The opening narration of the film “Silver Bullet,“ voiced by two-time Emmy nominee, Tovah Feldshuh (Crazy Ex-Girlfriend), informs the viewer that in 1976, during the last full moon before school let out for summer vacation, something sinister happened. An evil came to the small town of Tarker’s Mills, Maine, and played murderous havoc with the town’s residents, most of whom, the narrator lets the viewer know, cared just as much for their neighbors’ well-being, as they did for themselves. The catalyst, although it will be ruled an accident due to the man’s reputation as being a drunk, is the discovery of the decapitated body of railroad worker, Arnie Westrum (James Gammon). He was killed by a creature, that will later be identified as a werewolf, that had been stalking him from the nearby woods.
The next day, two of the film’s main characters, siblings, Marty and Jane Coslaw, are introduced into the story. Marty is a paraplegic, who rides around in a motorized wheelchair with a makeshift license plate on the back that says ‘Silver Bullet’. He is portrayed by Corey Haim (The Lost Boys). Jane, whose older self is the adult narrator of the story, is played by Megan Follows (Reign). Marty has a great relationship with his twice-divorced, alcoholic, Uncle Red, a role acted by Oscar nominee, Gary Busey (The Buddy Holly Story). Despite some of Red’s problems, he deeply cares for Marty, and has been designing him a special, customized, replacement wheelchair.
While Marty will immensely enjoy his new gift, it doesn’t take long for the next gruesome murder to occur. This time, it is a pregnant woman, Stella Randolph (Wendy Walker) who, after trying to convince the father of her unborn child (Michael Lague) to help support her, is in the process of committing suicide via-overdose. The chance to change her mind at the last moment is taken away from her, as she is brutally attacked and murdered by the werewolf. She is the second death, but not the last.
The breaking point comes when Marty’s best friend Brady (Joe Wright) is killed, something which is implied by the showing of a kite he had been playing with, that is covered in blood, and the reactions of his father, Herb (Kent Broadhurst), upon seeing what has happened to his son. Ignoring the pleadings of the town’s minister, Reverend Lowe (Everett McGill), and the warnings of Sheriff Joe Haller, played by Emmy winner, Terry O Quinn (Lost), that ‘private justice,’ as he refers to it, is breaking the law, a number of residents set out to hunt down the murderer. The group is led by Andy Fairton (Bill Smitrovich), he has been riling people up at Owen’s Bar. The place is run by Lawrence Tierney’s (Born to Kill) character, who brandishes a baseball bat with the word ‘The Peacemaker’ on it. The main contingent of townsfolk that the film focuses on, as they attempt to hunt down the werewolf, will not make it to the next day. The scene that showcases their demise, is both cool and comical. The comedic aspect of the scene is, unfortunately, due to some of the awful acting, in a film in which, overall, the cast does a spot on job with their respective roles.
As a result of the murders that have been taking place, the town’s annual fireworks have been cancelled, which upsets Marty. Uncle Red, rectifies the situation by giving Marty a bag of fireworks, dazzlers, and one rocket, which he can set off when he wants to, with the caveat, that Marty stay close to the house when he does. Of course, Marty being a kid, promises that he will do so, only to wind up ignoring his uncle’s request, and taking a ride, alone, at night, to a bridge located in the town’s park. There he will encounter the werewolf, and only thanks to his having saved the rocket firework, which he fires into the beast’s eye, is he able to save himself, and get away. Marty tells Jane what has happened, and she agrees to help him discover the identity of the werewolf. Once they learn who the werewolf is when the person is in human form, they tell Uncle Red what they’ve been up to. Despite wanting to believe his niece and nephew, he is having a hard time coming to terms with the information. Nevertheless, he teams up with Marty and Jane, in an attempt to put an end to the bloodshed.
Who is revealed to be the werewolf? Will Marty, Jane and Uncle Red be able to put an end to the creature? What can they do to stop it? Are the stories true pertaining to the power of silver bullets? How would they go about getting one? Do the trio die in vain attempting to save their town and themselves or are they successful in their mission? All of those questions will be answered by the film’s conclusion.
“Silver Bullet” is an adaptation of prolific, bestselling author, Stephen King’s short novel, “Cycle of the Werewolf,” which contains illustrations by comic-book artist, Bernie Wrightson. The novel was published by Land of Enchantment in November of 1983. The film, which has a runtime of 95 minutes, was released theatrically in America on October 11, 1985. The screen play was written by King, and directed by two-time, Emmy nominee, Daniel Attias (Entourage). (As an aside: Don Coscarelli (Phantasm) was initially hired to direct the movie, but opted out because of creative differences with the film’s producer Dino De Laurentiis).
For a werewolf film, it is certainly not on the level of “An American Werewolf in London” or “The Howling,” but is, nonetheless, an entertaining horror film. Throughout the film there are a few corny moments – whether intentional or not – a couple of good jump scares for a first time viewer, not an overwhelming amount of gore, and a well executed scene that takes place in a character’s nightmare, where everyone in the church congregation become werewolves. The werewolf, when shown in close-ups or reflection, comes off as effective; when it appears on screen whole, not so much. The look of the werewolf was a problem for the film from the outset, and shooting began without the costume having been finalized. The end product disappointed producer, Dino De Laurentiis, who didn’t think it looked good when fully shown, and that is something I agree with him on. “Silver Bullet” is not the best film based on King’s work – for me that will most likely always be “Carrie” the first horror film I loved – nor is it anywhere near the worst. Overall, it gives you characters you can cheer for, evil that you’ll want to see vanquished, and it offered an interesting twist on traditional werewolf lore.