Adapting the works of Stephen King for the big screen is always a tricky proposition. Richly drawn characters are his strong suit, but trying to convey his characters’ constant internal monologues can prove troublesome for screenwriters. This is especially true of Bag of Bones, King’s 1998 “comeback” novel about a successful writer struggling with the accidental death of his doting wife. Back in ‘98, both readers and critics lauded King’s newfound literary style, but the private thoughts and feelings of grieving protagonist Michael Noonan dominate the narrative, making for a difficult film adaptation. A&E recently bunted this Pierce Brosnan starring two-parter onto the airwaves, and in the hands of screenwriter Matt Venne and frequent King hack artist Mick Garris, King’s beautiful novel is both padded out and stripped to the bone. Out with the rich characters, in with the dream sequences. And oh, those dream sequences.
After his wife is killed by the oft-utilized CGI bus wipe, Michael Noonan retreats to a lake house to cope with the tragedy and work on his new novel. While at the lake house, Noonan encounters a host of distractions: single mom Melissa George, ghostly messages from beyond the grave…and a fuckton of visions. The paranormal activity is standard-issue King––phantom lines on the laptop, spectral fridge magnets, etc.––but the dream sequences…well, they spiral completely out of control. After a commercial-free initial 30 minutes, A&E really started packing in the ads, and sometimes, believe it or not, the dream sequences were layered three deep between commercial breaks. I’m not kidding. During Part One in particular, the prevailing pattern went: dream sequence, ponderous dialogue scene, dream sequence, dream sequence, then back to commercial. If you removed the dream sequences and commercial breaks, Bag of Bones would be 20 minutes long.
In his defense, Brosnan seems to be taking the proceedings seriously…perhaps a little too seriously. He chews every scene with a neck-vein bulging intensity, even when his dialogue approaches the ludicrous. One has to wonder if he ever got around to watching Garris’ finished product (“It’s a good one,” Brosnan bragged to Craig Ferguson last week, without a hint of irony).
Surprisingly, Garris‘ endgame flaunts some juicy gore, but it all comes in the form of insert shots, which indicates that some sad-sack second unit filmed spurting blood around a stunt double while Brosnan kicked it in his trailer with a mocha latte. But let‘s be honest, there no way that even the juiciest of gore was ever gonna save an endeavor as silly as Bag of Bones, an adaptation that was destined to be weak sauce from the very beginning. It’s one of those King movies that’s all bark and no bite. And it never really had any bark to begin with.