Review: RIDING THE BULLET by Stephen King and Mick Garris

Riding the Bullet by Stephen King and Mick Garris
Lonely Road Books
Fall 2010

Mick Garris has always been something of a bland filmmaker in my opinion. Maybe it’s because so much of his work has been in television, specifically adaptations of Stephen King projects like The Stand, The Shining and Desperation. These are powerful novels (and, in the case of The Shining, an acclaimed movie) that simply overpowered the work that Garris was able to produce. But, for whatever reason, King loves him and continues sending projects his way. (He’s been working on adapting Bag of Bones for television. This happens to be my favorite King book, so I’m a little apprehensive.)

A few years ago Garris completed Riding the Bullet, King’s morality tale/ghost story that actually premiered in written form on the Internet. In the introduction to his side of this deluxe edition flip book published by Lonely Road Books, Garris writes that he was drawn to the piece because of its quieter, more meditative nature, as well as the personal resonance he felt in the wake of a series of personal tragedies. He wrote the script, reprinted here in its entirety, on spec, and the project followed a long and difficult path before eventually being made on a tight budget. It was a rare big-screen release for Garris, but it only played a few cities before being dumped into video stores and late-night cable rotation.

But this isn’t a review of the film, it’s a review of the package put together by Lonely Road Books, and the publisher has done an outstanding job. Brian Freeman, the man at the helm of Lonely Road, is also the marketing guru at Cemetery Dance, and he knows from good books. Riding the Bullet, the book, is a stunner.

In addition to the screenplay, the Mick Garris side of this oversized hardcover features a gallery of conceptual art by the legendary Bernie Wrightson, a handful of behind-the-scenes photos from the film’s production, and a “Director’s Notebook” containing such ephemera as script breakdowns, production schedules, storyboards, and script pages complete with Garris’s handwritten notes. The Wrightson art is spectacular (as is the book’s cover, a painting by Alan Clark) and reading the full script gives insight into how much Garris elaborated and expanded on King’s original work in an effort to make the piece his own.

King’s story is reprinted in its entirety on the other side of the book. While it’s a minor entry in the author’s catalog, it displays the deft touch that few filmmakers (aside from those named Darabont, Reiner or Kubrick) have been successful in translating to the big screen. It’s the story of a young man faced with a difficult question – when you think you’d do anything to save the life of someone you love, does that include giving up your own life?

I’d love to see Lonely Road gives this treatment to some of the more successful adaptations of King’s work – The Green Mile, perhaps, or maybe even Pet Sematary – because having script and source side-by-side really does make for an interesting peek into the process of adaptation. Even though the film they chose to represent here will never go down as a great moment in King history, this book will be fondly remembered.

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