One of Peter Jackson’s more horrific and haunting movies is called The Lovely Bones and it is now available on the super streamer Netflix.
The Lovely Bones is based on the Alice Sebold best-selling novel of the same name. The novel, as well as the film, tells the story of 14-year-old Susie Salmon (Saoirse Ronan), who is telling her story from Heaven as she watches down on her loved ones.
One day, Susie is walking home from high school through a cornfield and runs into her older neighbor George Harvey, played by Stanley Tucci (Undercover Blues, The Hunger Games franchise). As he is a builder of things for children, Harvey is able to convince Susie to check out the underground kid’s hideout that he built. But Susie begins to become very uncomfortable and when she decides it is time to leave, George grabs her by the arm.
When we next see Susie in this Peter Jackson film, she is running past her classmate Ruth Connors (Carolyn Dando), appearing to have escaped Harvey’s clutches. Meanwhile, Susie’s family has become worried that she hasn’t returned from home. Her father Jack (Mark Wahlberg) is out looking for her when Susie spots him. She knows something is wrong when she calls out to him, but he doesn’t acknowledge her presence. Her mother Abigail (Rachel Weisz) is waiting for the police at home.
Susie runs to what she thinks is her home but instead, she finds Harvey soaking in a bathtub. She then sees all the blood and her bracelet hanging on the faucet and knows she never did escape George Harvey’s underground horror show. As she screams, she is pulled into the “In-between”, not Heaven, not Earth. It is from here that Susie begins her watch over her family and her killer in this Peter Jackson movie.
Jack, meanwhile, is investigating his daughter’s disappearance. He feels her murder was by someone she knew. He begins to turn his suspicions onto Harvey but without proof. Susie’s sister, Lindsey, agrees with her father but Susie’s death takes its toll on Abigail, who eventually leaves for California.
During her watch, Susie figures out that Harvey is responsible for six other dead girls and now Lindsey is his next target. She also finds out that her dead body has been stuffed into a large safe in Harvey’s basement.
Jack, still on Harvey’s trail, follows him into the cornfield, baseball bat in hand, ready to deliver his brand of justice. But as Jack moves through the cornfield, he stumbles across a couple. The boy, thinking Jack is there to assault them, beats Jack within an inch of his life.
As Jack recovers, Lindsey takes over the hunt for the killer in this Peter Jackson film. She sneaks into Harvey’s house, trying to find evidence against him. She finds a notebook that shows drawings of the underground lair, a lock of her sister’s hair, and various news articles concerning Susie’s disappearance. She also finds that Harvey has come home.
There is much more to this dark feature. Is Susie able to help her family and reconcile her death in order to survive peacefully in the afterlife? Does Lindsey become victim number eight, following in her sister’s tragic footsteps? Does George Harvey get his comeuppance?
Peter Jackson was so enthralled with the novel that he purchased the rights to the book with his own money. He told USA Today, “As soon as I read the book, I was inspired by how unique this story could be as a film — both in a narrative sense and as well as visually. Perhaps most of all, I responded to the hope and good humor that runs throughout the book.”
With that in mind, Jackson, along with producing partner Fran Walsh and scribe Philippa Boyens, put together the script that Jackson would eventually direct. Along with Ronan, Wahlberg, Weisz, and Tucci, the movie also enjoys the talents of Susan Sarandon and Michael Imperioli.
Unfortunately for Peter Jackson and his crew, The Lovely Bones was not the big hit they hoped it would be. Jackson was given a $65 million budget to bring Susie’s story to life, but it fell flat with critics and audiences as it only brought in a tick under $94 million at the box office.
The movie, though, was noted for both Saoirse Ronan and Stanley Tucci’s performances, even though the film wasn’t an overwhelming success. In fact, Tucci’s performance as the serial killer George Harvey got him a Best Supporting Actor Academy Award nomination, which he eventually lost to Christoph Waltz for his amazing performance in Quentin Tarantino’s Inglorious Basterds.
Peter Jackson made his directorial debut with the cult classic horror film Bad Taste, following that up with another horror cult classic Dead Alive (aka Brain Dead). His resume took an even better turn when he directed Michael J. Fox in the 1996 horror comedy The Frighteners. Of course, we all know what comes next.
The Lord of the Rings trilogy took Jackson’s already wonderful reputation as an up-and-coming director to new heights. The overwhelming success of that trilogy allowed Jackson to take on one of his passion projects, the remake of King Kong. The Lovely Bones came next and then Jackson finished up his Hobbit franchise with the Hobbit trilogy. So far, as a director, writer, and producer, his films have raked in over $7 billion at the box office.
The Lovely Bones is a dark tale, but also one of hope. Give it a run over on Netflix and let us know what you think of the film.