Jay Burleson takes a trip back to the '80s as he discusses the werewolf film Silver Bullet for Film Appreciation.
|Cycle of the Werewolf artwork|
I recently rewatched a childhood favorite of mine, the 1985 Stephen King film adaptation Silver Bullet, based on King's novella Cycle of the Werewolf. The film version stars Gary Busey, and a young (well, even younger) Corey Haim, before Lucas and The Lost Boys.
In Silver Bullet, Haim plays Marty Coslaw, a parapalegic kid restricted to a wheelchair, who doesn't have much to do in the small town where he lives. He has a slightly older sister who he and his friend play pranks on, and a grizzled uncle (Gary Busey as Red) who thinks it's a good idea to turn Marty's newest wheelchair into a hot rod. It would seem things are pretty normal in the town of Tarker's Mills, Maine, but of course there is also a werewolf on the prowl.
A lot of the film focuses on the werewolf, its victims, and the local townsfolk who want to hunt it down. All of this is fine, and even features an awesome appearance by LOST star Terry O'Quinn as the town sheriff, but the heart of this film is Marty, his sister Jane (Megan Follows), and his goofy Uncle Red. The film establishes very early on that Marty is actually a pretty nice kid, despite an initial prank on his sister, and it's quickly apparent that he will be very easy to root for.
|Terry O'Quinn in Silver Bullet|
Gary Busey is full of life and energy in the part of Red, and with that steals many of the scenes he's in. To me, this is Busey at his best. Uncle Red is a rough, sarcastic man, but with a good heart, so when he finally goes into town to have the silver bullet made, it's not so much because he believes in the werewolf, but that he believes in the kids.
The human identity of the werewolf is left as a mystery for a good portion of the film, and has a really great reveal, which is why I wish one of the scenes prior to the reveal would've been left out. It's a pretty nifty dream sequence which features a whole group of locals turning into werewolves, but it also points the finger at the only real werewolf in the picture. The actual reveal would've been much more satisfying without this scene, or with the scene placed somewhere else.
The reason the reveal is so great is because of Marty's encounter with the werewolf. Armed with a host of fireworks and his souped-up wheelchair (which probably goes as fast as my car), Marty sneaks off one night to enjoy the fireworks. The werewolf attacks while he's enjoying the show by an old bridge, and in order to survive the attack, Marty blasts the beast in the eye with a bottle rocket. So now all the kids need to do is find someone in town with a bandage over their eye. The actual reveal of the werewolf character is probably my favorite moment in the film, as we discover the local minister (played very well by Everett McGill of Twin Peaks) is indeed the beast of the night.
This isn't an amazing picture, but it's a fun '80s horror with some loveable characters and memorable performances. I watched it many times as a child, so it's a movie that reminds me of my childhood and watching films with my mother. It's still an enjoyable watch and features iconic actors from the '80s in Haim and Busey. It's an odd pairing that works out solid in Silver Bullet. I will also dare to say that this is one of the better Stephen King film adaptations, which makes sense, since he did write the script.
Silver Bullet is also a great title, as it not only reflects the werewolf aspects, but doubles for the name of the hot rod wheelchair that Uncle Red builds for Marty. It's one of many neat aspects that King worked into the story. If you haven't seen Silver Bullet, check it out. If you have, and you're a horror fan like me, I'm sure you have some similar feelings about it.