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Silver Bullet (1985)



Based on Stephen King's novella "Cycle of the Werewolf," Silver Bullet merges Stephen King's distinctive American style of horror with werewolf mythology and a wonderful twist in a film slightly marred by the too-often-present King project low-budget woes, but blessed with lots of skill and good fortune, as well.

As a King film, you can already guess that it's set in Maine (not Castle Rock, this time, but the town of Tarker's Mills). You can also guess that it has slightly dysfunctional families with at least one alcoholic per, and that plenty of people get killed by some monstrosity. Those elements, present in a plot that's part straight-ahead character study of Small Town, U.S.A., part gradual psychological deterioration of the same characters as they realize the extent of whatever monstrosity happens to be plaguing them this time, amounts to the King formula (which shows influences from Hitchcock's The Birds), and we can already place most of you in either the good or bad candidate camp for this film based on whether you enjoy experiencing the formula or not.

You can just glance at how many King films I've reviewed so far to guess which camp I'm going to fall into. I like the formula, which in my eyes is merely a stylistic marker for King, and I not only don't mind seeing a variation on it; in fact, I pretty much expect it. Everyone who gets agitated as soon as they hear 'Maine,' 'alcoholic' and 'horror' mentioned in the same breath already knows to stay far away from a King film, and Silver Bullet is no exception.

Since my praise is far weightier than my criticism of this film, let's get the bad stuff out of the way first. The primary flaw with Silver Bullet is the budget problem. Although filmed for theatrical release, the atmosphere often reeks more of the `made for television' King films like The Tommyknockers and Salem's Lot. I suppose it doesn't help that I watched Silver Bullet on commercial television in pan and scan, time compressed, and probably edited for gore, but the low budget feel has plagued many of King's films that I first experienced in the theater, as well, such as Maximum Overdrive and Children of the Corn, so I can't completely blame it on the cable station.

On the other hand, it's not the fault of anyone in the crew or cast that companies like Paramount don't pump huge sums of money into horror films, even with names like King's attached. They know they'll make a certain amount of money from the die-hard fans, and their main concern is guaranteeing a profit based on that.

In fact, director Daniel Attias, who has primarily worked in television since lensing Silver Bullet, does a remarkable job with the materials at hand. Scenes like the antagonist-eye view from beneath the floorboards of a victim-to-be's home, a long, spine tingling traipse through the woods in a heavy fog, and the reverend's nightmare are classic.

And the actors all turn in excellent work, especially Gary Busey, who is at his wackiest here as Uncle Red, and the two teen-actor leads, Marty (Corey Haim) and Jane Coslaw (Megan Follows). Haim really carries the film, and that while tackling the challenging role of a paraplegic (who, by the way, winds up driving a souped-up 'Silver Bullet' wheelchair, built by Uncle Red, that must have been responsible for half of the pollution in the state of Maine in the 1980's).

As far as the writing goes, one of the nicest elements of Silver Bullet, in my opinion, is the twist, which not only did I never expect because it's relatively off-the-wall, but which should pleasantly ruffle a few feathers of those folks who are easily offended. This is not one of the best King-oriented works, at least not on the whole, but it's a solid, above average film that horror and King fans, serious or casual, should enjoy.


It cost the same amount as

It cost the same amount as Cat's Eye and more than some much more stylish King adaptations