Friday, August 31, 2012

Friday Flashback: Silver Bullet (1985) : Full Moons and Private Justice

In honor of the blue moon tonight, I deemed it appropriate to reminisce about what else than a werewolf film.  Based on the Stephen King novella Cycle of the Werewolf, Silver Bullet is a classic 80's werewolf flick that sometimes seems more like a coming of age movie than a horror film.

 Not exactly frightening, it's still a fun ride and does have several recognizable actors in it.  Starring The Lost Boys alum Corey Haim (back in the day, before he was part of the dynamic duo of Corey (Haim) & Corey (Feldman), Megan Follows (Anne of Green Gables), Everett McGill (Twin Peaks, The People Under the Stairs), Terry O'Quinn (LOST, The Stepfather), and the ever-popular Gary Busey (does he really need an introduction?). 

Haim stars as Marty, a pre-teen paraplegic who has a souped-up wheelchair and a penchant for pulling pranks on his older sister.  Said sister is Jane, who narrates the film (as an adult thinking back) and is expected by her parents to help Marty at every turn. 

They live in the small community of Tarker's Mills, where something strange is afoot (literally).  A series of grisly murders has put a pall over the town, causing a curfew to be set in place and folks to hide in their homes after dark.  Local authorities, headed up by O'Quinn as Sheriff Haller, are at a loss, unable to explain why it appears like a monster is picking through the town for its evening meals.

When Marty's friend Brady is killed, a group of townsfolk decide to go all vigilante and take off into the woods to look for whomever or whatever is gruesomely murdering people left and right.
As the audience, we are well aware that the culprit is a werewolf.  If we couldn't have figured it out, the ominous music that plays every time the wolf is circling its prey gives it away. 
When several of the justice league are taken down by the wolf,  Reverend Lowe (McGill)  takes it upon himself to try to get the town to stop taking matters into their own hands. He begins to have disturbing dreams about the savage deaths of community members.

Marty's Uncle Red shows up at the height of the murders, pissing off his sister by acting like the drunken fool he apparently is.  But Marty adores Red, and the feeling is obviously mutual, with Red presenting Marty with a brand new set of wheels.  A cross between a wheelchair and motorcycle, the two dub the gift 'Silver Bullet', and though Marty is told to be careful and not go anywhere alone due to the gravity of the town situation, Marty doesn't listen too well and goes off on his own with the Silver Bullet.

While setting off fireworks near a local covered bridge in the dead of night, Marty is startled by the werewolf, who has shown up uninvited for a midnight snack.  But Marty is able to shoot a firework rocket into the wolf's eye, maiming it.  As Marty speeds away on his bike, it's obvious that we are soon going to know just who the werewolf is - with an injury to the eye he or she will be easy to pick out.

Which is exactly what happens.  As Marty tries to convince Jane and Uncle Red that there is a werewolf in town, we are privy to his identity - which lends a whole new aspect to the movie.  And when the trio discover who the werewolf is, things again shift and it's all about ending the wolf's wrath. 

Silver Bullet is no Dog Soldiers.  Nor is it An American Werewolf in London.  It's not Ginger Snaps or The Lost Boys - and it's not even The Howling.  But it is a fairly decent film with above average acting and some supremely cheesy moments that many fans of the 80's have a sentimental love for.

There does seem to be an unusual amount of graphic violence at times, and more blood than the film really deserves.  Silver Bullet should have absolutely been rated PG, as it just doesn't have the chops to be an R-rated horror film. But with Stephen King penning the screenplay it's my feeling that he amped up the gore and made sure it wouldn't be "just another kid's scary movie".
At this point in time, it seems fairly campy, but that's part of the fun of it.  While I used to think the werewolf special effects were really good, I realize now that they are relatively mediocre. But they are actually not too bad for practical effects for the time, and the plot has a bit of mystery that keeps it interesting till the end.  (But I have to say, for a really cool werewolf, you need to look to The Howling, four years Silver Bullet's junior)


Marvin the Macabre said...

Came this close |--| to watching this last night, and if my outdoor movie fest hadn't been rained out, I probably would have.

I didn't see this one until last year, but I freakin' loved every cheesy second of it. Busey playing Busey, siblings calling each other "Boogers," and a pre-drugged out Haim... now that's true cinema.

Brittany said...

Ahh memories. This was the first horror movie I can remember watching.I was four. My uncle taped it off HBO and I carried that tape everywhere. The only thing that got to me was that the werewolf kills a prego chick. That really upset me back then.

James Gracey said...

Argh! I haven't seen this in YEARS. It was one of several horror films I watched at my cousin's house when we were kids. And it traumatised me! I'm sure if I watched it again today I'd think differently about it, but thinking back to when I was a kid, I thought it had a really dark tone, and the violence really upset me. What can I say, I was a wimpy kid. Even Gremlins scared the hell out of me!

Christine Hadden said...

Marvin: I definitely think this is a truly cheesy guilty pleasure. As I stated, I used to think the wolf was quite scary. I know now that it isn't, but that's how I remembered it. And people just don't call each other Booger enough anymore, do they?

Brittany: You hit the nail right on the head - I recorded this on VHS from HBO as well, and I have a ton of old horror on VHS in my attic. Most of them I have replaced on DVD by now, but I'll bet there are some surprises if I'd go look!
Thanks for reading!

James: I agree, the tone of this film is very dark, which makes it rather an uneven film, truth be told. Some of the dialogue is so light and teasing, and the soundtrack is too melodramatic in those parts, makes it seem like an atfer-school special (you probably didn't have those in N. Ireland, eh? Real charmers!) - and then we get someone's head ripped off and the music is loud and foreboding.

Glad you got over your wimpy stage! But hey, Gremlins scared me a bit too - it was another film that was uneven. All that comedy and then the Gremlins go all Medieval on people! Whaaat?