Review: Silver Bullet

Directed by: Daniel Attias
Written by: Stephen King
Starring: Gary Busey, Everett McGill, Corey Haim
Released: 1985 / Genre: Horror / Country: USA / IMDB
Buy on DVD: DVD
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You have to give Silver Bullet credit – not only does it star Corey Haim in the lead role sans friend and many time co-star Corey Feldman and has Stephen King inadvisably adapting his own short story, but it co-stars Gary Busey in one of few films the fine-toothed actor appears in that doesn’t stink. So you’ve got to give Silver Bullet a pat on the back. I mean, those particular criteria would usually breed disaster, so the film deserves a certain amount of respect given such bold would-be hindrances. It isn’t as if Haim made many good films with Feldman, but he made even less without him, and it seems every time Stephen King gets the nod to convert his own books into films, we’re painfully exposed to overlong exposition, wayward narratives and three and a half hours of characters running around in the dark. No, Silver Bullet is that one rare beast that coverts these elements into a horror film that works on the basis of its subversive humour, its total lack of seriousness, and its quality scares.

silver bullet, film, werewolf, corey haim, stephen king, gary busey,

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The film is based on Stephen King’s novella Cycle Of The Werewolf, and sees crippled Marty Coslaw (Corey Haim) noticing there may be a rather mythical reason why violent, bloody murders have been occurring in his little home town of Tarker’s Mills. Through some particularly annoying voice-over exposition by his sister (certainly a King trait we could have done without, but it’s a minor problem), we get to see an interesting werewolf story that neatly combines King’s dark humour that seeks out the raw side of the human psyche, with a reasonably inventive play on the werewolf myth through some, albeit flimsy, moralistic issues, and the creature’s superhuman strength pitted against the youthful, wheelchair-bound child. One of the film’s most appealing aspects is how director Daniel Attias combines King’s community togetherness and the story’s idea of martial law, with a John Carpenter-style siege mentality that sees the locals taking matters into their own hands.

For sure, Silver Bullet doesn’t take itself seriously and King’s humour is at times exceptionally funny, particularly because Attias delivers it with such subtlety. When the locals go hunting for the werewolf it’s as if both the writer and director are just having fun with the conventions of the genre without resorting to cliché. There’s a distinct sense of the film trying to be subversively funny through its subtle humour and its light homage. One scene stands out in particular. When the local’s go hunting, they find themselves in the woods. One of them, wielding a baseball bat with the words ‘The Peace Maker’ written on it, gets caught by the beast and disappears into the darkness, clearly trying to hit the animal with his weapon. Next thing we see is the werewolf with the bat in its hand beating the hell out of him. The film propels itself above mediocrity with its quite odd sense of the comic that is delivered with the straightest of faces – for instance, outside of broad comedy, where else would you see a super-powered wheelchair being chased by a car?

That’s not to say Silver Bullet is a great film, far from it. The voice-over by Marty’s sister, sounding many years older as if she’s telling a story of her past to her grandchildren, is unnecessary – a far too easy ploy to move the story forward which alienates the viewer by distancing us from the characters. Yes, voice-over can be used well, but it isn’t here, showing simple laziness and poor storytelling, exampling a weakness in King’s feature film writing. Similarly, many of the film’s interesting attributes are glossed over in a rush to find out ‘who dunnit’, like the father who loses his child and fights against the law to inspire the townspeople to act out their own personal justice, and the relationship between Marty and his sister. The fact Marty is in a wheelchair is interesting and tidily worked into the story but ultimately his predicament isn’t fully realised, much in the same way King struggles to bring the novella’s idea of the lunar cycle and the werewolf killing on certain, notable calendar days to the screen. That said, both Haim and Busey are likeable in their roles and the film motors along at a hefty pace. Attias does have trouble pacing the story as some element of tension is lost in his hurry to the finish line, but he throws in a couple of notable graphic deaths and never loses a tongue in cheek tone which makes the film continually entertaining, even more so given the superb creature effects and werewolf transformation sequences. Silver Bullet is no Shining, but if Kubrick’s film is the main course when it comes to Stephen King, then Bullet makes for great finger food.

Review by Daniel StephensSee all reviews

About the Author
Editor of Top 10 Films, Dan Stephens is usually found pondering his next list. An unhealthy love of 1980s Hollywood sees most of his top 10s involving a time-travelling DeLorean and an adventurous archaeologist going by the name Indiana.

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  1. Avatar
    Rodney Reply

    Can’t say I’d ever heard of this before: as a fan of all things King, I might have to check it out.. even if it’s only finger food!!!

  2. Avatar
    Dan Reply

    Finger food it is – but rather tasty!

  3. Avatar
    Ross McG Reply

    never caught this but it looks all kinds of fun. Busey.. never made a bad film

  4. Avatar
    Richard Reply

    Man, I haven’t seen this one since the 80s! Thanks for the nostalgia trip, Dan. 🙂

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