Saturday, November 19, 2011

A Brief Review: Dark Score Stories

Say, are you a Bag of Bones fan?  Are you looking forward to the Mick Garris-directed movie coming up on A&E this December 11-12?

If you answered yes to those questions, then you need to check out a website: Dark Score Stories, which contains a lot of photo-essay material, as well as some audio clips of characters from the movie.

If you're familiar with my site, then you're also probably aware that I've been somewhat opposed to this movie.  I'm not a Mick Garris fan at all: I feel like the movies he's made from Stephen King books and stories have been, on the whole, fairly poor.  The Garris/King association began with the wretched Sleepwalkers, and has gone on to include The Stand, The Shining, Quicksilver Highway (the "Chattery Teeth" segment was based on the King short story of the same name), Riding the Bullet, and Desperation, all of which have been problematic.  I'm aware that Garris has a lot of fans in the King community; I'm not one of them.


So, naturally, I've been dreading Bag of Bones.  This was not helped by the apparent miscasting of the lead role (Mike Noonan doesn't exactly scream "James Bond," and while I know that Pierce Brosnan is more than a former 007, it's hard not to see the suave spymaster anytime he's on screen), or by the apparent major changes to the plotline involving Mattie Devore.

I'll say this, though: Dark Score Stories has turned my opinion slightly back toward the positive.
The photo essays are fictionalized, by which I mean that they are a part of the narrative within which the movie itself takes place (not photo essays about the making of the movie).  Here, the essays are written (and the photos taken) by an unnamed character who was sent to Dark Score Lake by his/her publisher, Zenith House.  The essays are nothing special; they're just a prop to hang the photos on, and many of the photos -- there are roughly eighty in all -- are beautiful.  They were taken by Joachim Ladefoged, who appears to be rather talented.  I know very little about photography, but I know when I see a purty picture, and there are a lot of purty pictures here.

As several other sites, including Lilja's Library, have pointed out, there is a lot of fun to be had here in scrolling through the photos and checking out the many amusing homages to other Stephen King stories.  Bag of Bones (the novel) has a great many tie-ins, including ties to Insomnia, Gerald's Game, The Dark Half, and It, so it's completely appropriate for the movie to follow suit.  It's hard to say how many of these will end up in the movie, of course, but examining the photos, I found references to the following:
  • "Secret Window, Secret Garden"
  • "Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption"
  • "Big Driver"
  • "The Sun Dog"
  • "Quitters, Inc."
  • Carrie
  • It
  • The Dark Tower
  • The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon
  • "Umney's Last Case"
  • "1408"
  • "The Library Policeman"
  • The Plant
  • "Mile 81"
  • Rose Red
  • The Dark Half
  • The Shining
  • Misery
  • The Tommyknockers
  • Lisey's Story
  • Desperation
  • Duma Key
  • The Regulators
  • The Dead Zone
  • The Stand
  • Insomnia
  • The Colorado Kid
  • Cujo
  • Hearts In Atlantis
  • 'Salem's Lot
  • Thinner
  • Needful Things
  • and a host of real-world King-related things like The Rock Bottom Remainders, Dollar Babies, and Lilja's Library itself!
There are probably tons more that I didn't recognize.  Lots of fun.  Here's one of my favorite shout-outs on the site:

There is a TON of love for the Stephen King universe evident in the set design of these photos, and a lot of artistry on display in the photos themselves.  If the movie overall manages to have this passion and artistry, then we might be in for something special.

For now, I'm going to remain dubious.  Garris isn't a particularly gifted director, and screenwriter Matt Venne's highest-profile work to date is the (highly unsuccessful) sequel to White Noise. The credits simply don't inspire confidence.

But Dark Score Stories, the website, does, after after spending an hour or so poking around on it, I feel a lot more excitement mounting for the movie than I would have thought possible.  Regardless, the site itself is a beaut.
Go check it out, won't you?


  1. I think Frank Darabont put it best when he said a lot of King's stories have this mythic quality to them, and that's notorious for being hard to capture on film.

    By the same token, King shares one thing in common with Garris, both are children of the fifties and sixties Schlock genre of horror as typified by William Castle or Roger Corman and American International Pictures.

    To be fair, when I look at Garris's King adaptations, what I'm convinced I'm seeing is nothing less than the old AIP films with a modern face lift. Maybe that's the reason King has liked Garris's work.

    Maybe one of the reasons those films don't work is because in many ways the time for that style of film making is past. Most kids these days have been reared on a style that in many ways is so modern as to alienate them from a lot of other more old fashion styles out there.

    Just a thought.

  2. You could be onto something there. Having seen zero Castle or Corman movies -- which, when I type it, seems unbelievable even to me, but is (sadly) true -- I'm not in a position to agree ... but it sounds plausible.

    My take on it is that one of the problems with the Garris/King collaborations is that Garris hasn't been able to figure out how to translate prose to film. King gets referred to as being a cinematic writer, but that's folly; he isn't, really. So much of what he does is actually antithetical to cinema, because he uses prose in ways that can be remarkably difficult to get onto film.

    One of my first posts for this blog was about that very topic: you can find it, should you be interested, at

    One example I can think of from recent memory is in "11/22/63." When Jake arrives in Dallas for the first time, he feels an almost palpable sense of wrongness emanating from the place; partially, it's a sense of danger (almost like a Spidey-sense), and it leads him to find someplace else to live while he is plotting his takedown of Oswald.

    ALL of Jake's reactions are completely interiorized in those scenes. He's all by himself, so he has nobody to talk to, and yet because the novel is a first-person narrative, he can tell us everything we need to know. It will be impossible to put this on film without drastically changing the story; the only way to do it would be with some sort of voiceover narrative (e.g., Jake keeping a journal or something like that).

    That's just one example, and a mild one.

    Anyways, my point is that Garris never seems to take that sort of thing into account. He just flings King's material onto the screen with precious little regard for changing the story in such a way as to allow ALL of the crucial info to come through.

    I'm also not a fan of his approach to cinematography (his movies tend to be badly overlit and with an excessive amount of ineffective camera angles), or of the way he typically directs actors (Garris characters almost never feel like real people to me).

    Ah, well; you can't please everyone, and while Garris has never pleased me much, I know a lot of people enjoy his work.

  3. Just read article like you suggested. It's interesting in that you raise a few more points I've been thinking of myself. As regards "Lord of the Rings, Christopher Tolkien, son of the famous J.R.R., when asked about the films opined as how he thought the book totally unfilm-able.

    Some books just are that way. I'd like to add that in terms of translation, another pitfall is the fact that a single book is different things to different people.

    In "On Writing" King gives readers an example of visualzation using the image of a rabbit and top hat on a table top.

    I know how I saw that image, however I can never tell what anyone else saw in their mind. Seven thousand people have several thousand ideas of Middle Earth and while there may be some overlap, I'm guessing no two are exactly alike.

    As for Kubrick's Shining, I'm gonna have to go with Darabont and King on that one. It just didn't look or play all that well, aside from Nicholson for me. Guess it was just one reaction to translation like you said.

    It's interesting what you said about the Book Depository. I've never been there myself, what I've seen of it is through the lenses of numerous cameras. However, not long after 11/22/63 was announced I began to think of what that place must be like.

    I imagined it as this building in a very seedy part of town, everything run down and broken with the place exuding this sense of defeat and despair. I imagined graffiti on the walls with wisdom such as "Abandon all Hope, ye who enter here," or, "This is the way the world ends, not with a bang, but a whimper!"

    I finally got on the Depository website to check out what it was like...They got a gift shop, okay. Real nice. So nice in fact that it looks like the dropped Hallmark right in the middle of it. Words can;t describe this kind of surreal. Don't take my word for it, just log on to and see for yourself.

    My first reaction? Oh no...Aw come on!!!

  4. Yes, Christopher Tolkien is very much on the record about how he feels LotR was/is unfilmable. Thing is, it GOT filmed, and it got filmed extraordinarily well. Did it capture the full depth and breadth of the novel? Well, no, of course it didn't. But it captured enough of it that it made for a series of remarkably consistent films. I suspect the same is going to end of being the case with The Hobbit, as well.

    It's hard to believe there would be a gift shop in the Texas School Book Depository building. Actually, it isn't hard to believe at all; what's hard to believe is that it ISN'T hard to believe...

  5. "The essays are nothing special; they're just a prop to hang the photos on..."

    Actually, there's more going on there than meets the eye If you look at the first essay, there's a message hidden on the left hand side, and that provides a clue to how to solve the others...