31 Days to Scare ~ Silver Bullet

The Facts:

Synopsis: A werewolf is stalking Tarker’s Mills, and only young, wheelchair-bound Marty Coslaw suspects the truth.
Stars: Corey Haim, Gary Busey, Everett McGill, Megan Follows, Terry O’Quinn, Lawrence Tierney, Bill Smitrovich, Kent Broadhurst, David Hart, James Gammon, Tovah Feldshuh
Director: Daniel Attias
Rated: R
Running Length: 95 minutes
TMMM Score: (6.5/10)
Review: In the long line of movies adapted from the works of Stephen King, it seems like 1985’s Silver Bullet is often breezed over. That could be for a few reasons. The first is that the source material, 1983’s ‘Cycle of the Werewolf,’ is not one of King’s most in-demand novels. In fact, at a little over a hundred pages, it’s his shortest published novel. It would make for a more than decent primer for those wanting to wade into the King waters, which can often be a bit tricky to delve into. With its interesting chapter set-up (each chapter corresponds with a month), it’s a quick and captivating read, but it does not stick in the mind like the more profound prose King wrote before or since.

Another reason Silver Bullet is sometimes forgotten is because when it was released in 1985, King adaptations came off the double-whammy in 1984 of Firestarter and Children of the Corn, two less-than-well-received features. While both have found their audiences over time, there was a bit of burnout with King, who would experience a rebound in 1986 when Stand by Me opened. Showing a different, less horrific side to the writer opened another realm of possibility to what could be adapted from him. 

Quaint Maine town Tarker’s Mills is in for a scary spring. Right now, however, all Jane Coslaw (Megan Follows, forever Anne on the PBS Anne of Green Gables) can think about is how her wheelchair-bound brother Marty (Corey Haim, The Lost Boys) is always getting special treatment even though he often finds himself in trouble at her expense. Engaged in another spat, the siblings are not on good terms when their wild uncle (Gary Busey, A Star is Born) arrives, but at least he gets the responsibility of caring for Marty off Jane’s back. As Jane’s family is celebrating the reunion, the first of many deaths in Tarker’s Mills is started by a creature that hunts when the moon is full.

In a small town, gossip travels fast, and when bodies start to pile up, the siblings (mostly Marty) investigate who could be behind it all. Eventually, Marty discovers that it could be the work of a werewolf who has infiltrated their ranks and is picking off town members. Zooming around town on his electric wheelchair (the Silver Bullet, get it?), Marty looks for clues as to who might be a beast in disguise…only to discover that the beast may also be looking for him.

A memory piece told to us by an unseen narrator (Tovah Feldshuh, Love Type D), the older version of Jane, Silver Bullet is a bit corny at times and doesn’t always fulfill its mission to create the horror mystery it endeavors to. The creature’s identity is revealed early on, so we spend much of the remainder just waiting for the beast and boy to meet, relying on Haim to do a lot of heavy lifting. The late actor was still young here, and while his charm shone through, director Daniel Attias couldn’t get the sharp performance out of him that is pretty much required. He nails the sensitivity part, however, which is maybe the most important. 

I find that I like revisiting Silver Bullet every few years because it gives me time to forget some of the parts that don’t work as well. The creature make-up has good moments and also some very shoddy views. Still, at least Italian cinematographer Armando Nannuzzi knows how to light a scene well enough to make the entire film appropriately spooky. It’s not a top-tier Stephen King adaptation, but it’s far from the bottom rung. I’d keep it on hand for a movie marathon; its short run time can be a great addition to maximize your fright flicks.

Movie Review ~ Black Adam

The Facts:

Synopsis: Nearly 5,000 years after he was bestowed with the almighty powers of the Egyptian gods, Black Adam is freed from his earthly tomb, ready to unleash his unique form of justice in the modern world.
Stars: Dwayne Johnson, Aldis Hodge, Noah Centineo, Sarah Shahi, Marwan Kenzari, Quintessa Swindell, Bodhi Sabongui, Pierce Brosnan
Director: Jaume Collet-Serra
Rated: PG-13
Running Length: 124 minutes
TMMM Score: (6/10)
Review:  The DC Extended Universe continues to expand, introducing more characters to audiences that might not be exactly household names. With the Supermans, Batmans, Wonder Womans, etc. all getting their own films (and working together) to varying degrees of success, it’s likely time to turn the attention to this periphery which is where many of the true fan favorites reside. That’s why you have successful outings like 2019’s Shazam and non-starters like both attempts to make the Suicide Squad happen in 2016 and 2021.

A long-time pet project of star Dwayne Johnson, the character of Black Adam was introduced in comics nearly eighty years ago, and rumors of a movie also began around that time. Ok, not really, but in a Hollywood timeline, tracing the first rumblings back to 2007 seems like a long gestation period. It’s taken that long for DC to work out the order of their releases and where the character could potentially fit into their film series, which, with the release of this 11th film, is strangely only in Phase 1. As Johnson became more of an in-demand and bankable movie star, the schedule became tighter, but his commitment to starring as the anti-hero superhero remained. 

Viewing the finished film, you can see what attracted Johnson to the character in the first place. Built on family bonds and the fulfillment of a legacy, it appeals to many of the principles of unity Johnson likes to instill in his projects. It also is an over-the-top special effects maelstrom of action sequences that are barely held together by a plot that, in retrospect, doesn’t move the dial any further in the DC Extended Universe than where we began. Despite a genuinely jaw-dropping post-credit sequence that had our audience screaming, Black Adam is a “what you see is what you get” event, so you need to hold on tight and try to keep up.

Since this is the first time we see the character, this is (sigh) another origin story, and the three screenwriters don’t spare the viewer any shortcuts in telling how a young slave boy in 2600 BC is granted mighty powers due to his demonstrated bravery. Becoming a hero to the people of Kahndaq, his powers eventually grow so great that when he’s pushed past all loss of control, he wipes the city off the map entirely, including himself. Over time, he becomes a legend and a symbol of hope for the people of Kahndaq as they again fall under the regime of oppressive leaders.

Jumping ahead to the present, we join a group of fortune seekers attempting to locate the Crown of Sabbac in the old ruins of Kahndaq.  Adrianna Tomaz (Sarah Shahi, I Don’t Know How She Does It) understands the weight of power the crown holds, the power-hungry king who once tried to obtain it had to be stopped by Teth-Adam (he won’t be called Black Adam until the end of the film), which led to the city’s original downfall. Now others are aware of the crown being uncovered and are coming for it. Before being captured, she tries a final option to save herself, reading an inscription on a stone found in the ruins, which brings forth Teth-Adam (Johnson, Skyscraper) from his grave.

Unaware that thousands of years have passed, it takes a while for Teth-Adam to learn restraint in battle. Who wants a restrained superhero, though? He’s a cranky guy that doesn’t like being told what to do, especially by a crew from the Justice Society that is sent in to keep him from creating mayhem. Sent in by Amanda Waller (Viola Davis, The Woman King), they are led by Hawkman (a fantastic Aldis Hodge, One Night in Miami…) and also include Doctor Fate (an impressively active Pierce Brosnan, GoldenEye), Cyclone (Quintessa Swindell, Voyagers), and Atom Smasher (Noah Centineo, Charlie’s Angels). That’s four more characters to get to know quickly in a movie that comes in just slightly over two hours. 

Most of the film is Teth-Adam either fighting as one man against the Justice Society or grudgingly working with them to defeat a villain after the Crown of Sabbac intent on bringing hell to earth. With most of the action taking place within the same limited vicinity in Kahndaq, Black Adam feels more minor than the prominent epic director Jaume Collet-Serra (Jungle Cruise) wants it to be. The visuals are impressive, but after a time, you start to question if you’ve somehow skipped backward and seen the same sequence a second time. 

With the DC Extended Universe and the Marvel Cinematic Universe continuing to churn their movies out rapidly, it may be building a larger-than-life web of interconnected stories and characters. Still, it’s at the cost of ultimate satisfaction with their films. A feeling of no stakes permeates each film, regardless of quality. What’s to keep you on the edge of your seat if you know another movie is coming out in six months? Finality creates tension, tension creates excitement, and excitement drives ticket sales, and it’s no wonder the box office receipts for these remain profitable but not as sky-high as they once were. Audiences have caught on and know the game. As well made as Black Adam is, it’s just a first step in the character’s journey toward another film and then another. It’s nice to meet you, Black Adam…see you soon.