Review: Bag of Bones / Cert: 15 / Director: Mick Garris / Screenplay: Matt Venne / Starring: Pierce Brosnan, Annabeth Gish, Melissa George / Release Date: Out Now
Stephen King adaptations have always been a mixed bag. For every The Shining or Misery, there’s a dozen Maximum Overdrives and Children of the Corn sequels. As a general rule, it’s the medium length novels and novellas that tend to work best. The Shawshank Redemption, The Body (filmed as Stand By Me) and Carrie have all produced excellent movies. The short story adaptations have, almost without fail, suffered from having too little enough plot to merit being stretched out to feature length, and his epic novels tend to suffer from the opposite problem. Novels like IT, The Tommyknockers and The Stand have labyrinth plots, which even the longer approach afforded by a TV adaptation tend to just scratch the surface of.
Bag of Bones falls firmly into the latter category. Clocking in at just over 500 pages, it is far from the author’s longest work, but it’s a densely plotted ghost story that struggles to fit into a two part adaptation.
The tale concerns successful author Mike Noonan (Brosnan), who is struggling to cope emotionally and suffering writer’s block following the death of his wife (Gish). He relocates to their summer home in Maine, only to find that the past is literally haunting him. It soon becomes apparent that Noonan isn’t alone in the house: the spirit of his wife and/or something more malevolent may be with him. Noonan also becomes friendly with a local widow (George) and her daughter, in the process making an enemy of her vindictive millionaire father-in-law Max Devore. All of these goings on are somehow tied up in a mystery involving his late wife’s visits to the town, a series of deaths, and Sara, a blues singer from the 1930s.
This is familiar territory for Stephen King. He’s written about authors, Maine and ghosts on many occasions. Bag of Bones though is mid-order King, by no means bad, but not in the same league as his many classics. Likewise, the adaptation, although far from being one of the worst adaptations of the author’s work, is also far from the best.
Brosnan is the mini-series' greatest asset. Cast against type, the former James Bond is fully believable as a grieving widower. He’s less convincing however in the scenes acting with unseen spirits, which occasionally border on hammy. Melissa George and the X-Files’ Annabeth Gish both do well with their limited screen time, but the supporting acting honours go to Broadway star Anika Noni Rose, who shines in her brief role as the tragic Sara.
The talented cast are, however, let down by an uninspired script which fails to adequately compress the novel’s plot, and the show lacks any kind of real atmosphere. Director Mick Garris has adapted King before: he helmed the unnecessary The Shining remake as well as The Stand and the appalling Sleepwalkers. Here he offers minimal scares, with the haunting scenes suffering from a hokiness that even Brosnan’s spirited performance can’t sell. Some of the more violent scenes, including the sudden death of a main character, and a brutal attack on another, are well handled, but lack the shock value of the corresponding scenes in the book.
Like the book it's based on, Bag of Bones is solid but rather uninspired, competent but short on atmosphere and scares. There are worse Stephen King adaptations, but several vastly superior ones. If you’re after a truly creepy Stephen King film, you’re probably better off watching The Shining again.
Extras: Deleted Scenes