Bag of Bones or Stephen King’s Bag of Bones, is a 2011 American TV horror mini-series adaptation of Stephen King’s novel. It was directed by Mick Garris from Matt Venne’s screenplay.
Best-selling novelist Mike Noonan and his wife Jo are unable to conceive children; Mike conceals that he has a low sperm count. Jo is killed by a bus while crossing a street; as she dies in his arms, Mike notices she bought a pregnancy test, and assumes that she may have been having an affair.
Overcome by grief from her death, Mike develops a case of writer’s block. He suffers a series of nightmares about his wife and their summer home on Dark Score Lake in Maine. On advice from his brother Sid, Mike takes a trip to the summer house.
Once there, he meets a young widow named Mattie Devore and her six-year old daughter Kyra. Befriending them, he earns the ire of Mattie’s estranged father-in-law Max Devore. Max has been trying to get custody of Kyra since Mattie shot his son Lance (Lance was trying to drown the child).
Despite the turmoil, Mike begins to write again, but visions and nightmares lead him to believe he isn’t alone. He finds that his wife’s spirit is with him. He also detects the spirit of a 1930s singer named Sara Tidwell who plays records of her music. Sara also appears in dreams that Mike has of her last day alive in 1939. Mike also learns about “Dark Score Crazy”, an apparent form of madness that caused several men in the town to murder their daughters by drowning them…
Like most of the Stephen King telemovies, Bag of Bones is efficient but somewhat bloated – the determination to stick to the source material is admirable, but quite frankly, this would have been a better movie at half the length. It’s hard not to reach the conclusion that many scenes are stretched out or entirely included just for the sake of reaching the running time needed for a pair of two hour time slot episodes (the total running time here is 156 minutes). Garris is not, I might suggest, a good enough director to really keep this elongated version interesting.
That said, the central story is pretty good, and the second episode in particular, once the plot begins to unfold, is decent enough. There are moments that remind you other other works, some by King, others like Peter Straub’s Ghost Story (another tale where an old murder comes back to haunt the participants and that features rotting corpses rising from water), but it doesn’t seem derivative. Brosnan is a strong lead for the most part, being suitably tortured, drunk and angry – for much of the story, he harbours a suspicion that his wife was having an affair at the time of her death – though he is prone to the odd moment of hysteria that goes wildly over the top. The supporting cast (including Jason Priestly and Matt Frewer) are all decent enough in mostly thankless roles.
The TV origins keep the nastiness to a restrained level (though there’s one impressively brutal killing at the end), but the story doesn’t seem to call for much in the way of graphic content anyway, so this doesn’t feel compromised in the way that some other King telefilms have been. The horror is mostly lightweight supernatural stuff, with a few shocks thrown in for good measure, and like much of King’s work, there’s a level of sentimentality that is sometimes a bit too cloying.
Bag of Bones is a perfectly efficient slice of TV horror. There’s nothing exceptional about it and nothing particularly bad either. If you’re a fan of King’s work, you’ll probably find this entirely satisfying. If you’re not, this is not going to change your mind.
David Flint, MOVIES & MANIA
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