Forget The Road, the upcoming Viggo Mortensen adaptation of Cormac McCarthy’s novel. The bleak, dark story with a somehow life-affirming movie-from-book I want to see is The Long Walk.
As I finish reading this book for the third time, I notice there are others out there who are rediscovering it, too. Others who also see what I see in this, one of Richard Bachman’s most brutal tales (and that says a lot, since Bachman is the dark side of successful novelist Stephen King, whose mainstream horror at least always has the good guys winning something in the end)…and that is a metaphor for life, and the relationships we forge on our individual, selfish walks through life.
Frank Darabont, the One Guy In The World That Can Make Great Stephen King Movies, bought the rights to the book years ago. You might remember the trifecta of The Shawshank Redemption, The Green Mile, and The Mist as all being simultaneously faithful to the books, and cinematically gorgeous. As a fan of both, I sincerely hope he’s just waiting for the perfect cast before going through with filming this story.
It’s a parallel reality. Germany bombed the Eastern seaboard of America in 1945, and now it’s some distant, unnamed time in the future from that. America is still America, but there is a highly influential military government. Each year, they hold The Long Walk, in which male volunteers between the ages of 14 and 18 hope to be picked as one of 100 Walkers. The Walk starts with 100 young men, and ends with 1, who is then awarded whatever he wants for the rest of his life.
Soldiers in half-tracks monitor the walkers, and if one drops below 4 mph he is warned. Three warnings and then the walker “buys his ticket” courtesy of the soldier’s gun. Our hero is the odds on favorite, and he makes friends with many of the other guys, sometimes to his benefit, occasionally to his dismay. It’s dark, serious stuff, but underneath it all is the realization that we’re all on a Long Walk, and while we may think we’re going to cross that finish line, anything may happen.
Bachman/King even includes a line in the book where a character feels like he’s in Shirley Jackson’s “The Lottery”, which is most likely the inspiration for this social dynamo of a story. I especially love how the Crowd became a sort of villain in the last third of the book. I’m looking forward to this movie becoming a reality, but as for now, it sits on Mr. Darabont’s To-Do pile.