Stephen King’s Riding the Bullet

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Rating: R

Starring:
Jonathan Jackson as Alan Parker
David Arquette as George Staub
Cliff Robertson as Farmer
Barbara Hershey as Jean Parker
Erika Christensen as Jessica Hadley
Barry W. Levy as Julian Parker
Jackson Warris as Six-Year-Old Alan
Jeff Ballard as 12-Year-Old Alan
Peter LaCroix as Mature Alan
Chris Gauthier as Hector Passmore
Robin Nielsen as Archie Howard
Matt Frewer as Mr. Clarkson
Simon Webb as Grim Reaper
Keith Dallas as Orderly
Danielle Dunn-Morris as Mrs. Janey McCurdy

Special Features:
Director, cast and crew commentary

“Shooting the Bullet” mini-featurette gallery

The Art of Riding the Bullet

Storyboard to Film comparisons

Trailer

Other Info:
Widescreen (1.85:1)
Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound
Spanish Subtitles
Running Time: 98 Minutes

Synopsis:
This movie is based on a story written by Stephen King exclusively for the internet. It originally aired on the USA Network. This is the theatrical version. The following is from the DVD cover:

“Alan embarks on a 100 mile hitchhike to see his mother in the hospital. Along the way, he must confront his many demons – both living and dead – and in the end make the ultimate choice that will mean life or death for him and his mother!”

Riding the Bullet is rated R for violence, disturbing images, language, drug use and some nudity.

The Movie:
Riding the Bullet doesn’t seem to be your typical Stephen King film. The scary moments really aren’t all that horrific and despite the advertising, this is almost more of a character drama than anything else. I never saw it when it first aired on TV, so I can’t comment on how this “full-length theatrical version” compares to the original. I can say that I don’t think the extra scenes helped much.

Unfortunately, Riding the Bullet tries to be a lot of things at once and really isn’t entirely successful at any of them. Part of it is intended to be a new take on the old ghost stories about hitchhikers encountering specters late at night on a dark road. There is a little bit of that here, but it is not the focus of the movie. Part of it is a tale of a man haunted by real and imaginary demons, but that concept never really goes very far beyond the opening of the movie. Part of it is a freaky road trip picture where Alan meets a colorful cast of characters along the way, but that has been done better in other films. The DVD menus even make this movie look like a campy parody of a 50′s horror movie, but it’s not really that either. In the end Riding the Bullet is mainly about a guy discovering the value of life and, unfortunately, it takes a lot less than the 98 minute running time to get that point across. The final product ends up being a mediocre example of all these concepts.

Jonathan Jackson gets most of the screen time as Alan Parker. It’s a decent, psychedelic performance. Jackson frequently gets to play his own imaginary double which serves to portray his conscience. His double’s commentary also ends up being a lot of the comedy relief in the film. David Arquette makes a memorable appearance as George Staub, a 50′s greaser that menaces Alan. It’s an amusing role for Arquette, but you’re never quite sure if he’s real or imaginary, devil or angel. There are also roles for Cliff Robertson, Barbara Hershey, and Erika Christensen, but they are all brief and not really used to their full potential.

Despite this obviously being a low budget production, Riding the Bullet is a good looking film. The locations on the road are appropriately eerie. The amusement park fits the mood of the film well. The sets are all detailed and the artwork by comics legend Bernie Wrightson are fun to see. In short, they got a lot of bang for their buck.

In the end I would really only recommend that fans of Jonathan Jackson and Stephen King check this movie out. I don’t think it’s scary enough to satisfy most horror fans and it’s too mediocre to be appealing to mainstream audiences.

The Extras:
There are a fair number of bonus features on this DVD though most of them are rather brief. Here are the highlights:

Director, cast and crew commentary – There are two commentaries, one with the director and one with the cast and crew. It’s your standard commentary fare with reminiscing about the shoot, technical discussions of how they shot the film, etc.

“Shooting the Bullet” mini-featurette gallery – There are about 7 mini featurttes included in this section. Running between 2 to 5 minutes each, they cover the shoot at the amusement park, the makeup, the stunts, and more. They all have interviews with the cast and crew, behind the scenes footage, and other goodies.

The Art of Riding the Bullet – This brief feature highlights the artwork by comics legend Bernie Wrightson. His sketches are included in Alan’s sketchbook in the film.

The Bottom Line:
Riding the Bullet may be a faithful adaptation of a Stephen King short story, but it’s too mediocre to be worth checking out.

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