We’re one week away from the Pet Sematary remake hitting theatres. The remake arrives in the midst of a much appreciated Stephen King revival. With It, Gerald’s Game, and last summer’s Castle Rock series, we’re once again embracing the ‘King of Horror’. A minor, forgotten adaptation of King’s work, Silver Bullet was one of several werewolf films in the 1980’s. Clearly, Paramount Pictures hoped to cash in on the success of An American Werewolf in London and The Howling.
Based on the Stephen King novella, Cycle of the Werewolf, Silver Bullet is set in the small fictional town of Tarker’s Mill, Maine. For several months, an unseen predator has plagued the town. A series of unexplained murders have heightened tensions among the townspeople. Marty Coslaw, a paraplegic boy, and his older sister, Jane, eventually suspect that the killer may not be human. When no believes their warnings, Marty and Jane turn to their drunk Uncle Red for help.
Silver Bullet Light on Scares
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 serves as a nice homage to The Wolf Man. An angry mob ventures into foggy woods to hunt the killer only to be picked off one by one by the beast lurking beneath a layer of mist. Fans of the Universal Monster movie classics will appreciate some fo the old-school filmmaking. Additionally the scene evokes a few fun jump scares while keeping the werewolf hidden.
…the ending can’t help but feel perfunctory.
A later dream sequence where church parishioners transform into werewolves is the only genuinely disconcerting scene Silver Bullet has to over. It’s a hint of what might have been in the hands of a more capable director. Sadly, the rest of Silver Bullet is a breezy affair that will keep you watching, but won’t have you covering your eyes either. Its climax feels oddly rushed and with the werewolf’s identity already revealed, the ending can’t help but feel perfunctory.
Hairy 80’s Special F/X Haven’t Aged Well
Arguably, Silver Bullet‘s biggest flaw- the hurdle all werewolf films must clear – is its werewolf design. While the make-up effects are largely passable early in the movie when the monster is in shadows, the full climate reveal is underwhelming. In fact, the werewolf design is kind of laughable. Certainly, younger audiences aren’t going to buy it. I saw Silver Bullet on VHS as a kid in the 1980’s. Even in 1985, he werewolf make-up was disappointing, especially after having already seen both An American Werewolf in London and The Howling.
…Gary Busey is, well, Gary Busey …
All the performances in Silver Bullet are excellent for a minor horror movie. 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. And while it’s only a small role, Terry O’Quinn (The Stepfather), and that can only be a good thing.
Lightweight Horror for 80’s Horror Fans
Silver Bullet is a lightweight horror entry. It never comes close to hitting the lows of the worst Stephen King adaptations. Nevertheless, it isn’t particularly memorable either. By and large, it’s an inoffensive effort that won’t offer much to audiences who didn’t grow up in the 1980’s. But if’s you were an 80’s kid and you’re looking for a jolt of nostalgia, Silver Bullet is a fun time-passer.
THE PROFESSOR’S FINAL GRADE: B-