In 1985, Stephen King wrote a screenplay for a werewolf movie based on his own novella, Cycle of the Werewolf. This movie would come to be known as Silver Bullet. In 1985 I was not born yet; that could come later, in 1990. But in 1990, I would not watch Silver Bullet. No; my relationship with this film would not start until way later. 2017, to be exact. Which means that from the period of 1990 to 2017, I had been missing out on one of the most entertaining werewolf movies that has ever existed.
The film stars Corey Haim as Marty, a wheelchair-bound ruffian with more ’80s charm than you ever thought you needed. He lives with his family in a quiet Maine town along with his sister, Jane (Megan Follows), and their loving parents, Nan and Bob. We are told through narration by an all grown up Jane, however, that things changed in their quiet town forever in the Spring of 1976.
It was that Spring that things start to get a little hairy.
After a string of violent murders, Marty finds out that it is the work of a bloodthirsty werewolf. With the help of their Uncle Red (Gary Busey at his most endearing!), they plan to take down the big bad wolf and stop the killings once and for all. And boy, is their endeavor gloriously ’80s in the best of ways.
Silver Bullet works in a myriad of ways – and not all ones that you might expect. While it has its fair share of quirks and misdirection, sometimes it just hits the nail on the head so hard that you could feel your own ears ringing even thirty years later. For this, you have the leads to thank. They are astounding.
And no, none of them deliver any life-changing dialog that will make you question the universe and all of its mysteries. I’m talking about the simple fact of how the three main characters – Marty, Jane, and Red – interact. There’s a sense of believability in this family structure seldom found in horror movies. Though my shriveled heart is pained to admit this, their relationship is nothing short of heartwarming.
But that shouldn’t be too surprising, should it? After all, this decade’s charm comes from more than just cheese. Many of the incredible films from this time period contained outstanding relationship dynamics, and many child actors were the cause of this. Haim, in particular, has done this more than once. What’s surprising is just how well Busey plays his role as the flawed-yet-loving uncle, and alcoholic who loves his nephew more than anything – even enough to craft his a motorized wheelchair that can blast down the highway with, and then emblazon the thing with “Silver Bullet” on the back of it. It’s ridiculous in the absolute best of ways.
Parents who? Gimme Uncle Red!
There’s an irresistible fusion of corniness, confused filmmakers, and heart to be found here. It’s a combination that, in no universe, should work. Yet it does. In our universe, nonetheless.
A lot of these scenes are funny. Very funny. Dan Attias either had incredible foresight and attempted to capture every single corny aspect of the decade he was currently existing in, or simply had no idea as to what a horror movie is supposed to be. Either way, somehow, this works. It’s extremely confusing why someone would choose to put a freewheelin’ Corey Haim popping wheelies set to an uplifting score in an R-rated horror film, but I’m glad someone made that call. I don’t, in any way, believe that it was intentional. It works, though. Somehow.
I wouldn’t be so crass as to say that all of the humor was unintentional, however. I mean, there’s a scene in which the wolf wields a baseball bat in an almost Looney Tunes kind of way. That, my friends, is absolute genius.
Stephen King’s presence is felt all throughout the movie, bridging fantasy with horror and a warm heart as he so often does. This strength comes to light during a sequence in which Lester Lowe, the town pastor (Everett McGill) has an especially frightening nightmare in which a church congregation all erupt into a mess of lycanthropy, and it’s one of the best scenes in the movie. This also may be the best that the werewolves look in the entire movie.
Ah, yes – the look of the werewolf in the movie. That’s something we need to talk about.
I’ll get to the point. It’s unconvincing. This werewolf is a guy in the suit, and I don’t think anyone could have any delusions about otherwise. The wolf, then, becomes otherworldly and out of place; it even adds to the fantastic element of the whole ordeal. Crazy, I know – who considers subpar creature effects to be a positive of a film? – but here we are. It makes it less scary…but more fun. There’s so much to laugh with here. Which is the way I saw it; I’, not laughing at the movie, I’m laughing with it. I was thoroughly entertained throughout the entire thing. It was like seeing a Universal Monster Movie for the first time again. I think…I think I may be in love?
When all is said and done, Silver Bullet is a must-see for both fans of Stephen King and those who just love a fun experience. It’s fun. It’s exciting. And though it’s not very scary, it’s entertaining as all hell. Plus, we get Gary Busey at his absolute finest and also one of Everet McGill’s best roles. Small as his filmography may be, he sure packs a punch with what he did before he retired. Quality over quantity, as they say.