Riding the Bullet (2004)

Another Stephen King adaptation, another day. Between resurrected pets and deranged nurses you figure King would run out of stamina in writing his fantasies but you would be mistaken. After all, no more works means no mean movies which in turns means less blog entries. So thankfully that is not the case. Riding the Bullet, however, doesn’t have anything to do with demonic cars or young witches but rather a 60s college student on his way to visit his mother in the hospital.

Do not be mistaking the seemingly normal plot for something that is normal. The two are very different. Because the protagonist of the film (Alan Parker), you see, is a bit suicidal, emotional, and obsessed with death. He kinda has mommy and daddy issues. But he is a good guy. So when he hears that his mother had a stroke he drops his studies at the University of Maine and hitchhikes to the hospital to visit.

Along the way he encounters some creepy visitors. Obviously it was too much to hope for a typical bout of asking for rides from strangers. Nope: he encounters ghosts. Not the Casper the Friendly Ghost variety either; messed up moralizing ghosts desperate to make some kind of after worldly payment involving Alan’s soul. So he encounters an odd old man and a crazy hipster-greaser version of a grim reaper. A hefty decision is made and life goes on.

The plot is emotional as it is morbid. Unsurprisingly the entire film, along with all the ghosts and flashbacks, are part of a larger allegory concerning the meaning of life and love. It is sober, as is to be expected of King’s works, but the manner in which they are presented infuses the tale with humor and avarnt garde techniques; director Mick Garris incorporates horror, B-movie tropes, and drama shots all into a series of hallucinations on Alan’s part which, while annoying near the end, manage a superlative experience.

While it is not overly exceptional it is entertaining. Above average to be sure, though only barely. Motif and great mise-en-scene shots abound and the music is suitably creepy.  Acting is swell and honest. Nothing to complain about on the whole. By the end of the movie you should have a new appreciation for how fleeting life is and how you need to live your life and simple move on; sometimes you need to just ride the bullet.


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