Riding the Bullet marks Garris and King’s fifth collaboration together after meeting on the set of Sleepwalkers in the early ’90s. Since then, Garris and King have become a powerhouse pairing; their second collaboration, The Stand, still holds the title for the most successful television miniseries of all time. Now, Garris and King’s latest project, Riding the Bullet, finds these two masters of terror taking on a new type of horror movie – the independent, emotional horror story.
Without the support of a “big studio with deep pockets,” Garris filmed Bullet on a tight budget and a tight schedule. Though Garris fought to film the movie in the United States, he was forced to film in Vancouver for financial reasons when a large sum of money was pulled from the bank right before production began. This personal setback, however, turned out to be a blessing in disguise, since Garris consequently found the location and talent available in British Columbia to be perfect for the film.
Having written two-thirds of Bullet’s screenplay (Garris paid King $1 to option off King’s 30-page e-book, written shortly after King’s near-fatal car accident in 1999), one might think that Garris would be upset to have the film advertised as “Stephen King’s Riding the Bullet.” However, Garris says that this isn’t the case at all and that, despite having written the majority of the script himself, the story still belongs to King.
“The short story is the heart of the movie,” Garris says. “When I read King’s story it just had this great effect on me; the issues it brought up about mortality and guilt. We’ve truly made an unusual, intimate horror movie here.
“This isn’t your obvious horror film. It has horrific elements, but the story is more subtle and emotional than one would expect. My goal with this movie was to make nothing less than a horror film, but a lot more than a horror film as well.”
Despite having almost complete control over this independant film, there were a few changes to the original Bullet script that Garris and King didn’t come up with themselves. One of these changes was moving the story’s time frame to Halloween, mainly because the film was set for an October release.
While Garris says that normally a Halloween setting is “too disgustingly commercial” for him, given the context of the film, he agreed to the change because it “amped up the iconic level of fear and horror.” Ironically, the film was also shot at about the same time as the ghoulish holiday, making the fall scenery a nice addition to the film’s visuals and Halloween-like setting.
With Bullet now ready to hit theaters – Oct. 15 in Los Angeles – Garris finally understands what it’s like to work on a film from start to finish. Although he and King are already preparing to move on to their next project together, described as a “balls to the wall horror,” three-hour television feature called “Desperation” for ABC, Garris says that no matter how well the film does at the box office, Stephen King’s Riding the Bullet will always have a special place in his heart.
“Riding the Bullet is not only the first and only spec script I worked on to get made, but also the first time I’ve ever taken a byline on a movie,” reveals Garris. “This was definitely the most personal experience I’ve had on the set of a film. From finding the film’s financing, to writing and directing it – all of these experiences helped make Bullet feel the closest to me personally.
“While it may have been nice to have some studio financing, doing this independently allowed me to have more creative control,” continues Garris. “And since this was such a personal project to us both (Garris and King), it was very important that Bullet turned out just the way we wanted it.”