Stephen King adapted his own novella Cycle of the Werewolf for this 1985 horror, which came hot on the claws of The Howling and An American Werewolf in London and, whilst it isn’t as good as either, this Dino de Laurentiis production gets a very clean transfer, is great fun and the disc’s extras have a bit of bite.
In a small town plagued by a series of violent murders, terrified and angry locals clash with the police who seem to have no leads into the brutal killings, whilst the local preacher keeps a close eye over his congregation. Meanwhile, young wheelchair user Marty (Silver Bullet is the name of his souped-up motorised chair) and his sister Jane must put their squabbling aside when a visit from their Uncle Red brings them an ally, someone who will at least listen to their suspicions that the murders are the work of a werewolf.
As is typical of Stephen King, what gives Silver Bullet its charm is its depiction of a small town and the characters inhabiting it. His writing has a knack of making even the briefest of characters feel fully formed, thanks also to the casting of some great character actors in small roles. The main cast are great fun, a young Corey Haim showing why he made such an impact so young, and an older Gary Busey giving Uncle Red the film’s best lines and, alongside Megan Follows as Jane, providing a family unit we really do care about.
Which is a good job because you can sense the different approaches the film battles with, as referenced in the audio commentary from first-time director Daniel Attias. He always felt that the film worked best as a teen adventure, whereas de Laurentiis wanted more gore and horror. Consequently, Silver Bullet doesn’t fully achieve either the scares to make it a horror classic or the cares to embed it in your heart.
That director commentary is compelling, a chat which takes us through Attias’s memories of the actors and locations rather than examinations of individual scenes. There’s a straight-forward but interesting interview with Martha de Laurentiis, an unspectacular one with actor Everett McGill and also an animated chat between SFX artists Michael McCraken Jnr and Matthew Mungle.
The set piece scene of a mass transformation inside a church gets discussed, which is fascinating, but what becomes very clear is the struggle the production had to get Carlo Rambaldi to create a werewolf which didn’t just look like a big bear. Rambaldi never really pulled it off, which is another reason why Silver Bullet is fun rather than terrifying.
STEPHEN KING'S SILVER BULLET / CERT: 15 / DIRECTOR: DANIEL ATTIAS / SCREENPLAY: STEPHEN KING / STARRING: GARY BUSEY, EVERETT MCGILL, COREY HAIM, MEGAN FOLLOWS