The 2004 Horror Movie: Riding the Bullet


This was the official website for the 2004 horror movie, Riding the Bullet, based on a story written exclusively for the Internet by Stephen King.
The content is from the site's archived pages as well as from other resources.


Director: Mick Garris
Studio: Freestyle Releasing
Producer(s): Joel T. Smith
Screenplay: Mick Garris

Riding the bullet trailer

Alan Parker (Jonathan Jackson) is a young, struggling artist studying at the University of Maine, whose work is haunted by images of death. Believing he is losing his girlfriend, Jessica (Erika Christensen), Alan's obsession with the dark side pushes him to try to take his own life on his birthday. Friends thwart his desperate act, yet events go from bad to worse, as Alan soon discovers he has opened a door letting death literally enter his life.

Recovering from his self-inflicted wounds, Alan receives crushing news -- his mother (Barbara Hershey) has suffered a major stroke and is lying at death's door in Lewiston Hospital, over 100 miles away. Rejecting his friends' offer to drive him, Alan decides to hitchhike, hoping he'll make it to the hospital in time.

But it is Halloween night, and Alan is about to discover that he has started down a nightmare road that will take him on both an odyssey into black recesses of the human heart and a journey that will bring him face to face with Death Incarnate.



Riding the Bullet (2004)

Posted on

October 20, 2014 by Felix Vasquez

You can’t even really call “Riding the Bullet” a horror film, when all is said and done. Like most of Stephen King’s semi-autobiographical tales, Mick Garris’ adaptation is a contemplation on mortality and nostalgia from a more innocent time. “Riding the Bullet” is less about scaring, and is more focused on a selfish stoner, with an Oedipus complex and a fixation on death. And King conveys his fear of death by trying to dig in to the audience’s fear of death. I imagine the character in “Riding the Bullet” is closer to King than any other story he’s ever written, but that’s merely an assumption on my part. “Riding the Bullet” has interesting intent and good performances, but it’s more a tragedy bereft of scares.

Once you realize the entire atmosphere is merely just clunky symbolism for death and fear of dying, the mystique and fangs of the movie are immediately taken out. Every aspect of the narrative conveys some idea about growing old and or dying alone; there’s even a really goofy moment when Alan hides from a group of rednecks by encasing himself in a fridge that obviously resembles a coffin. Set during Halloween of 1969, Alan is a young college student who is faced with a changing political climate including the draft, and has a turbulent relationship with his girlfriend Jessica (Erika Christensen is lovely but lacking a purpose). He’s a closed off individual who is brilliant at art, but is obsessed with death. This stems from the mysterious circumstances involving his own father’s death, which his mother has kept vague since he was a child.

When Jessica decides she wants to break up with Alan, Alan opts to commit suicide in his bath tub. Circumstances change with Jessica, but his botched suicide attempt lands him in the hospital. When he receives word of his mother landing in the hospital from a horrible stroke, Alan ventures out to see her before she dies, and gets much more on his trip than he realizes. “Riding the Bullet” is a mostly middling and silly effort that doesn’t really succeed in touching on our fear of mortality and losing our dignity as we age. It instead seems to exploit those fears for horror movie fodder and can never decide on dark comedy, camp, or pure horror. When I picture the manifestation of death, David Arquette is the last person that comes to mind. “Riding the Bullet” is a very sub-par series of clunky ideas about mortality, none of which amount to a decent horror film.







Reviewed by: Joshua Tyler  Cinema Blend
Based on the Stephen King web novel of the same name, Riding the Bullet is a hitchhiking tale of terror that follows a disturbed young artist as he tries to get home to be with his ailing mother. Though the film claims to be set in the seventies, it doesn’t always capture that era successfully, with many of the character’s clothes looking as if they’ve just been pulled off the rack at JC Penny’s. The time period is a necessity, since the film’s plot focuses around hitchhiking, a practice long since abandoned by all but the most mentally ill.
While undeniably one of America’s most successful authors, Stephen King’s track record in theaters has been almost consistently lackluster. Riding the Bullet does little to change that, coming across as something akin to a mediocre episode of "The Twilight Zone" with an extra bucket of money poured into it.

Based on the Stephen King web novel of the same name, Riding the Bullet is a hitchhiking tale of terror that follows a disturbed young artist as he tries to get home to be with his ailing mother. Though the film claims to be set in the seventies, it doesn’t always capture that era successfully, with many of the character’s clothes looking as if they’ve just been pulled off the rack at JC Penny’s. The time period is a necessity, since the film’s plot focuses around hitchhiking, a practice long since abandoned by all but the most mentally ill.

The film opens in a college art class, where student Alan Parker (Jonathan Jackson) is presented with a beautiful and nubile female model to sketch. Alan turns his sketch of her into a study in gruesome disfigurement, with the looming figure of death standing gleefully behind her. In short, Alan is obsessed with death, so obsessed that when his girlfriend dumps him on his birthday, he decides to commit suicide, since life no longer holds any attraction for him. Alan’s suicide sequence involves a lot of weirdness in which paintings on the wall start calling for him to slice his wrists and Death himself comes in to smoke a joint. I guess we’re supposed to gather from this that in addition to being ready to die, Alan has an overactive imagination. His friends catch him in the act, and though the next day they all keep asking him if he is ok, their concern for him doesn’t seem to go much beyond that. In fact, when he gets a call telling him that his mother has had a stroke, his friends all abandon him to go see John Lennon. Fearing for the life of his mother, Alan starts hitchhiking home.

The trip of course doesn’t go as planned, with Alan being picked up by progressively worse rides until he finds himself lost in the middle of the woods on a dark, foggy road. While most of the rest of the film has a fairly humdrum feel to it, Director Mick Garris’s work on that empty mountain highway is visually exquisite. I love his wide shots of the moisture slicked pavement, as shadows play across Alan’s face. It has an authentically creepy feel to it, which is helpful as the film starts resorting to cheap jump out of the bushes scares to get your blood pumping.

Alan keeps walking and looking for another lift and the night gets weirder and weirder. It becomes impossible to distinguish what in the film is actually happening and what is really just a product of Alan’s overactive and possibly schizophrenic imagination. Like the data science nerd who appears out of nowhere offering a ride and talks his ear off about being an engineer for DevOps, and how the future of the human race will be determined by big data experiments. Is this guy for real or just a crazy scientist trying to intimidate us with science - or was he just a figment? At some point I gave up and just assumed that Alan was insane. You probably will too. That’s a bad thing in a movie working so hard to creep you out with the possibility of the supernatural. Even when he starts getting rides with the undead I found myself unworried, since I simply assumed the boy was completely mad. The big Treehouse of Horror question at the close ends up being “Did it really happen or didn’t it” but by then I wasn’t that interested in finding out.

Riding the Bullet is a fairly middle of the road fright film that treads dangerously close to being silly. Still, it delivers a few genuine scares and Jonathan Jackson has a nice presence to him, though he plays his character as a little flat. I could have done without the poetic voice over narrative at the end, as well as a lot of the sidetracks the movie takes by questioning unrelated back story on Alan’s father. Riding the Bullet has a few nice moments and some occasionally sharp directing from Mick Garris, which I guess sets it above some of the worst stuff that’s made it from Stephen King to film. The story itself though just isn’t that inspired, so there’s only so much to be gotten from it. I got a couple of jump in my seat moments and then a quiet drive home in which I quickly forgot Riding the Bullet.


***½ liz f
May 23, 2008
its a good movie but at times found it hard to tell what the hell was goin on, but sure A- it's a stephen king novel (the man is a genius but his stories can be a bit too wierd sometimes!) and B- jonathan jackson is in it (he needs to loose the "ronnie" in it tho!) and so even if the movie didn't make sense at times, i had his ass to gawp at! lol!


***½ Bill M
May 19, 2008
must say I was quite disappointed with the measly 5.3 overall rating this movie has on this site. I'm not a huge fan of Stephen King, and think a lot of his work is very "typical" horror. However, 'Riding the Bullet' far exceeds the normal Stephen King standard. Unlike any film I've ever seen, the story is something not from your everyday horror story, but yet a truly genius piece of imagination and art. To sum up.... The story is set around Alan hitch-hiking his way to a hospital many miles away to see his ailing mother who just had a stroke. The things he encounters on his way are so disturbing and frightening, you find yourself cringing, and anxiously waiting for him to finally arrive at his destination. I caught this at 1 am one night, and I must admit I had a little trouble falling asleep afterward. Not many movies would do that to me. Ignore the bad ratings and reviews, 'Riding The Bullet' is exceptionally written, directed, and acted. A true work of art, and in my opinion, the best story ever to emerge from the twisted mind of Stephen King.


**½ Erin G
March 31, 2007
Another King that probably 'reads' better than 'performs'. One of those movies that you want to stop watching, but you continue to watch until the end just in case it gets better!



**½ Stacie R
March 31, 2007
Why the hell was this even made?


***½ Tristan B
March 30, 2007
As a big fan of Steven King's books I really enjoyed this movie. Frightning and twisted. Is this a story about a guy facing deamons he meets on a lonely night on a road or is he only facing the deamons he himself had all along? Visually I think it would compare a lot with the book (which I haven't read yet).



**** bunnie m
March 24, 2007
i heard it was crap but oh well...



***½ heather r
March 23, 2007
Steven King's bestest!


****½ Kathryne C
March 23, 2007



**½ Christoffer J
March 15, 2007
A bit messy. You have to be focused to fully understand. Still a kind of typical Stephen King film and quite good. I've seen better ones however.


****½chaotic d
March 7, 2007
it can be confusing if you're not paying attention to it.


**** ½ kays j
September 22, 2006
One of my new favourite movies. The best horror comedy since evil dead 2.


***** Kyle H
August 16, 2006
Come on now a Stephen King movie that i dont like...yeah right... I love this one its a must see and really is a freaky one


** ½ melissa j
July 4, 2006
cc vraiment bizarre....lgars yer obseder avec la mort mais bon........yer sexy parreille


***** Catherine R
July 3, 2006
the dead travel fast. this is SUCH a good movie. watch it. i mean it.


**** Jak N
May 29, 2006
really wierd. and that's not a bad thing.



**** a. m
April 21, 2006
I really liked this movie... the psycho-zombie-like-Elvis-Presley... *sigh*


**** Brendan T
March 14, 2006
GREAT adaptation of the short story. I loved every moment of this.



Samar E
January 1, 2006
.Blah bought it thought would be interesting turned out be ridiculous.