Books v Film, Horror Writing

Books v Film: Bag of Bones

Fight, fight, fight

I’m sure you’ve all heard the phrase “the book was better than the film,” it’s a common complaint and one that most people expect. Books and films are very different mediums, a book has far longer than a film to capture the reader’s attention and can easily divulge far more detail than a film is able to. Although films can visually show an audience a lot more than a book can. Once scene in a move can take an author paragraphs or pages to create.

This blog series isn’t about which is better, books or films as personally, I find it unfair to compare the two. They are too different for any comparison to be fair. Rather this series will look at the key differences (not all differences) in the story when it makes the transition from book to film and let you decide if you think those changes are for better or worse.

It should go without saying, but I’ll say it anyway just for clarity sake. There will be spoilers abound, so if you’d rather not have the book or film spoiled then I recommend giving this a miss until you’ve seen or read it yourself.

Bag of Bones – in a Nutshell.

Photo by Caio on

Bag of Bones is a novel by Stephen King and in a nutshell, grieving writer, Mike, moves to his old summer house after having nightmares about the place. There he meets Mattie, a widow, and her daughter Kyra, aged 3.  Kyra’s grandfather is trying to gain custody of her so Mike helps out by hiring a lawyer. He starts writing again and the ghost of his dead wife is helping him get his head around another ghost, Sarah Tidwell who haunts the summer house. His wife’s ghost also saves him when he is attacked and almost drowned by Kyra’s grandfather.

Kyra’s grandfather commits suicide, Mattie gets shot and the ghost of Sarah tries to get Mike to drown Kyra, fortunately, Mike’s wife’s ghost saves them. After some sleuthing, with the help of his wife’s ghost, Mike finds out that Sarah was raped and killed and her son was drowned in the lake. The decedents of the town have been cursed to die also (it’s a bit more complicated than this, it’s only the first born if their name starts with K or C). Mike destroys Sarah’s bones and ends the curse.

There’s another attempt on Mike’s life at the end but fortunately, Mattie’s ghost saves him. It’s also hinted that Mike adopts Kyra in the epilogue.

How Mike and Johanna bought Sara Laughs

Photo by Luca Chiandoni on

In the book, Mike and Jo purchase the cabin in Western Maine from Marie Hinnerman in the 1980s. In the film version, Mike inherits the cabin from his grandfather Harold. This was done to make Mike’s connection clearer, some of the other characters were changed around a little and to keep Mikes connection to the local strong this change was introduced.

How Johanna (Mikes wife) dies.

Photo by Meruyert Gonullu on

In the book, Mike’s wife, Jo,  dies from an undiagnosed brain aneurysm, it was a very dramatic scene in the book however as Jo witnesses a horrible car accident and rushes to help only to collapse when an aneurysm ruptures in her brain. In the film Jo is with Mike when she is hit by a bus, she dies in her husband’s arms. This change was probably introduced to make her death more visual, you can’t see an aneurysm, you can see a bus and Mikes presence makes the moment that much more bitter.

Mike’s dreams

Photo by Elina Krima on

In the book, Mike dreams of a terror that rushes out of his summer home at him, while in the film there is a phone in a coffin. In the book he also dreams of his wife, she steals a book from him while under the bed and puts it over her own face, in the film she is still under the bed but she’s dragged off screaming.

I’m not certain why the film changed the dream of the summer house, unidentified terrors rushing at you is damn scary, scarier than a phone anyway. Perhaps the phone is symbolic for trying to communicate? The dream of Jo I imagine was changed so as to add a jump scare.

The age of Kyra

In the book, Kyra is 3-and in the film she’s 8. I can only imagine this was done because Kyra was one of the main characters and it’s easier (maybe) to work with an 8-year-old than a 3-year-old.

Sara’s curse

Photo by Charles Parker on

In the book, Sara’s curse works by killing every child whose name starts with a K or a C, nothing else about the children matter. In the film, the curse is for the descendants of the rapists to kill only their daughters. I’m a bit lost on this change, why would the gender matter? Perhaps a connection to violence against women, seeing victims as someone’s daughter rather than just a victim. Or Sarah trying to make the men see her as more than just a woman who was sexually assaulted but as someone’s daughter, and mother and build a real connection perhaps?

What are your thoughts? Do you have a preference of book or film?

I'd love to hear what you think, please comment below.

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