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Old 08-13-2009, 10:27 AM
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Silver Bullet (R2 PAL)




Reviewer: Dave
Review Date: August 12, 2009

Released by: Kinowelt | Studio Canal
Release date: Unknown
MSRP: Unknown
Region 2, PAL
Widescreen 2.35:1 | 16x9: Yes
1985



Stephen King movies are a dime a dozen, but good Stephen King movies are quite rare. It seems for every Shawshank Redemption there is a Langoliers or Thinner right behind it. It's even more painful if, like me, you've read a lot of King's books. I've read countless King novels and can assure you that they are all better than their theatrical counterparts - even the good ones!. That's pretty much the norm for any novel, I suppose. A two hour movie simply can't complete with the amount of depth and detail found in a 400+ page novel. The sin with King is that all too often a great book is turned into an awful movie. Langoliers is a good short story but an awful three hour movie. Dreamcatcher is a novel I expected to hate but absolutely loved, yet the movie was a convulted mess. The movie at hand, Silver Bullet, is based off of King's Cycle of the Werewolf, a short graphic novel released in 1983. It's been many years since I've read the book but I do recall enjoying it in my youth, though it's hard to imagine any kid growing up on horror movie not enjoying a graphic novel featuring a werewolf.

Is Silver Bullet destined for the classic King pile? Or should we toss it beside Langolier's? Lets take a look and find out.

NOTE: While the DVD being reviewed here is the now OOP German DVD, note that it is identical to the readily available Region 2 UK DVD.

The Story

WARNING: This story outline contains a major spoiler. Skip over it if you haven't seen the movie.

inline Image It's Springtime in the small town of Tarker's Mills, Maine and the year is 1976. A local drunk is found decapitated near the train tracks. The police dismiss it as an accident and the incident is soon forgotten. A few days pass and most residents are in the center of town enjoying the local fair. Here we are introduced to Marty Boslaw (Corey Haim), a youg boy who is paralyzed from the waste down. Marty moves about in Silver Bullet, a motorized wheelchair that his Uncle Red (Gary Busey) made. Besides the handicap, Marty is like most boys - catching snakes, playing with his friends, and terrorizing his older sister, Jane (Megan Follows), as much as possible. Marty and his friend play a prank on Jane that goes just a bit too far, causing her to run off sobbing. Jane overhears a couple arguing about a pregnancy, with the man claiming he is not the father and the woman begging for help. That night the woman writes a suicide note but before she can commit the act, she is brutally attacked and torn apart.

inline Image The townfolk, led by Andy Fairton (Bill Smitrovich), are beginning to lose patience with Sheriff Joe Haller (Terry O'Quinn). With two deaths, one certainly a murder, in one week, they are convinced the town is no longer safe. When a third murder hits, the town is convinced that a murderer is on the lose. When the fourth murder occurs and the victim is a young boy, Andy gathers up several townsfolk and, armed with rifles, head into the fog filled night in hopes of catching the killer and serving up some vigilante justice. They don't get too far and are soon picked off one by one by an unknown beast hiding beneath the fog. The town is in near hysterics now but manages to find some solace at the local church, led by Reverend Lowe (Everett McGill).

inline Image Uncle Red shows up for a family BBQ and gives Marty a new, suped up version of Silver Bullet. Marty is thrilled and Red manages to top the day off by giving Marty some fireworks. Marty sneaks out later in the night to light off the fireworks. While finishing up, Marty comes face to face with the werewolf. He manages to escape by lighting his last rocket and firing it into the werewolf's eye. The next morning he tells Jane and she reluctantly agrees to go around searching for someone with a damaged eye. Jane canvases the town but comes up empty, convinced that she once again fell for one of Marty's tricks. It's not until she arrives at the church and encounters Reverend Lowe, one eye completely wrapped in bandages, does she realize that Marty was telling the truth. The two turn to Uncle Red for help but he isn't buying it. He entertains them and even follows the Reverend around for a bit, but it isn't until the Red sees proof that the Reverend was trying to knock Marty's wheelchair off the road that Red at least starts to believe something is amiss with the Reverend. Red goes to Sherrif Haller but he promptly disappears after looking into it. With the full moon approaching, Marty and Jane convince Uncle Red to spend the night and prepare for an onslaught. Armed with a single silver bullet, the three await the full moon and the beginning of their final battle with the werewolf.

inline Image The 1980s was clearly the decade of the werewolf, with the "big two" - Howling and An American Werewolf in London - being released in 1981. Couple those two with Wolfen and Silver Bullet and you have the best decade werewolf fans ever saw. Four movies may be nothing to brag about, but it's ceratinly the best 10-year stretch the sub-genre has ever had. And for me Silver Bullet comes in number 3, as I'm not too fond of Wolfen. Silver Bullet has its flaws, which I'll discuss, but it's a fun movie overall and I'm sure most werewolf fans will get some enjoyment out of it.

inline Image Perhaps the biggest flaw with Silver Bullet is the effects, which are lackluster - especially compared with the big two. But even with not compared, what we're looking at is a guy in costume. Sometimes that can work (see Creature From the Black Lagoon), but here it does not. As all horror fans know, sometimes this flaw can be worked to an advantage. Showing few shots of the full creature, and instead focusing on partial shots, can be quite effective in leaving more to the imagination and creating tension. That's really how Silver Bullet manages to be a decent horror movie, even with a guy in a wolf costume. The scene in the forest with the lynch mob is the best example. There is a layer of fog covering the ground and the beast is roaming about underneath, picking off people one by one. The tension is there, the scares are there, yet the most we see from the werewolf is an arm reaching up and pulling its victims down. Some graphic shots are throw in of bodies being ripped about, which is all well and good, but the point is a werewolf movie can work without showing excessive creature shots - especially with a weak looking werewolf. The partial shots of the werewolf do look great - such as the closeups of the werewolf's face. It's really not until the end where we see the full blown werewolf do I get truly disappointed in the effects. I can live with that. Some of the other effects are decent enough - the decapitated head, the dream sequence where everyone starts transforming into werewolves.the scene of the woman getting ripped apart - all are impressive enough and stand find on their own. Of course, we all know as werewolf fans the "money shot" is the main transformation and the werewolf itselfs, which is where Silver Bullet falls short.

The story is told from a child's perspective and that really helps drive the realism factor simply because little time is spent on the typical hooplah about 'werewolves are just a myth' bit. There's some, but it's minimal. Instead things get moving and progress nicely as the children discover who they believe the werewolf is, turning to Uncle Red for help, and the mayhem that follows. Having a reverend as a werewolf is an interesting take and is even explored a bit, with each person killed having deserved it - at least in the mind of a crazed reverend.

inline Image Corey Haim and Megan Follows give a commendable performance as brother and sister. The handicap character throws a wrench into the mix and could have easily been a hindrance to the movie, but Haim does a good job with it and it really helps to drive the love/hate relationship between brother and sister. Gary Busey as Uncle Red, a third child of sorts in the movie, is perfect for the role given his juvenile behavior in real life. Lets not forget the acting muscles of Terry O'Quinn, either. His role is minor but he plays the overwhelmed sherrif to perfection. Finally I'll mention Everett McGill who does a great role reversal switching from a seemingly good guy to the very definition of evil once he throws that eye patch on and grows some facial scruff.

When all is said and done, Silver Bullet is an enjoyable movie thanks to the filmmakers creating the right atmosphere and careful/minimal use of effects. The story is entertaining enough and while the gore may be too light for some, most will find it adequate. I recommend Silver Bullet to werewolf fans.

Image Quality

Kinowelt and Studio Canal release Silver Bullet in its original 2.35:1 aspect ratio and with 16x9 enhancement. The transfer is sharp and well detailed. Colors are a bit subdued but I suspect that was the case in the original transfer as well. Grain is minimal overall, with some appearing during the nighttime scenes. And speaking of those nighttime scenes, I did see some MPEG articacts pop up during the fog scenes. This probably could have been resolved by making this a DVD-9 (dual layer) instead of a DVD-5 (single layer) and cranking up the bitrate. The back of the jacket even indicates the disc is DVD-9, but that is obviously a misprint. That complaint aside, it's still a strong transfer overall and probably the best we're going to get.

Sound

The soundtrack is in Dolby Mono. As such, there's not much to speak of in regards to effects and channel separation. While there's little action, there's always some benefit to be found in a surround track. As is, however, the mono track is clear and audible throughout. No distortion of any kind was found.

Supplemental Material

inline Image Here's where the Region 2 trumps the US disc - the supplements. The Region 1 disc is bare bones, not even a trailer, while the Region 2 disc has a director commentary track and a theatrical trailer. While far from a fully loaded special edition, it's better than the nothingness on the US disc. The track with director Daniel Attias is an enjoyable one, too. He loses a little steam towards the middle of the track but is otherwise consistently talking throughout. He shares information but his own career, the filmming of the movie, the actors, special effects, and the other usual items you would expect. He talked about the movie fondly but almost seems to be apprehensive about being too proud of it. I guess he doesn't realize that it's mostly horror fans listening. As a fan of the movie, I enjoyed the track and I'm sure other fans will too. The only other supplement is the trailer which, while in rough shape from the quality stand point, is at least 16x9 enhanced.

Final Thoughts

The effects are a bit weak and certainly don't hold up to American Werewolf in London or Howling. Even so, Silver Bullet is a fun little werewolf romp told form a child's perspective. It does an admirable job standing on its own against the big two from the 80s. The audio / video on the DVD is above average and this import has the added benefit of a commentary track not present on the US disc. Casual fans will want to stick with the US disc but die-hards will definitely want to checkout the commentary track on this import. Recommended.

Rating

.
Movie - B

Image Quality - B+

Sound - B+

Supplements - B-



Technical Info.
  • Color
  • Running time - 1 hour 34 minutes
  • Rated R
  • 1 Disc
  • Chapter Stops
  • English, German, Spanish, Italian Dolby Mono
  • English, German, Spanish, Portuguese, Dutch, Italian, Turkish subtitles

Supplements
  • Commentary By Director Daniel Attias
  • Theatrical trailer

 

 

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Old 08-13-2009, 05:16 PM
Moderator
I know we've always disagreed on amount of plot that should be present in a review, but you sure do give away the film's one spoiler big time in the review, Dave....
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Old 08-13-2009, 07:03 PM
Moderator
Yeah, I even went back and looked at my review (been a long time since I watched this movie), and in it I say "there's a whodunnit angle to the story too"

You never know about who's seen what. When I want to check out a movie I haven't seen before, I often come here to see if we have a review (after all, we ARE the best site for horror movie reviews on the net...), so I'd be pretty pissed if a movie got spoiled for me.
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Old 10-27-2009, 11:21 PM
Moderator
I finally watched this for the first time this past weekend. I've never really considered eighties horror to be dated, but the way the film was presented stuck out as really obviously eighties. Perhaps it is because the film has a classical werewolf story but a completely eighties approach to aesthetics. We get the first person slasher cam for many scenes, tons of outrageous gore and slaughter (how can you call it "light", Dave, when there's a beheading at the start of the movie!) and that jarring Chattaway synth score. It's dated, even cliche now, but I really did enjoy it. The angle it took caught me by surprise and made me wonder why I had waited so long to check it out.

That, and Gary Busey is awesome. He manages to make even a dialogue scene at a dinner table seem as if it was done in another dimension.
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