Stephen King’s astonishing oeuvre gets raided regularly by Hollywood, resulting in cinematic gems and absolute turkeys. Silver Bullet hits a mark between the two. Our second lycanthropic throwback for this week’s Halloween Review features redneck hero Gary Busey, lost boy Corey Haim, and Canadian icon Megan Follows in a small town that has come to fear the full moon….
Cast and Crew
Director: Daniel Attias, Don Coscarelli1
Writer: Stephen King
Gary Busey as Uncle Red
Corey Haim as Marty Coslaw
Megan Follows as Jane Coslaw
Robin Groves as Nan Coslaw
Leon Russom as Bob Coslaw
Everett McGill as Reverend Lowe
Terry O’Quinn as Sheriff Joe Haller
Bill Smitrovich as Andy Fairton
Joe Wright as Brady Kincaid
Kent Broadhurst as Herb Kincaid
Heather Simmons as Tammy Sturmfuller
James A. Baffico as Milt Sturmfuller
Rebecca Fleming as Mrs. Sturmfuller
Lawrence Tierney as Owen Knopfler
William Newman as Virgil Cuts
Sam Stoneburner as Mayor O’Banion
Laurens Moore as Billy McLaren
Wendy Walker as Stella Randolph
Michael Lague as Stella’s Boyfriend
Myra Mailloux as Stella’s Mother
William Brown as Bobby Robertson
Herb Harton as Elmer Zinneman
David Hart as Pete Sylvester
Graham Smith as Porter Zinneman
Paul Butler as Edgar Rounds
Crystal Field as Maggie Andrews
Julius LeFlore as Smokey
Pearl Jones as Mrs. Thayer
Ish Jones Jr. as Mr. Thayer
Tovah Feldshuh as Older Jane
A woman recalls the events that befell her small town in 1976, when she was in her early teens and a savage murder occurred each full moon. Her kid brother suspects the truth the adults refuse to see.
While the horrific dream sequence from which a character awakes is a horror-movie cliché I generally loathe, this film features an impressive example that reveals critical information about the dreamer.
Silver Bullet feels like an abridged mini-series. We have a town’s full of characters, and a combination of the source material and the limited running-time reduces most of them to central casting. When so many minor characters enter and exit a story, we lose the opportunity to really get to know the central characters, and we don’t care too much about the secondaries who get slaughtered.
Originality: 2/6 King adapted the script from his own Cycle of the Werewolf, itself a tribute to the lycanthrope legend, as it has developed in the twentieth century. By this point, the popular conception of the werewolf owes more to Hollywood than to millennia of shapeshifter/skinwalker lore. Cycle…, furthermore, is one of any number of King stories that take their cue from his first novel, Salem’s Lot:2: a Peyton Place of a small town encounters the supernatural. Silver Bullet does feature a rarity, however, a child hero with significant physical disability, and the story scores a point for that.
Effects: 4/6 The film’s effects work overall. They falter a little in the critical department of lycanthropes. The producer fought with two directors and King about how graphic and moonlit the werewolf should be. The resulting compromise is less effective than anyone might have hoped, with our monster looking rather like a superior Halloween costume.
Acting: 5/6 A cast this large often suffers from a range of acting skills and styles, likely exacerbated by the change of directors. The principals are fine, and Busey, allowed to ad-lib many of his lines, makes a compelling Uncle Red. Cory Haim and Megan Follows do well as siblings, constantly bickering but growing into an understanding of each other.
Emotional Response: 4/6 The film does enough right that you’ll likely want to watch until the end.
Overall: 4/6 Better were-films exist, to be sure, but Silver Bullet works well enough on its own terms, and holds up as Halloween viewing.
In total, Silver Bullet receives 28/42
1. Coscarelli began the picture. He resigned over ongoing conflicts with producer Dino de Laurentiis, but apparently after a fair bit of filming had occurred.
2. Carrie was the first of his novels published, but he wrote Salem’s Lot earlier.
October 3/4: Mandy (2018)
October 10/11: Cry of the Werewolf (1944) and Silver Bullet (1985)
October17/18: The Color out of Space (2019)
October 24/25: Rosemary’s Baby (1968): Novel and Movie
Halloween: The Magicians (2015-2020)