Review Date: July 10, 2002
Released by: Paramount
Release date: 5/28/2002
Region 1, NTSC
Widescreen 2.35:1 | 16x9: Yes
Stephen King is one of the most prolific authors of our time, so it's only natural that movies based on his work are prolific as well. These movies range from the excellent (Carrie, The Shawshank Redemption) to the pretty bad (Sleepwalkers, The Mangler). Falling somewhere in the middle (like most King adaptations) is 1985's Silver Bullet, based on the novelette "Cycle of the Werewolf." Between those two titles, you get a pretty good idea of what's in store for you, so let's take a bite out of yet another offering from ol' Steve-O's word processor.
It's early fall in the small town of Tarker's Mills. Our protagonist is 13-year-old Marty Coslaw (Corey Haim), a wheelchair-bound boy who delights in tormenting his older sister Jane (Canadian cutie Megan Follows). Marty is actually closest to his Uncle Red (Gary Busey), an alcoholic with whom he seems to share an unspoken bond. Only Marty seems to be able to see the good in Red.
As the Coslaw family goes about their daily routines, the town is terrified by a series of murders. The victims are literally shredded to pieces, and when Sheriff Haller (Terry O'Quinn) fails to find the killer, the townspeople form their own vigilante mob, but with the expected disastrous results. Reverend Lowe (Everett McGill) is also of little help to comfort his frightened and angry parishioners.
Red builds Marty a high-powered motorized wheelchair, and one evening while shooting off some fireworks, Marty comes face-to-face with the monster terrorizing Tarker's Mills. He injures the creature, and believing it to be a werewolf, has Jane search the town's residents for the revealing mark. With Jane convinced, Marty tries to get Red to buy into the implausible story. It's up to this unlikely trio to end the lycanthrope madness.
As mentioned above, this is neither a good nor a bad King adaptation. It's your standard werewolf tale, with a little whodunit thrown in. Both An American Werewolf in London and The Howling (and even the recent Ginger Snaps) are far more interesting updates on the werewolf story. Silver Bullet's strength is in the character development of the protagonists. Corey Haim is actually quite good as Marty, slightly bitter about his lot in life, but never excessively seeking pity. It's Jane who has more of a chip on her shoulder about Marty's condition, failing to realize that Marty is actually less of an annoying pest than most 13-year old kids that have no handicaps. This relationship with Jane and Marty is quite fascinating, although a little underdeveloped.
It's the bond between Marty and his Uncle Red that really drives the film. Red is out to help Marty, but not with the condescending tone that he receives from the rest of his family. He becomes the big brother that Marty never had, and does his best to let his nephew lead a normal life. Naturally, Red is pretty skeptical of the werewolf story that Marty is selling, but it's the understanding that they share (they're both outcasts even within their own families) that allows him to at least take Marty somewhat seriously.
Unfortunately, the story has some missing elements. I've never read Cycle of the Werewolf, but I think the movie bogs down with the side plot about the lynch mob. This side plot really gets in the way of the much more interesting story of the Coslaws. Most likely, the short novel allowed both story elements to be fully developed, but when condensed to a feature-length film, they both suffer. Another casualty of trimming down the verbose writings of Stephen King. While the secondary plot is distracting, you can't eliminate the townspeople entirely, as there has to be a whodunit angle and we have to know the people for the mystery to be of any interest. So it leads to an overall feeling of incompleteness.
The actors all do a great job here, especially the familiar character actors in some of the lesser roles. Horror fans will recognize Terry O'Quinn from the Stepfather movies, and who can forget Everett McGill in The People Under the Stairs? As already mentioned, Corey Haim (before he became "cool") does a great job as the misunderstood kid, and Megan Follows is just as believable as the self-centered sister. Finally, we have a role that is perfect for Gary Busey, the nearly over-the-edge Uncle Red. It's this character that will tie the whole film together, and few actors could pull off the role this well. We don't often get casts this good in horror movies, so we should appreciate the times we do.
Of course, at its core, it's just a werewolf movie. The wolf creature itself isn't particularly special; it's a step below the Rick Baker and Rob Bottin creations, kind of surprising from the usually excellent Carlo Rambaldi. With the exception of one dream sequence, there is no big transformation scene in Silver Bullet. That's not really important though, since this movie focuses more on those fighting the werewolf and not on those actually becoming one. While it's not as groundbreaking in terms of the werewolf legend, Stephen King's ability to create interesting characters keeps this movie out of the doghouse.
The video presentation here is the best facet of the DVD. It's a full widescreen transfer, 2.35:1, and enhanced for anamorphic televisions. The colors are simply amazing, and the detail is just as nice. Naturally a werewolf movie will have several scenes lit by the full moon, and I'm happy to say that those scenes look fabulous too. I'd only seen this movie on cable TV before, so this anamorphic widescreen transfer was like seeing it for the first time. If you're a fan of this film, and have only seen pan-and-scan videotapes, you're in for a real treat.
Silver Bullet is presented in Dolby Digital Mono (English and French). It's a good mix, which never gets too shrill or distorted. I would have preferred a deeper bass sound in the scenes with Marty's Silver Bullet wheelchair, but there's not much you can do with mono. Of course, some surround effects would be nice with the werewolf attack sequences, but this movie never had surround sound to begin with.
Absolutely no supplements at all to speak of. Now, I'm not one to complain about a lack of extras, since to me the movie is the most important thing. But I'd like to think that they could at least put a theatrical trailer on here with some cast and crew biographies. We don't even get that. However, I did get a chuckle when they listed "Menus" as a "Special Feature" on the back cover. Ooh, you'd better get a copyright on that "feature", Paramount. But seriously, with a $25 list price, they should have included at least a bare minimum of typical extra features.
: Fans of Silver Bullet may be interested to know that a Region 2 PAL DVD is available that contains an audio commentary by director Daniel Attias.
Silver Bullet is a passable Stephen King adaptation, as well as a mildly entertaining take on the werewolf genre. Character development is good, though it could have been even better. Still, it's competently acted and directed, and the 94 minutes move by very quickly. The excellent widescreen transfer makes the visual experience quite enjoyable, although the disc lacks any extra features. It's not required viewing for every horror fan, but those who enjoy the works of Stephen King or werewolf movies might want to pick this up.
Movie - B
Image Quality - A
Sound - B-
Supplements - N/A
- Running Time - 1 hour 34 minutes
- Rated R
- 1 Disc
- Chapter Stops
- English Dolby Digital Mono
- French Dolby Digital Mono
- English Subtitles