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Riding The Bullet (2004)

DVD Cover (Lions Gate)
Genres:
Horror, Psychological Thriller, Road Movie, Supernatural Horror
Director:
Mick Garris Mick Garris
Starring:
Jonathan Jackson Jonathan Jackson
David Arquette David Arquette
Cliff Robertson Cliff Robertson
Barbara Hershey Barbara Hershey
Erika Christensen Erika Christensen

5.7 / 10 - Overall Rating

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Review by Chad
Added: May 24, 2005
In this supernatural thriller penned by Stephen King, we find a death-obsessed college student by the name of Alan Parker (Jonathan Jackson), who is studying art at the University of Maine in the fall of 1969, and who also suspects that his girlfriend Jessica Hadley (Erika Christensen) is about to break up with him... and on his birthday, nonetheless. What complicates the plot, however, is the fact that Alan has a very vivid imagination and always assumes the worst about every situation... so whether or not Jessica is actually about to break up with him is kind of up in the air. Regardless, Alan goes home and takes a bath, where he smokes a joint and contemplates suicide by means of the razor that is sitting on the ledge of the window. Just as he's about to make the slice on his wrist, Jessica and a bunch of his friends burst in... it was a surprise party, and the whole deal about Jessica breaking up with him was just a set up to catch him off guard. Things are back to semi-normal for Alan, until he receives a phone call from one of his mother's (Barbara Hershey) friends... turns out that she had a stroke and is currently laid up in the hospital. Alan decides to make the twelve-hundred mile trip to the city by means of hitchhiking, and along the way, he is picked up by one George Staub (David Arquette). The problem here is that George is a ghost, and gives Alan a chilling ultimatum on the ride to the city.

First off, I'm going to be honest... I've yet to read the original version of this story. Actually, I haven't read much of anything in a few years, but that's getting a bit off subject. Therefore, I have no idea how close this movie compares to the e-book in terms of quality or storyline. With that out of the way, we have the movie itself. It opened in a limited number of theaters to an extremely sad reception by audiences and critics alike, and as a result, was pulled out in about a week. It then went on to receive a heavily-edited airing on cable television, and finally, we wound up with this bare-bones DVD release from Lions Gate. Needless to say, I wasn't expecting a stellar film when I placed this in my Netflix queue, but I was still curious to see it. On the acting side of things, we have a cast that appears to be pretty dismal... I'd never seen Jonathan Jackson prior to this film, while Erika Christensen and David Arquette aren't names that I normally associate with quality entertainment. With all that said, I was completely shocked when the credits started rolling after the ninety-eight minutes that was this film; this movie was damned good.

I think that the "problem" with this film was the fact that it was promoted as being the newest, most terrifying horror film from Stephen King. This film, while it does have the elements, is pretty far from being your typical horror film. You're not going to get a bunch of murders, there's really no scares to be had, and the entire thing is built up by the dialog, flashback sequences, and Alan's vivid imagination. Fans who went in expecting yet another big-budget Hollywood horror film along the lines of The Ring or The Grudge would have definitely left the theater disappointed. On the other hand, fans such as myself who have an imagination of their own and don't mind a movie that develops at a slow pace would likely enjoy this one. Yes, the storyline does develop at a slow pace, but it never becomes boring as a result. The pace is slow but deliberate, and makes use of the atmosphere and Alan's thoughts more than the cheap scares and screeching cats that Hollywood-addicted audiences were likely expecting. This approach is much more effective and entertaining in my eyes, so I think it goes without saying that I enjoyed this film.

The other thing that I enjoyed about this was both the visual and audio side of things. The score is great, complimenting the movie perfectly at nearly every scene, and there's also a number of songs from the late-sixties era that fit in quite nicely. The visuals are the real highlight, however... there's a fair number of scenes that are absolutely beautiful to watch unfold due to the amazing camera-work alone. One such scene, which I won't spoil, is the scene that takes place in the graveyard during a funeral. The way that this scene is shot is very simple, yet it's totally original and pleasing to the eye at the same time. This was the best part in the visuals department hands down, but there's plenty of other goodies to be found in the running time. Alan's imagination and the way that the director shows this was also another nice touch... it was again very simple, and it has been done before, but it worked out so well here. Finally, we have the cast involved. Jonathan Jackson is great in the lead role, Erika Christensen is adequate in the small amount of time that she receives, and then we have David Arquette. When he's not out winning wrestling championships or starring in wrestling-related movies, he's a decent enough actor. While his movies are usually good for some mindless entertainment, they're nothing that stick with you for any length of time once the film has finished, and he's certainly not known for being good in the serious roles. Here, however, he shines. Sure, he hams it up a bit in a few scenes and brings just a bit too much comedy to the role in others, but for the most part, he pulls off a very good performance. Shocking, I know, but I'm just calling it as I see it.

One word would sum this movie up nicely - underrated. Ignore the mountains of negative press and give it a shot... if you enjoy intelligent horror that doesn't have to rely on rivers of blood and a double-digit body count, you're almost guaranteed to enjoy this film. 8/10.
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Symx #1: Symx - added 06/26/2005, 02:26 AM
Checked this movie out last week and I really enjoyed it. I like horror films that dont completely rely on violence, and this was one of those films. 9/10
Cryptorchild #2: Cryptorchild - added 05/28/2007, 10:36 AM
I recently watched this right after I finished reading the story. There are a few differences from story to film but it's all good stuff. I loved the story and I loved the movie. I think that David A. done a great job as did Jonathan J. My favorite line: "I rode that fucker FOUR times!"
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