As the FanTasia Festival came to a close, our reporter Dominic Marceau kept receiving treat after treat while making me more jealous than when that kid in second grade got the amazing trapper keeper with a built in calculator. Read on for his latest report, which includes his thoughts on Mick Garris’ Riding the Bullet, the Stephen King adaptation…
Dominic F. Marceau
Today’s episode: “You wanna be Down with the King!”
The sun was blaring and my music was blasting as I drove to downtown Montreal. I had been invited to an official FanTasia supper. Lucky me! I was going to meet up with the Freak Out! guys, and we would all go together. I don’t know what those guys saw in me but they insisted I’d be there to hold their hands. (You know I’m only kidding!) I got out of my car and noticed that I had a message on my cell. I listened to it. It was “Freak Out” director extraordinaire Christian James. “Uh, Dom, we’re uh… making our way to the uh… restaurant. We’ll meet you there. Cheers!” Well, I had parked near their hotel and, lo and behold, who do I see crossing the street a few hundred feet in front of me? Yup! So, I ran like the kids on the railway tracks in “Stand by me” and (eventually) caught up with them, completely out of breath and sweating like the fat guy in “The Running Man”!
At the restaurant, we were introduced to Riding the Bullet director Mick Garris. He seemed extremely nice. He told us that he hadn’t seen the finished film either, as the print came out of the lab the day prior. He was very excited. His lovely wife, sister, and mother were also there. We were also joined by Fangoria editor Anthony Timpone. Another extremely nice fellow. We all enjoyed a fine Italian meal and eventually made our way to the Hall Theatre for the world premiere of “Stephen King’s Ride the Bullet”.
On Halloween night 1969, young man obsessed with death hitchhikes across Maine to visit his mother, who is in the hospital after suffering a stroke. He meets many peculiar characters along the way and is eventually picked up by a mysterious stranger, whom he has seen a picture of on a tombstone! Is the driver really the dead reincarnated, or is our hero’s overactive imagination playing tricks on him? He soon finds out when the stranger asks him a question that can mean life or death. For whom? Ah, you’ll have to see the flick to find out!
Stephen King hasn’t been lucky when it comes to his books being adapted to the big screen. They’ve definitely been hit or miss. His “softer” works like “The Shawshank Redemption” and “Stand by me” are now modern classics, while his more horror-based stuff has mostly been from semi-bad to absolutely unwatchable (“Graveyard Shift” anyone?). “Misery”, “Christine”, and the original “Carrie” caught the Stephen King vibe just right but these gems are a minority (I’m not going to mention Kubrick’s adaptation of “The Shining”, which is one of my favorite films of all time. He’s changed the story so much and made it his own. Stephen King apparently HATES it, which prompted him to redo it for TV, with Mick Garris at the helm.).
Ironically enough, I’m kind of “on the fence” about “Riding the bullet”. One thing: the film looks great. Production values abound in this little film shot in British Columbia, which miraculously passes for Maine! I don’t know how they did it but it works perfectly. The film is obviously a labor of love for screenwriter/director Mick Garris. He’s done other King adaptations in the past (“The Shining” and “The Stand” miniseries. “Sleepwalkers” was an original King screenplay, therefore NOT an adaptation.), but there is also a lot of him in his film. One of my only problems with the film is that it “felt” like a TV adaptation. It’s episodic nature looks like six 22-minute shows, with a cliffhanger at the end of each part. Other than that, I thought the epilogue was way too long and its emotional impact extremely heavy-handed. Now don’t get me wrong. I still enjoyed the film. After all, this film was written by the man who wrote my favorite thing that ever played on television (The “Amazing Stories” episode entitled “Go to the head of the class”)! Garris has more fun, playing with our expectations, than I’ve ever seen him do in the past. We flash back, flash forward, we enter the characters’ heads, they double up, speak to themselves, you name it. It is a wild ride. But, like any long distance trip, there are bumps in the road along the way and your destination isn’t always what you had in mind.
After the film, Mick Garris addressed the crowd and told us how happy he was, being here with his friends and family. He’s a genuinely nice man. He’s worked with everybody, yet he’s still humble as Hell. He hasn’t been “Hollywood-ized” at all, and the FanTasia crowd loved him for it.
This film might not have been everything that it could have been, but this reporter is still “Down with the King!”
Time to listen to my “RUN DMC’s Greatest Hits” CD!
Cut to credits.