'Stephen King's Bag of Bones' Review: Creepy, Terrifying Until the Ordinary Ending
“Stephen King's Bag of Bones,” a two-part miniseries beginning at 9 p.m. EST tonight on A&E, embodies the horror author's unrelenting vision. Based on his bestselling novel of the same name, the miniseries stars Pierce Brosnan as Mike Noonan, a bestselling author suffering from writer's block after the tragic death of his wife, Jo (Annabeth Gish). Mike’s grief is compounded by the loss of his wife’s baby, which he wasn’t aware she was carrying until after her death. Since he believed himself to be sterile, his first inclination is that she was cheating on him. Her frequent visits to their lakeside cabin in the months before her death suddenly seem less innocent.
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Mike’s boozing self-medication is interrupted when his agent asks for another book. Mike decides to visit the lake house in the town of Dark Score, hoping for inspiration and, perhaps, an answer as to why his wife hadn’t told him about her pregnancy.
In typical King fashion, chaos and terror strike soon after Mike arrives in Dark Score. First, after finding a little girl named Kyra (Caitlin Carmichael) wandering in the middle of the road, Mike unwittingly finds himself involved in a custody battle over the girl between a young woman named Mattie (Melissa George) and her sinister father-in-law Max (William Schallert).
At the same time, Mike's nights at the cabin are haunted by twisted dreams, and his days are interrupted by the paranormal as ghosts – both friendly and not – pulling him into a decades-old mystery surrounding the disappearance of a blues singer and a number of child drownings. Brosnan’s ability to shift between mourning husband, tentative detective and celebrity writer provides the right tone for each scene.
Screenwriter Matt Venne’s streamlined script rearranges a few things from the book to focus on bringing out the classic King horror elements, and all four hours are tense, bursting with the unnatural. Early on, Mike hears a scratching under his bed. When he checks it, his dead wife is
suddenly dragged screaming away from him into the darkness. It’s the first of a series of excellent cuts, under the direction of Mick Garris (TV's "The Stand"), that compound the terror.
What’s lost in an effort to make the mystery terrifying is the story, which only comes to a sensible conclusion after a couple of monologues by George and Gish to explain all the abnormal occurrences. It doesn't help that King’s ghost-filled climax looks kind of corny on screen. Still, almost every loose end is wrapped up in the conclusion, except for perhaps the biggest question: Why on earth did Mike stay in a house that seemed to throw temper tantrums, blowing pictures from the walls, books off the shelves and shooting records at him like Frisbees?
Thankfully in the end, it’s clear that those who survive will sleep well at night again. That’s not the case for viewers though. Only the dead will sleep easy after this one.