Silver Bullet (1985)
By: Julian on November 6, 2009  | 
Madman (Australia). Region 4, PAL. 2.35:1 (16:9 enhanced). English DD 2.0. 91 minutes
The Movie
Cover Art
Director: Daniel Attias
Starring: Gary Busey, Everett McGill, Corey Haim, Megan Follows, Terry O'Quinn
Screenplay: Stephen King
Country: USA
External Links
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Something's not right in Tarker's Mills, a sleepy town in Maine. A lot of stories start off with "something's not right" and, in this case, it's a gross understatement: murders of the grisliest kind are wracking the citizens with a palpable feeling of dread. I guess there's no point in being too diligent about spoilers for a movie called Silver Bullet – our antagonist is a werewolf, and a particularly nasty one at that. Not just one of those rabid man-dogs that go on a rampage every full moon, but an insatiable, psychopathic beast that runs wild whenever it changes, and it does so unpredictably. However, as one of the characters immortally puts it, as full moon approaches, it becomes more "wolfy".

Jane (Megan Follows) narrates the film and introduces her relationship with her paraplegic younger brother Marty (Corey Haim). Their relationship is a difficult one with Jane tending to Marty, who in turn is mentored by his uncle Red (Gary Busey), who has more-than-solid reliance on an ever-present bottle of Wild Turkey to get through the days and nights. In this setting, the townspeople of Tarker's Mills are dropping like flies and everyone else is up in arms. Against the advice of Pastor Lowe (Everett McGill, who later appeared in Licence to Kill and the TV series Twin Peaks), a group go out in an attempt to catch whoever (or whatever) is terrorising their town and they are attacked: Owen Knopfler (the great Lawrence Tierney) is killed, and none of the mob witnessed anything they can be certain about. When Red builds Marty a wheelchair-cum-motorcycle for his birthday, a vehicle he christens 'the Silver Bullet', Marty takes it out of town to light fireworks and he is confronted by the creature. Faced with a hysterical Marty, Red is completely disbelieving but Jane very reservedly buys into what he's saying, and the two begin investigating.

Stephen King wrote Silver Bullet from his 1983 novella The Cycle of the Werewolf, and it was the third in a series of adaptations of his own works, sandwiched between Cat's Eye and his sole directorial effort Maximum Overdrive (a personal favourite of mine). Silver Bullet is typical of the screenplay work King did in the eighties – essentially, it's a horror-comedy, and both elements oscillate between sharp and original, and hokey and passé. But I think by and large Silver Bullet is really well done, and its better executed than Maximum Overdrive (it's a tenuous comparison, but I make it because both are King-authored eighties movies with a similar horror:comedy ratio). For mine this is King's best screenwriting credit yet, though I say that without having seen the supposedly superb Romero/King collaboration Creepshow.

Daniel Attias does a good job for his directorial debut but it remains his only theatrical feature – Attias has had some moderate success with television, most of it coming relatively recently with his work on The Sopranos, Six Feet Under and The Wire, for which he won a DGA gong this year. Don Coscarelli was on board to direct, presumably on the strength of 1979's Phantasm, but he pulled out after creative differences with producer Dino De Laurentiis. The acting is also praiseworthy by Gary Busey and Everett McGill, but the rest of the cast aren't special.

The beast itself was designed by the legendary Carlo Rambaldi, who won Oscars for his work on King Kong, Alien and ET, but is probably most distinguished in cult circles for getting Lucio Fulci out of a two year prison sentence for animal cruelty after having to bring his craft into the courtroom and prove he designed those disembowelled dogs in Lizard in a Woman's Skin (the first time an effects artist has had to do front a judge and prove his effects were, in fact, effects – surely a terrific compliment). I think it looks pretty good, but apparently De Laurentiis was unimpressed. I can't give any sort of educated comparison between the make-up and werewolf design in this film to werewolf movies of its era given I'm highly uneducated in the subgenre (the mainstays like The Howling and An American Werewolf in London have somehow eluded me) but Rambaldi's effects worked for me and it's necessary to put them in some sort of chronological and budgetary context.

I really enjoyed Silver Bullet – King's script mostly remained sharp, and it was a lot of fun. Recommended.
Presented in its theatrical 2.35:1 aspect ratio, with 16:9 enhancement. It cleans up well with no noticeable print damage.
An English track presented in Dolby 2.0. It's fine. Jay Chattaway (Maniac, Maniac Cop) is the composer which was a credit I enjoyed, and this film takes pride of place in his golden era.
Extra Features
None. Silver Bullet has been pretty neglected worldwide though: R2 discs provide a theatrical trailer and a commentary track by Attias, but that's the best that's accessible. I was quite taken by Madman's cover art for this disc, too.
The Verdict
I thought Silver Bullet was terrific. It's a typical eighties horror flick and it has its flaws, but don't look past it for a rocking good 90 minutes.
Movie Score
Disc Score
Overall Score

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