Trivia Early drafts of the film's script, including the pressbook release, stated that the werewolf speaks, although in the actual film itself, the werewolf does not speak at anytime.
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Silver Bullet (1985)
31st Aug 04
Wheelchair-bound teenager Cory Haim, his sister and his alcoholic uncle (Gary Busey!) uncover a werewolf who has terrorized a small New England town for years.
Review The following review contains spoilers. After our The People Under the Stairs experience in Zombie Club, it seemed necessary to purchase this little-known Steven King adaptation from 1986 just to see more of the great Everitt McGill in action. My memory of it was that it was a solid little film with some great acting, and that’s exactly what held true to this day. Corey Haim and Gary Busey are in top form as the most loving uncle/nephew team you’ve ever witnessed, and the rest of the cast are all on the money and make this modest little horror-flick-with-a-heart totally worth a watch.
The whole feeling of Silver Bullet is pretty familiar King territory – murders in a small, peaceful idyllic New England town called Tarkers Mills. The plot opens in 1976 when ‘the nightmare begins’ as a drunken railway worker is decapitated by the wolf. Jump to the present, and a pregnant woman about to take an overdose of pills gets slayed in her room. The newspapers report the killings of a mysterious ‘maniac’, whilst simultaneous to these killings we are introduced to Marty (Haim) and his family. He’s a fun-loving wheelchair-bound kid who loves life but is simply an irritating cross to bear for Jane, his slightly older sister because as she sees it, he can do no wrong.
Marty is not someone who is defined by his disability, in fact he’s the opposite and seems to have more going for him than most kids. We certainly are not compelled to over-sympathise with his disability. With this being a King-penned story, we are immediately drawn to both Marty and his sister and we really care about both of them. Director Daniel Attias handles this aspect of the story and characters with a genuine human, compassionate touch.
And so on to Uncle Red, played by the legend that is Gary Busey. This is one of the best roles Busey has even played and if you’re a fan of his, I highly recommend you see this film – you won’t be disappointed. Uncle Red is a 3-times divorced alcoholic. His life is a mess. But he’s got a favourite nephew for whom he would do anything. He and Marty have their relative disabilities, his own being his hopeless drinking. His sister (Marty’s mum) bitches at him for drinking around Marty, and in the course of the picture, we notice that Marty becomes a sobering influence on Red, unwittingly guiding him along the road to redemption. He makes Marty an amazing wheelchair-motorbike contraption called The Silver Bullet, turning him the luckiest disabled kid you’ve ever seen!
This ‘motor-chair’ rasps along the quiet small-town roads at high speeds, whizzing past moving cars as the awe-struck Marty just can’t believe what a great uncle he has. And he’d be right – Red is the coolest, hippest uncle you’ve ever seen in a film and you’ll wish you had an uncle this cool when you were growing up. Or maybe that’s just because its Gary Busey…
At 27 minutes into the film, 4 people are dead. Tarkers Mills residents are getting scared and angry. Yes, its time for the lynch mob, or in this case a dose of good old-fashioned American “private justice”. The gun-totin’ red blooded men of the town decide to go out on a night-time hunt in order to put a stop to the pesky lycanthrope. Needless to say, there’s a misty fog everywhere in them there woods and the wolf merely attacks the hicks from under the mist as they’re left stranded in dwindling numbers like helpless babes in the woods. Its worth mentioning that Laurence Tierny (who most of you will know from Reservoir Dogs) features as the town’s bar-owner, and is swiftly taken down by the wolf in this scene, being beaten senseless by his favourite weapon – a baseball bat with the words ‘THE PEACEMAKER’ scrawled on it. This baseball bat plays quite an important plot device in the narrative which I shall not disclose in this review.
Now for the spoilers. Everitt McGill plays the Reverend Lowe – the werewolf. Silver Bullet is a mystery film – we have no idea who the werewolf is until about one hour into the movie. If you see this film more than once (which you should!) you will notice how clever it is in a “wow – I didn’t notice that first time round!” kind of way. Rev. Lowe is at once perfect as the caring and compassionate minister who sermons every funeral for people he has killed during his hairy full-moon escapades. “The face of the beast always becomes known” he preaches early in the film as the residents of Tarkers Mills are starting to despair at the spate of brutal killings.
Rev. Lowe’s role is relatively low(e)-key until Marty and Jane discover his true identity. In one scene, Marty is confronted by the wolf and fires a firecracker right into the wolf’s eye. He promptly races away in the appropriately monikered machine and then asks Jane to visit every house in the town on the pretence that she is collecting cans / bottles for charity in an effort to find anyone with signs of an injured eye. This is easily one of the best scenes in a horror movies you will ever see as Jane runs out of momentum and hope, landing her back at the Rev. Lowe’s house to deposit her can collection. As the viewer, WE see his eye-patch before she does and let me tell you, it will send a shiver up that spine just as the hairs on my arms are standing on end right now.
From this point forward in the plot, its up to Marty and Jane to convince Uncle Red that a) there’s a werewolf on the loose, and b) the werewolf is none other than the towns’ friendly, caring Reverend Lowe. “I’m a little too old to be playin’ The Hardy Boys meet the Reverend Werewolf!” shouts Busey in one of his best lines ever. He is an unwilling participant in “Marty’s latest thrilling tale of wonder” but he is eventually convinced enough to help and facilitates a REAL silver bullet to be crafted from Marty’s medallion and Jane’s crucifix. A fight till the death ensues as Red, Marty and Jane take on the evil lycanthrope.
Through the course of the story, Uncle Red stops drinking as much and Jane grows to love and care for Marty more. It’s a story about healing and it will touch those soft spots in you that many other horror films will not.
This was director Daniel Attias’s first feature and for one so young, he executed a mature and intensely involving piece of work. He was lucky enough to have the willing collaborative help of Stephen King, the Italian cinematographer Armando Nannuzzi (see Lucino Visconti’s The Damned), soundtrack composer Jay Chataway (Maniac), not to mention the great acting forces of Haim, Busey, McGill et al. From watching the DVD with director’s commentary, it is clear that Attias knew exactly what his limitation were with this picture. He knows that the werewolf costume wasn’t so great, just as he knew that it made no sense that in this small New England town, we have characters who talk like regular New Yorkers alongside local people talking with a South Carolina drawl.
If I were to comment on Attias’s commentary track I would say that he really should have talked more consistently or had some company on the track, as he does tend to be a slave to areas of dead air. However, what he does have to say is interesting, endearing and informative as he laughs his way through most of the movie.
To put it simply, Silver Bullet is an enjoyable, intelligent werewolf film and possesses a dreamlike, fairytale feeling. If you’re appreciative of King adaptations (especially Stand by Me) then this will not disappoint. Worth seeing just for the performances of Gary Busey and Everitt McGill.
“I understand that my niece and nephew have been sending little love letters to the local minister suggesting he gargle with broken glass, or eat a rat-poison omelette!”
Versions Region 2 Momentum Pictures Home Ent
Special Features: Trailer, Scene Selections, Audio Commentary By Director Daniel Attias
Aspect Ratio: 2.35 Wide Screen, 16:9 Anamorphic Wide Screen
Region 1 Paramount Home Video
Special Features: Trailer, Scene Selections
Aspect Ratio: 2.35 Wide Screen, 16:9 Anamorphic Wide Screen