Id at least gotten my moneys worth.

Probably the only thing that hurt the film was the premise, which isnt the most original story to come out of Stephen Kings brain. It goes something like this. Its 1969, and Allan Pakers(Jonathan Jackson) preoccupation with Death has nearly driven away his girlfriend, Jessica.(Erika Christensen) After a near suicide attempt, Allan is finally left by Jessica, only to hear that his mother just suffered a stroke. As Allan tries to hitch back to his mothers, he is picked up by one driver after another, each stranger than the one before. All of this finally comes to a head when hes picked up by George Staub (David Arquette), a hot-rodder who met an untimely end on the same highway.

Like I said, the premise isnt entirely original, and with Stephen Kings long resume, it wouldnt take long to find similarities among any number of his previous stories. Honestly, the movie isnt really that scary, with the only moments of terror come from cheap scares, where the music jumps and something jumps on screen, forcing you to hop in your seat. However, what makes this movie better than some of the other ghost stories is the sheer amount of creativity and simple good moviemaking. Like Allans alter ego, a sort of angelic twin, leaning over his shoulder making sarcastic remarks and trying to steer him right. My favorite little moment is the explanation of Staubs death, shown like a hammer horror flick, complete with evil cackle and cheesy over the top music. Though the scares where in short supply, there is enough in this movie to be entertained for the entire run of the movie. Much of the humor comes from Allans overactive imagination, which creates horrific scenarios of death, only to flash back to the real world where he ends up just fine.

More than that, the performances were entirely believable, and while most might take something like that for granted, most horror movies never really put acting at the top of the list. In Riding the Bullet, however, Jonathan Jackson holds the film together entirely on his own, while the rest of the supporting cast, from Erika Christensen, to Barbara Hershey as Allans Mother, to Nicky Katt as a weekend hippie, all do a well enough job with their respective parts. Yes, that includes David, of See Spot Run and Ready-to-Rumble fame, Arquette. His role as the impatient ghost not only offers some good humor, but some of the more serious moments as well. Special mention goes to Cliff Robertson, who is merely credited as Farmer, serves as sort of voice of truth, when talking about his recently departed wife, or a troublesome urinary problem. Strange as that may sound.

Altogether, Riding the Bullets limited release serves as a blessing, since not everyone will appreciate the strange humor and odd horror that this kind of film has. While it was a pretty good ghost movie, the messages of life and death and appreciation for what you have got pretty heavy-handed near the last ten minutes. That was the only part where I seriously began to yawn.

Since, it is in limited release, not everyone will get to see it, but if you can wait until DVD, its definitely worth a rental. If nothing else, you will get some good laughs, for the right reasons.

Reviewed By - Evil Ash

Rating ( 3 of 5 )



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