Nor is it “Saw.”
“There are no teenagers in this cast,” executive producer-director Mick Garris told XfinityTV.com on Thursday. “And it’s not about slaughtering people in creative ways.”
Not that there’s anything wrong with those things. Still, Garris said, that’s probably why you’ll see this Gothic ghost tale on A&E soon instead of in a theater, as a two-part miniseries starting Sunday, Dec. 11.
And this is just fine for the director. Sure, Garris – a horror buff who has directed numerous King adaptations for screens of both sizes, including “Sleepwalkers,” “The Stand,” “The Shining,” “Riding the Bullet” and “Desperation” – originally intended this Pierce Brosnan-starring ghost story to live life as a feature (as did Bruce Willis, who first optioned the book but never worked on this version, according to Garris).
Preview “Bag of Bones”:
[iframe http://xfinitytv.comcast.net/tv/Stephen-King-s–Bag-of-Bones-/173631/2164576640/Bag-of-Bones/embed 580 476]
But with the source material rather “dense” — this is King, after all — Garris is happy to have the extra runtime to make the story sing the way it was supposed to.
Sing it does. The tale of a writer (Brosnan) who escapes to rural Maine and simultaneously deals with the death of his pregnant wife (Annabeth Gish), a little girl’s custody battle between mother (Melissa George) and grandfather (William Schallert), and the eerily haunting ghost of an old blues singer (Anika Noni Rose), “Bag of Bones” has what Garris calls “a ‘Sixth Sense’ appeal to it” — a ghost story with “humanity, passion and emotion.”
Scares, too. Don’t forget the scares. According to Garris, he got everything he wanted in, no matter how intense.
“There are some scenes in ‘Bag of Bones,’” the director said, “that you would not expect to see between commercials for Pampers and Viagra.”
Here’s what else you can expect:
Garris had worked with much of the cast before. Brosnan? Never met the former James Bond. Only had seen his films, particularly the crime comedy “The Matador,” which he enjoyed greatly.
“He was the revelation of the show,” Garris said. “I’d never seen him do this kind of a role where it’s so raw and emotional, where he really breaks down. And he was terrific. And he’s also such a gentleman. We got along great.”
“He was a little reserved about [some of the supernatural scenes], when we first met,” Garris said, “but once it was down to it, he was just totally committed.”
What led Garris to this story? The subject matter, through and through.
“It’s about loss, it’s about passion, it’s about death, and I’ve had more than my share of losing people,” Garris said. “As a guy who makes horror movies, death is fun. But when it comes knocking at your door, it’s a lot less recreational than that.”
Special special effects:
Shot in Nova Scotia in the summer — with speedy pre- and post-production, to boot — one might expect this film to look a bit haggard, especially in the visual effects department.
Not so, insisted Garris, especially feature veterans Cosmas Paul Bolger (“Moulin Rouge”) and Jeffrey Okun (“The Day the Earth Stood Still”) assisting, along with makeup director Adrien Morot (“300”).
“These are all people who do major movies,” Garris said, “and they did major-movie work on a television schedule and budget.”
One thing you won’t see is King himself, who has appeared in several of his adapted films, including “The Shining” and “The Stand” — both of which he produced alongside Garris.
Garris and the uber-prolific author are “very good friends,” though, and King still had a slight hand in production — answering questions, looking at dailies, approving cast members, and even giving one crucial “yes” answer:
“He had director approval,” Garris said with a laugh.
The Power of TV:
As in, A&E cares (“People know about it,” Garris said, “they’ve really pulled out all the stops”). Plus, pretty much the full story gets told — thanks in part to the fact that the censors did nothing to the final version.
“I was really, really surprised that when we did my cut, they had no broadcast standards issues at all with it,” Garris said.
All of which shows the power of TV, and why it’s — not always, but sometimes — preferable to the big screen.
“I’ve been fortunate enough to work on a higher level on television than I have in features,” Garris said. “So I’d rather make a good high-end movie for television than a good low-end [feature] that nobody sees.”