Depressed art student Alan Parker (Jonathan Jackson) spends a long, dark night of the soul hitchhiking from the University of Maine to Lewiston, some hundred miles away, to visit his ailing mother (Barbara Hershey) in this adaptation of Stephen King's 2000 e-novella. October 31, 1969: Born on Halloween and haunted by his father's death when he was just a child, Parker styles himself the "Prince of Darkness." He irritates his life-studies teacher (Matt Frewer, in a one-scene part written as a cameo for King) by adding macabre figures to every drawing and argues with himself literally in the form of a mirror Alan who encourages the most grotesque and morbid interpretation of every event and possibility. Little does he know how truly scary his 19th birthday will prove. Alan's girlfriend, Jessica (Erika Christensen), breaks things off and his subsequent half-hearted bathtub-suicide attempt is interrupted by a mob of friends arriving for a surprise party. Alan impulsively decides to drive to Canada with pals Archie (Robin Nielsen) and Hector (Chris Gauthier) for a concert, but gets a call informing him that his mother, Jean, has had a stroke. Artie and Hector go to Canada without him and Alan begins hitching, increasingly convinced that if he doesn't get to Lewiston Hospital tonight his mother will die before he gets to say goodbye. Alan's unnerving rides, which are interspersed with long stretches of walking alongside the gloomy, two-lane highway, include a peculiar hippie (Nicky Katt) and a creepy old widower (Cliff Robertson), but until Alan gets into the car with George Staub (David Arquette), he doesn't know what real fear is. Director-screenwriter Mick Garris, whose previous collaborations with King include SLEEPWALKERS (1992) and the 1997 miniseries remake of The Shining, expanded King's novella by adding the back story that takes up the first third of the film, including Alan's suicide attempt. He also relocated the story from the present to 1969, which adds less depth to the story than he probably intended. The new material meshes perfectly well with the original story, but overall it doesn't amount to much more than a goofy campfire tale. The "Bullet" is an amusement-park roller coaster, and the title is a ham-fisted metaphor for facing your fears.
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