Happy Super Blue Blood Moon! In honour of the rare event, I’ll be reviewing the Blu-ray release of the 1985 werewolf film Silver Bullet, released in Australia courtesy of Umbrella Entertainment. The Blu-ray release comes in the midst of a much appreciated Stephen King revival (just ignore the failed Dark Tower film like most filmgoers did).
A minor, forgotten adaptation of King’s work, Silver Bullet was one of several werewolf films in the 1980s that followed on the success of An American Werewolf in London (1981) and The Howling (1981). Based on the Stephen King novella, Cycle of the Werewolf, Silver Bullet is set in the small fictional town of Tarker’s Mill, Maine, which is plagued by a series of unexplained murders. Marty Coslaw, a paraplegic boy, and his older sister, Jane, eventually suspect that the killer may not be human.
Light on Scares, Heavy on Nostalgic Fun
For most of its runtime, Silver Bullet is fairly light on tension and scares. There are a couple of fun set pieces that will keep audiences engaged. The first one occurs when an angry mob of townsfolk venture into the woods to hunt down the killer only to be picked off one by one by the beast that is lurking beneath a layer of dense fog. The scene evokes a few fun jump scares while keeping the werewolf hidden from the audience.
A dream sequence later in the film where parishioners in a church all transform into werewolves is the only genuinely disconcerting scene Silver Bullet has to over, a hint of what might have been in the hands of a more capable filmmaker. The rest of Silver Bullet is a largely breezy affair that will keep you watching until the end but won’t have you covering your eyes either. Its climax felt oddly rushed and with the identity of the werewolf revealed much earlier in the film, the ending felt perfunctory.
Hairy 80’s Special F/X
The biggest flaw of Silver Bullet – the hurdle all werewolf films inevitably have to clear – is its werewolf design. While the make-up effects are largely passable in early sequences of the film when the monster is in shadows, its eventual full reveal during the climax will be underwhelming, if not laughable, for younger audiences. I saw Silver Bullet on VHS as a kid in the 1980s and even then the werewolf make-up was disappointing, especially after having already seen both An American Werewolf in London and The Howling.
All the performances in Silver Bullet are excellent for a minor horror film. Both Corey Haim and Canadian actress Megan Follows, of Anne of Green Gables fame, give engaging and believable performances as bickering siblings. Haim, in particular, shows flashes of the talent and charisma that would make him an up-and-coming star in the 80’s. Gary Busey is, well, Gary Busey, as their alcoholic, n’er-do-well Uncle Red. The engaging cast gives the film a little charm that elevates it above other B-monster films.
Lightweight Horror for 80’s Horror Fans
Silver Bullet is a lightweight horror entry that doesn’t hit the lows of the worst Stephen King adaptations but isn’t particularly memorable either. It’s an inoffensive effort that won’t offer much to audiences who didn’t grow up in the 1980s looking for a jolt of nostalgia.
THE PROFESSOR’S FINAL GRADE: B-