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
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.