The 1980s was a good time for werewolf fans. With An American Werewolf in London The Howling opening in theaters early in the decade, the latter spinning into a franchise of sequels with varying success, there was even a television series that aired a single season between 1987 and 1988 entitled, simply, Werewolf.
Another gem from the string of 1980s werewolf movies is the subject of tonight’s review: Silver Bullet.
Year Released: 1985
Written By: Stephen King (based on his own novella entitled Cycle of the Werewolf)
Directed By: Dan Attias
Starring: Corey Haim, Gary Busey
Tarker’s Mills, ME is an idyllic small town full of good, hardworking people. The sort of town where everyone knows everyone else, where there are snowball fights in the winter and fireworks in the summer, and where the townsfolk enjoy their lives as a community.
Until a string of mysterious deaths causes unrest, as people start losing their loved ones to the jaws of a nightmarish beast.
Young Marty Coslaw is a member of this community, just a boy in a wheelchair who is upset by the cancellation of the annual fireworks, who feels awful for those losing family members, and whose own best friend is soon counted amongst the victims.
In an unseen turn of events, it may very well be the boy they said could do nothing who holds the key to their survival and who might just bring about an end to this cycle of death and despair.
I love Silver Bullet. I bought the Stephen King illustrated novel (it’s really a short story with gorgeous illustrations), entitled Cycle of the Werewolf, on which it was based and I love that too. It’s brief, and it differs from the film in a few areas, but the illustrations are haunting and beautiful.
The creature design was never one I was completely happy with, as once the full werewolf is finally revealed on screen, it looks more like a bear than a wolf (to me). It’s worse than some, better than most. There is a dream sequence somewhere in the middle of the film, however, in which the entire town begins to transform into werewolves. The makeup work on this scene is pretty wonderful.
The acting is great, as Corey Haim gives what I feel is his second best horror film performance (the first being in The Lost Boys), and almost all of Gary Busey’s lines are fun and quotable (“Jesus Jumped Up Palomino!” is one of my favorite movie exclamations, even to this day).
The tone of the film is very dark, dealing with not only the horrible and bloody murders taking place all over town, but also the stress the family is under with Marty being in a wheelchair. This is made clear by his sister’s outbursts throughout the film, as well as the tendency shown by Marty’s mother to coddle him and keep him away from “danger”, such as his Uncle Red’s risqué sense of humor. They love each other, they stick together as a family, but the hardships they face together are made clear. I liked this, as it shows that even in the face of tragedy, our every day problems do not disappear. We must cope with all that is given to us in life.
But what I also love is that Marty never sees himself as disabled. He pulls pranks on his sister, begs his mom to stay up late, and sneaks out at night to light off fireworks, never once letting his disability stop him or bring him down.
Should You See It
I feel like Silver Bullet is in the pantheon of 1980s werewolf movies, and as such, yes. Yes, you should see it.