Stephen King's Silver Bullet stars Gary Busey, Corey Haim, Megan Fellows, Everette McGill, and the Stepfather himself Terry O' Quinn. It is a tense little picture written by Stephen King and based on his novella Cycle of the Werewolf.
The film opens with a title sequence over a full moon and an opening narration. Soon we see the town drunk being watched in the darkness by something unseen. Arnie (played by Major League's own James Gammon) has had a few too many and is singing as he rides a rail car. It is night and he is working on the railroad. He stops singing though when he sees a massive clawed footprint in the dirt beside him and looks up only to get decapitated by a clawed swipe. He is the first of many victims to come.
The following morning we meet more of our main characters including young Marty Koslow (Corey Haim) who unfortunately needs a wheelchair to get around and his young sister Megan Fellows. In what seems like a throwaway scene the townsfolk they live with are gathered to hear words of comfort from the local priest Rev. Lester Lowe but if you really pay attention to the scene there is a lot of information given to the viewer about some of the townsfolk. For instance: we learn that Marty's best friend, Grady, is a prankster who likes to get into trouble and borderlines on being a brat. We learn that a local woman has been having an affair and is pregnant because of it. We also learn that Marty and his sister have a love hate relationship and we can tell that she does not like him because she feels he gets everything he wants just because he is in a wheelchair. Stephen King writes the brother and sister as real siblings having real problems. That night we meet the fifth member of the family. Uncle Red played gleefully by Gary Busey. Gary steals every single scene he is in and has some of the most quottable dialogue in the picture. Red loves Marty and Marty idolizes Red. This does not sit well with Marty's mom who views Red as a drunk.
Meanwhile the full moon has risen and the beast stalks another victim. This time it is the lady having an affair and is pregnant. This is by far the goriest kill in the film as the werewolf literally tears her apart. What is interesting here is that Stephen King has written the werewolf and Daniel Attias has filmed the beast not as a brainless killing machine but more as a seriel killer who has an agenda and stalks it's prey more than just hack and slash. This beast does not mug for the camera and snarl (yet) it goes after it's prey quickly and quietly.
The killings have Marty's friend Emma afraid to ride her bicycle home by herself so Marty in his motorized wheelchair agrees to accompany her home. She points out her father's greenhouse to Marty and tells him that she has been hearing strange noises coming from there at night but before she can say more her angry and verbally abusive father yells at her.
Night falls yet again and we are treated to another full moon. No points for guessing where this scene takes place. The Greenhouse. What is neat about this scene? Clearly the werewolf could have stalked Emma's father into the house and killed him there but it doesn't. The Werewolf actually baits the father into coming out to the greenhouse and into his own demise.
Having decided that 3 deaths are 4 too many Sheriff Joe Hallaran (Stepfather's Terry O'Quinn) decides to set up a curfew. Never mind the woman that was killed was killed in her house. Marty and Grady meanwhile have decided to go about their business and fly kites. Marty's sister picks him up and Marty warns Grady to be in before nightfall. Grady brushes him off and Marty begins to leave. He stops and looks back at his friend and we see a look on Marty's face that tells the future. He looks back at Grady like someone who knows that he will never see his best friend alive again.
That night Grady's father arrives at the local bar looking for his son. Joe says he has bad news and the father goes to the gazebo in the park where he sees what is left of his boy. He[i][/i]sees what is left of Grady but we don't. All the viewer gets is a reaction shot. And in that shot we see a father lose everything. Now there has been some discussion that there is an alternate take on this scene where the viewer does see what is left of young Grady but having not seen this for myself I can neither agree or disagree that this footage does indeed exist.
Marty tells his Uncle Red that he believes that the killing is being done by a werewolf. A theory that his Uncle is quick to kill. He assures Marty that it is just some random psychopath. That night Grady's father gets a lynch mob together and the townsfolk decide to storm the woods. Rev. Lowe desperately tries to talk them out of it but it is of no use.
A thick fog rises in the forest and the mob is armed with bats, guns, and I'm sure pitchforks. They can hardly see anything which provides the werewolf with the perfect camoflauge. The Werewolf stalks it's prey under the fog and begins to pick them off one by one. One of the ill fated villagers does come to the conclusion that the beast was with them the whole time.
Up next is an acid trip of a dream that Rev. Lowe has which shows him presiding over the funeral of two of the townsfolk and everyone in town turning into werewolves. Joe has now been left with no choice but to shut down the July 4 fireworks. Marty is bummed and his sister decides to take another jab at him. Uncle Red meanwhile has built Marty a brandnew wheelchair. This wheelchair is built into a motorcycle and has the words Silver Bullet painted on the side of it. After giving Marty a bag of fireworks, Uncle Red leaves the boy to celebrate the 4th. That night Marty ventures out on his own to the lake and begins to set off the sparkling treasures. Not seeing the werewolf watching him in the forest. Slowly the werewolf stalks young Marty who is distracted by the fireworks. Marty sees the monster before it can attack him and sends a rocket straight into the werewolf's eye. This is the first time we see the monster and if you really look carefully at the face on the creature you will immediatly recognise who the killer is.
After failing to convince his uncle that there is a killer werewolf on the loose Marty turns to the only one he has left, his sister. He tells her the whole story and warns her to be on the look out for a man or woman who only has one eye. His sister goes out collecting cans for the church and observes everyone and their cousin but no one only has one eye. Dejected and pissed at her brother she returns to the church to hand in her cans only to be confronted by Rev. Lowe, who only has one eye!
Marty decides to take a simple approach to solving his problem. He begins sending Lowe unsigned letters telling him to kill himself. After that doesn't work he and his sister decide to bring in Uncle Red again. Red does not believe what he is hearing. He does agree to go to Joe and ask him to investigate Lowe. Joe comes right out and tells Red he doesn't believe the whole claws and fangs story but does agree to check out the local reverand. At night of course.
Joe checks out the garage of Rev. Lowe that night feeling pretty safe because there is no full moon. he finds a splintered bat that belonged to the deceased bar owner but before he can escape Rev. Lowe shows up and turns into the werewolf right in front of him and kills him. Rev. Lowe decides to take matters into his own hands and attempts to run Marty down with his car. After trapping Marty on a bridge Lowe explains the whole thing to him. He looks at the killings as an act of God and gives reasons that seem logical to him about why he killed all of those people: a worthless drunk, a woman who was carrying a child looking to commit suicide, etc. Marty is saved by a passerby and Uncle Red is finally convinced that Lowe is a killer.
That night the full moon rises. Marty, his sister, and Uncle Red hunker down in Marty's home with a pistol and one silver bullet. The werewolf immerges from the woods and runs a claw across the outside wall of the house. It should be noted that the reason the werewolf's claw looks so goofy is because the claws that were used were really the rubber hands used on the monkey suit in King Kong starring Charles Grodin and Jeff Bridges. So yes, our werewolf has monkey hands. Uncle Red decides that it is time for the kids to go to bed and the werewolf rips the electric cable out of the wall killing the power. Red still doesn't believe that there is a monster out there even when Marty's sister sees it looking at them through the window. Now comes a scene so rediculous it has to be seen to be believed. This werewolf who so carefully has stalked and eliminated it's prey using cunning, speed, and stealth, actually knocks down the entire wall of the house and poses and snarls for the camera! Marty scrambles to retrieve the silver bullet as Uncle Red and the Werewolf get into a fist fight! This is a monster that decapitated a man with one claw swipe and tore a woman to shreds and now it decides to show off for the camera! Marty retrieves the silver bullet and having no practice with a gun at all puts the bullet right into the good eye of the beast. Not a bad shot. The werewolf reverts back to being a human and the story ends.
This movie seriously suffered from what I call dumbing down the villain so that the hero can win. Up to the point of the conclusion of the film this werewolf showed no intentions of 1. posturing 2. needing to knock down a wall to gain access to a locked house 3. rushing to his prey. The monster up to this point was a stalker and eliminator. So why the sudden change? Several reasonable theories: 1. So the hero could win 2. Maybe Rev. Lowe was tired of the whole killing thing and wanted it to end 3. Marty somehow drove Lowe to make uncharacteristic mistakes.
A lot has been made of the townsfolk not being that bright and never catching on that the killer is a werewolf. Maybe denial was the way they coped. Though why none of them made a mass exodus I do not know. According to the imdb there were plenty of problems that plagued this film. The director wanted a werewolf that moved with a light grace so he hired a, and I'm not kidding here, balet dancer to dress as the creature. When the film was turned in and the movie company viewed it they wanted to know why the werewolf was gay. A person could nitpick this film to death. Other than the affor mentioned things there were other things that really irked a viewer. Why would Joe wait until nightfall to check out Rev. Lowe's garage, why didn't he bring back up, how did Rev. Lowe become a werewolf, from the small amount of silver Red was given how did he get such a large bullet made, etc.
But for all that went wrong plenty went right. Having a "graceful" monster that was never seen the viewer only had music and a pov shot to give an indication of the monster's presence. Sound familiar. The pacing was spot on, the acting was really good. Gary Busey aside, Corey Haim really delivered a touching performance as a kid who is scared out of his mind. He knows something bad is happening and no one believes him about it. The only one who does believe him is his sister who has been bullying him through the whole picture.
I first saw this film when I was 6 years old. It was the first time I had seen a werewolf picture and it would be 7 years later that I recovered from it. This movie terrified me. By today's standards I think it holds up well but really the big problem with the film is it's ending and the fact that King had to dumb down his monster. I know that no one wants to see a kid in a wheel chair become werewolf kibble but the ending could have been much stronger. All in all it is worth a view if you've never seen it or have 90 min. to kill.
Verdit: 4 out of 5