One for the Road, by David Jester . A K.A “The one with a vampire at a Western Duel” 

If there is one thing that all the old school fans of horror movies agree is that vampires always give us a fun story. I am talking about the good and old vampire movies and books, not the “Vampire Diaries” and “The Cullen’s” type. Now, when you think about Stephen King AND vampire stories, well, it is a great mix, right? “Salem’s Lot”, “Jerusalem’s Lot”, “Night Flier”, “Popsy”, and (of course) “One for the Road”.  

Over the last decades we’ve got the chance to watch some of King’s best stories based upon his vampires not only at long features movies, but also TV series and (thank Ka) dollar babies.

“One for the Road” is a King short story that a lot of filmmakers chose to adapted,  but David Jester deserves a special mention among these dollar babies filmmakers for two reasons:  Not only his passion about horror movies and vampires stories became clear at almost every single scene of his short movie, but also he made an epic scene where we have a vampire at a Western Duel. And I assure you guys, it makes sense and it is so cool!!!!! 

At my first review here at SKSM I told you guys that I love when filmmakers change things from the original story and this dollar baby is no exception. The changes they did at this movie are soooo good, it is another thing that differs this “One for the Road” from other versions I have saw over the past years. Yes, it is damn cool to see your favorite author adapted in a faithful way (with respect), but where is the fun if you already know every single thing that is about to happen? It is awesome ( necessary) to respect the original material, but I love when a movie surprises me. And David Jester did it. His changes for the movie gave not only more importance for an specific character, but also gave it a soul to the friendship among the protagonists. 

At this version, they chose to open the story and introduce the theme at the “Richie’s incident” and that is when the changes start it. I am not talking about the chronological order,  but the changes at Richie himself: at the original tale Mr. King made Richie as just another victim of Salem’s Lot. A stupid one, by the way. At this Dollar Baby, Richie was not trying to show everyone how big was his dick by going at the dammed city alone at night. At this version he is just a guy tired of losing friends and family to those monsters. He really hates those neighbors and he has a good reason for that. At this first scene, we immediately understand the danger at the next corner and what it is at risk. It was simple, but so well written…

After that, another change : it was not “the last time everyone see Richie Milena” and that is when his character grows and becomes more interesting. He is not just another victim, but now he became the antagonist. Richie became the first vampire we see at the movie in a poetic license that makes the story better in a certain way. And also it is now when we understand this is a vampire movie, even before we see Richie’s fangs, cause David Jester starts to  show he does know what he is doing: all the signs are in there, all the rules we all know from Bram Stoker‘s book and the vampire mythology like “not being able to enter a place without being invited” or the holly water, the crucifix … 

Mr. King takes his time at his short tale before he says the word “vampire”. But when he does, we realize that all the signs were there all the time. And at this movie it is the same thing. And it is a gret achievement for the Production Designer Carol (Coco) Martin, she really got the job done, she was great at it. All the religious props give us this atmosphere without being too obvious. It is subtle, but it is in there. Even when it is obvious it is still fluid at the context in a way where it is faithful with the original story, because like Mr. King says in his short tale : if you live next to Salem’s Lot, you do have same religious object next to you, even if you not a religious guy. 

Another highlight at this great dollar baby is it’s cinematography:  Samuel Krueger gave us such beautiful camera shoots , two of them in such a way that they looked like they were painted and they both deserved to be hanged at a wall : a dusk shoot with a car at the foreground, so beautiful. Here in Brazil we filmmakers call this dusk shoot “Magic Hour” and  those frames from Mr. Krueger’s work where indeed magical. And he did it again, a second time, when they used flares during the night scenes outside in the Woods. That Red light, the snow falling from the sky, man, it was beautiful!!! I would hang it in my wall.

Talking about the snow, there is another person who deserves applause: Leigh Doran. No, she did not made it snow, God did. (Right?). But we do need to congratulate this Executive Producer because once you understand what a producer does in a movie you realize how difficult it is the job, how difficult it is to deal with all the aspects and possible troubles that can and will happen at a movie set. And when I found out that the scenes were filmed with real snow, man, I said to myself ” the producer is a hero”. Shooting outside is always a challenge. It is a challenge shooting at a sunny day, it is a challenge to shoot at a raining day, a windy day,  I do know that. But since we don’t have snow here in Brazil I have no idea how difficult it can be to have our cast and crew at the snow. The equipment too. I can only imagine that it is a very challenging environment to work at. And that is why I stand up and applause Leigh Doran. You are a hero, girl!

The cast: man, they were great! With emphasis for Ethan Rogers (Tookey), Julian Findlay (Booth) and Blake Wrights ( Richie). Ethan and Julian made us really believe that they have being friends for years and years. We do believe that Tookey and Booth had that special bound that made Booth keep his word and face Richie at the end . He promised Tookey, right? And Blake, man, he was the perfect villain at a vampire movie! Ethan was damn good at his role, so talented. His last glance at his bar was so powerful, he spoke so much using only his eyes. That small moment makes us care about Tookey in another level. 

And the last scene , man… The Western Duel, a vampire at a western duel, it is the best thing of the movie. All the camera shoots and angles Samuel Krueger used, all that western vibe… it is unforgettable. For the rest of my life I will always remember this Dollar Baby as “the one with a vampire at a Western Duel” and that will makes me smile. 

David Jester, you did it. All the movies that you have as reference, John Carpenters and all the vampire ones, the audience shares with you. You gave us that claustrophobic environment that you wanted. It is a great Dollar Baby and also a great movie without King’s name on it. Congratulations,  man.

To all the audience, King fan or not, if you have the chance to watch this movie at a movie festival , make yourself a favor and run for it.

The Dollar Baby’s grade? We from Stephen King Short Movies give “One for the road” 4 fingers from the dead guy’s hand!!!!

See you next time, Constant Readers.

Leonardo Granado

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