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John’s Horror Corner: Silver Bullet (1985), Stephen King’s horror-LITE werewolf movie.

November 5, 2020

MY CALL: It’s entertaining… but really it’s just overall mediocre. I’d call this a good horror movie for beginners and younger audiences. MOVIES LIKE Silver Bullet: For more movie adaptations based on Stephen King’s books and other work, try the original TV mini-series of Stephen King’s It (1990), the remake of It (2017), Creepshow (1982), Cujo (1983), Graveyard Shift (1990), Needful Things (1993), The Night Flier (1997), Gerald’s Game (2017) or Pet Sematary (1989, 2019), to name a few.   

We are introduced to a quaint small town—the kind where everybody knows everybody—where we find our preteen protagonist Marty Coslaw (Corey Haim; The Lost Boys, Watchers), a boy in a zippy electric wheelchair created by his alcoholic Uncle Red (Gary Busey; Piranha 3DD, Predator 2).

After a series of brutal murders, the townsfolk form a militia search party for the killer. It doesn’t work out well, and the locals are no wiser to the murderer’s identity. But Marty has a pretty good idea of who’s behind it all… a werewolf! And so we wander into a light mystery of just whom in town could be this lupine murderer as Marty and his sister consider everyone from the town Reverend (Everett McGill; The People Under the Stairs, Dune, Twin Peaks) to the local Sheriff (Terry O’Quinn; Lost, The Stepfather).

Early shots of our monster present the entire beast in brief but numerous shots as it rends the flesh of its first victim. These death scenes aren’t particularly good, but they are particularly entertaining. So it seems the budget limitations were stretched and efficiently employed on screen. The weakest points of the film are revealed in the tactics—e.g., the scene with the search party in the swamp getting attacked by the werewolf in the waist-high mist like a shark attack movie. I’m not saying it’s not entertaining. But it also feels very hokey. Then we have a nightmare in which the local church congregation all transform into werewolves, which seemed budgetarily impressive.

Our creature effects are nothing when weighed against An American Werewolf in London (1981) or The Howling (1981). Not even comparable. I’d say the same for the transformation scene. Yet still, this movie tries. It tries hard and I appreciate the on-screen effort to show many different pulsating stages of the transformation. This lower tier movie works quite well visually, even better than it deserves, much as did Stephen King’s It (1990). However, the screenplay for this film did not receive the same caliber writing as It, nor did it impress me with gore or creature effects to nearly the degree of Graveyard Shift (1990).

MORE WEREWOLF MOVIES: The best werewolf movies would have to be An American Werewolf in London (1981; semi-humorous), Ginger Snaps (2000; metaphoric), Dog Soldiers (2002; unconventional) and The Howling (1981; serious). 

If you want another utterly ridiculous werewolf movie, then move on to Howling II: Your Sister is a Werewolf (1985), Howling 3: The Marsupials (1987) and Wolfcop (2014). 

And for more stylish werewolf movies The Company of Wolves (1984), Meridian (1990), Cursed (2005; cliché-loaded and contemporary), Ginger Snaps 2: Unleashed (2004), Wolf (1994), Wer (2013), The Wolfman (2010),  An American Werewolf in Paris (1997), Late Phases (2014), Howl (2015), Raw (2016), Good Manners (2017; aka, As Boas Maneiras) and the Underworld movies (2003, 2006, 2009, 2012) are also worth a watch.

We could consider that Waxwork (1988), Trick ‘r Treat (2007), Van Helsing (2004), Monster Squad (1987) and many others also feature werewolves, but not to such centerpiece extent that I’d call them “werewolf movies.”

Based on the Stephen King novelette “Cycle of the Werewolf”, I feel that director Daniel Attias (Six Feet Under, True Blood) did well with the script he was handed. It feels rather basic, but I also consider that the target audience was a bit younger (especially considering the very young protagonist). The climactic scene isn’t so climactic nor does the tension ever mount as powerfully as it should, but it’s still good storytelling.

Watching this as an adult I’d say it’s entertaining… but really it’s just overall mediocre.

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