Within the first few minutes of Stephen King’s ‘Bag of Bones,’ bestselling novelist Mike Noonan (Pierce Brosnan) is confronted by the death of his beloved wife Johanna (Jo). In the novel, Jo dies from a brain aneurysm. However in the TV version, she gets hit by a speeding bus and dies in the street with her husband cradling her in his arms and sobbing for all he’s worth. Brosnan gives a pretty good performance as a grieving widower, and has to be convincingly pulled away from his dead wife so they can cover her up. He soon finds out his wife was pregnant, which is strange because Mike got told he couldn’t have kids. This leads to him wondering if maybe Jo was seeing someone on the side up at their house on Dark Score Lake.
Nightmares of Dark Score Lake begin to plague Mike on the night of Jo’s funeral. He appears at the lake house and sees a coffin lying in the marshland, and then pounds on the coffin until it opens and reveals a ringing phone. He picks it up and shouts “Jo!” just before he wakes. Once he does, he’s treated to a strange noise beneath the bed. Mike climbs down and sees Jo beneath the bed with her arms stretched out toward him. She screams and is suddenly yanked away. Then Mike wakes up again, looks under the bed, and begins bawling.
After a failed reading of his latest book, which his well-meaning agent sent him on, Mike sits in his home office wondering if Jo’s ghost is there with him. “Once for yes, twice for no,” he says. The phone rings once, and Mike begins to wonder. I’m curious too — is it really Jo’s ghost or is something else there?
Another nightmare about the house, and this time Mike stands outside the home at night with a little girl in a swimsuit. The pair of them watch as someone inside the house screams and the windows suddenly shatter. In the morning, Mike gets a call that some kids broke into the lake house and shattered the windows. He then tells the caretaker to get the home ready for an extended stay, and asks his wife’s ghost again if it’s a good idea. Nothing happens, so Mike heads to the shower. As he’s in there, the phone rings once. Well on our way to creeptastic goodness with this one.
Mike reaches Dark Score Lake at night, and we get treated to a freaky scene of him driving through a dark main street while people stare at him. Including an old man from the window of a big house. I get the sense he’s going to play a big role. Mike stands outside the house, staring out at the lake, and mutters “Last night I dreamed I went to Dark Score Lake.” Bill Deen, the caretaker, meets Mike at the house and tells him he looks just like his grandfather Harold. Interesting … looks like Bill knows something about Mike’s grandfather.
Left by himself after a touching scene where Bill expresses his condolences, and Mike explains about an antique called Bunter, Mike begins strumming on a guitar and grieving for Jo in the house she loved. Ominous music plays as we pull back from the house. There’s a nice atmosphere letting us know something mega super creepy is going to happen. Mike finds one of Jo’s dresses while he’s unpacking and stops to smell it. As he’s getting ready for bed, he looks out the window at an outbuilding, and we hear Jo’s voice: “Come to me. I have so much to show you Mike.” The outbuilding is Jo’s art studio, and once Mike enters he’s surrounded by loads of paintings; including one of an African American jazz singer. This one is important, because the instant Mike touches it we get flashes of people being thrown into water and possibly drowned. Foreshadowing much?
Back in the house, Mike boots up his computer to maybe burst through writers block. Yeah that doesn’t work out too well, even after imbibing a few libations, things end with Mike shouting at the computer. Bunter’s bell tinkles suddenly, and keeps doing so until Mike comes downstairs and stops it. The window’s open, so of course he thinks that’s why the bell’s ringing. Mike closes the window. And then the bell rings again. Someone’s playing with our Mister Noonan, methinks.
While out for a run, Mike happens upon a tree that looks like a woman standing with her legs together and arms up over her head. Interesting. I find myself wondering about that little scene too, since it might turn out important later. At the house, as he’s looking in the fridge, Mike gets a strange feeling. He closes the door slowly, and the letters on the fridge shift to read “Helo Mik.” He pushes the K away, and it moves back into place. Predictably, he’s freaked out, and then asks “Jo is that you? Once for yes, twice for no.” Nothing happens initially, but then Bunter’s bell rings once. And Mike is ecstatic that Jo’s ghost is there. Then a godawful shrieking fills the house; the letters fly off the fridge and the bell goes nuts. “We’re not alone are we, Jo?” Mike realizes something else is going on. He comes around the corner, and finds a strange woman standing there. He’s initially freaked out, but it’s only the housekeeper.
As Mike drives into town for lunch he sees a little girl in a red bathing suit walking down the middle of the road. Hey it’s the girl from his nightmare! Mike saves the girl — Kyra — from getting hit by a car, and her mother Mattie runs over to them wondering why Kyra was walking in the middle of the road. The little girl replies that she wanted to go swimming. Mattie asks Mike not to say anything, but it turns out people have already witnessed the event. Mattie admits Mike’s one of her favorite writers, and Mike is rather shocked she knows who he is. She reveals they’re going through a tough time. This is further driven home in the diner, where Buddy the owner and the waitress tell Mike about how Kyra’s father Lance tried to kill the little girl. Turns out Mattie had to murder her own husband just to save her daughter, and now Max Devore wants custody of his granddaughter. Scary old man? Check! Attractive young widow in trouble? Check! Older man who needs someone to be a hero for? Check! Looks like most of the pieces are in place.
Mike goes back home and cracks a beer. He stands in the kitchen and stares at the letters on the fridge, as if willing them to move again. He shifts a few around but ends up walking away and looking out at the dock and the lake beyond. He chuckles at himself, and then sits down to read. An old-style phone rings and it’s Max Devore on the other end; turns out Max is “concerned” for the safety of his granddaughter. Mike tells Max to shove his concern up his ass; I guess our Mr. Noonan doesn’t trust Max. As he slams the phone down, there’s Jazz singing coming from the basement. It’s old school too, like from the 1930s. Mike slowly walks down into the scary basement. He discovers an old-style record player and an album of Sara Tidwell’s singing – a flash to the painting in Jo’s studio, which is of Sara. Mike rocks out to the Jazz record, and has either a vision or a dream about Dark Score Lake in the 1930s.
A fair is going on, and Sara is performing on the main stage. Mike stands in the audience among everyone else in 1930s clothing, who ignore the strange man in their midst. Sara sings directly to Mike a few times, or appears to, before he snaps back to the present with someone knocking at the door. It’s a sheriff with a subpoena for Mike to show up at a lawyer’s office and give a deposition. Mike slaps the subpoena on the fridge, and sees “HELPR” in the letters. He asks if he’s supposed to help Mattie Devore, and first Bunter’s bell rings once to confirm this is right. Then it rings again, and keeps on going. The window bursts open and things fall over and out of cabinets while a woman screams. “Sara? Is that you?” Mike shouts over the sudden wind. Something falls down, the activity stops, and Mike mutters “I think we have company, Jo.”
A door opens on Mike sleeping, and singing spills through. It sounds like a child’s lullaby, so Mike goes down to investigate. He finds the record player in the living room playing the lullaby and stops it. But then the song begins playing again somewhere else outside. Mike follows the song to its source out at the lake. Sara rises from the lake, a flower in her hair and dress plastered to her skin. “You didn’t think you and your wife were alone did you baby?” Sara breathes to Mike, and then “You want me just like all of those boys.” Mike’s of course confused by this, but then Sara kisses him. When she pulls back, she’s suddenly a corpse. Talk about killing the mood, huh?
Mike wakes up on a dock next to Jo and immediately begins kissing her, which is to be expected. He pulls back and she says “Help her,” and then confirms she means Mattie. And also that he needs to write, but he says he can’t without her. She then promises to help him, and he kisses her again. Once again he pulls back and she’s a corpse! Sheesh, this guy cannot get a break. Then he wakes up a second time and finds Mattie in his bedroom and music playing. She says that he needs to do what Jo tells him, and then she climbs atop him and they kiss. Mike says he doesn’t think this is what his wife meant, but Mattie asks how he can know. Oh and this time she doesn’t turn into a corpse when he pulls back, but there is a massive headwound in the back of her head. Poor Mike … can’t make out with a cute girl without having her be dead.
Mike attends the deposition at the lawyer’s office with Mattie and Max. The lawyer starts off with a leading question, trying to get him to confirm Mattie as an unfit mother because she let Kyra “play in the middle of the road.” Mike shows the lawyer up by refusing to answer his leading questions, and then accuses the lawyer of working for Max despite his stated intention of doing what’s best for Kyra. As a result of this, Mike finds an enemy in Max Devore. Outside, Mattie hugs Mike and thanks him for helping her. They walk together chatting on the way to picking up Kyra from daycare, and Mike muses he doesn’t think he can write anymore since Jo died. Mattie then shares a memory of Jo, where she saw the late Mrs. Noonan eating at a restaurant with a gentleman. Mike becomes paranoid, demanding to know who the man was. He still seems to think Jo might have been sleeping around, but then is immediately contrite about accusing his deceased wife. He wonders then if Jo led him to Dark Score Lake for a reason, and Mattie suggests it’s to teach him how to write again.
Mike sits down at the computer yet again and stares at a blank page. He then switches to a photo album of Jo, chooses one, and places it next to his blank document on the computer screen. Once it’s there, he’s suddenly able to write again; and he begins laughing that a simple photograph can open his mind again. “I always said I couldn’t write without you,” he says to the photo, “I just needed to find you.” We’re then treated a montage of an ever-increasing page count on the new Mike Noonan novel – twenty-nine pages of a new story written while looking at pictures of Jo. And then Mike hears water sloshing outside his office door. He leaves the room to investigate, and finds a bathtub full of muddy water. A muddy girl leaps from the tub and grabs him around the neck shouting. Holy crap! That’s one heck of a cliffhanger ending.