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Silver Bullet
Director: Daniel Attias
Screenplay: Stephen King (based on his novelette Cycle of the Werewolf)
Stars: Gary Busey (Uncle Red), Corey Haim (Marty Coslaw), Megan Follows (Jane Coslaw), Everett McGill (Reverend Lowe), Robin Groves (Nan Coslaw), Leon Russom (Bob Coslaw), Terry O'Quinn (Sheriff Joe Haller), Bill Smitrovich (Andy Fairton), Joe Wright (Brady Kincaid), Kent Broadhurst (Herb Kincaid)
MPAA Rating: R
Year of Release: 1985
Country: USA
Stephen King's Cycle of the Werewolf was always one of the prolific novelist's slightest works, a short, readable-in-one-sitting novelette constructed as a series of 12 episodes in which a werewolf terrorizes a small American town, with each one corresponding to a month of the year. With a punchy, present-tense prose style and almost no characterization, the best thing about it were the graphic illustrations by artist Berni Wrightson, who also illustrated the comic-book version of King and George A. Romero's Creepshow (1982).

When it came time to adapt Cycle of the Werewolf into a feature film (because, as we all know, there's a law somewhere on the books stating that everything Stephen King commits to paper must eventually become a movie), King himself wrote the screenplay, although he failed to translate Wrightson's effectively lurid illustrations to the big screen. King discarded the episodic structure and tried to tie all the events together with small-town salt-of-the-earth characters dealing with a sudden outbreak of grisly murders during the bicentennial year of 1976. Unfortunately, the screenplay sags in the connecting material, and it still feels episodic and slight, little more than a slasher movie in which the slasher is a lycanthrope, rather than a run-of-the-mill psychotic.

The one recurring character in the novelette was an 11-year-old boy paralyzed from the waist down named Marty Coslaw. Played here by Corey Haim right before he became a fleeting teen superstar, Marty is turned into the film's central character, although the softly spoken and terribly banal voice-over narration comes from the grown-up version of Marty's 14-year-old sister, Jane (Megan Follows). As with so many horror stories, Marty and Jane are the only ones who believe there is a werewolf, and they enlist the help of their alcoholic, thrice-divorced, but charmingly gruff Uncle Red (Gary Busey) to help them.

King tries to build suspense around the werewolf's identity when in human form, which could have been clever, but the movie sabotages any suspense by giving it away too early. (Spoiler warning: If you don't want to know who it is, skip to the next paragraph.) It turns out the werewolf is the kindly Reverend Lowe, who is played by Everett McGill, a stern, chiseled character actor whose casting as the local preacher is the first tip-off that he may be the one growing body hair and claws every full moon. But, to cap it off, there is an extended sequence in which Lowe dreams that his entire congregation turns into werewolves during a funeral. This makes it absolutely clear that he is the werewolf since no one else in town--not even Marty at this point--suspects that a werewolf is behind the murders. Thus, when the movie finally "reveals" who the werewolf is, it is the very epitome of anticlimactic.

On the whole, Silver Bullet fails in more departments than it succeeds, which is not surprising given the generally weak nature of the material. Unfortunately, it is particularly true of the one area that should have been a success: the werewolf effects, which were designed by Carlo Rambaldi, who got his start doing the gore effects for Paul Morrissey's Flesh for Frankenstein (1974) and was best known at the time for creating the wholly convincing titular alien in Steven Spielberg's E.T. (1982), for which he won an Oscar. Rambaldi's work here is shoddy and embarrassingly unconvincing. Director Daniel Attias probably sensed this, and he wisely keeps the werewolf off-screen for much of the movie, giving us only fleeting glimpses of yellow eyes or a hairy paw (which, by the way, looks like a rubbery glove). The actual transformation sequences are mildly convincing, but otherwise the werewolf looks much too much like an actor in an ill-fitting hairy suit.

Attias is efficient, but uninventive in staging the attack sequences, relying heavily on stock werewolf point-of-view shots and Jay Chattaway's ominous chords. Silver Bullet does have its moments, though, particularly a creepy sequence in which a bunch of fed-up townsfolk take up shotguns and decide to hunt down whoever or whatever it is that is killing their fellow citizens. Tromping through a fog-enshrouded forest, they suddenly come to the horrifying conclusion that the monster is right there with them, but underneath the fog, thus successfully turning the movie into something you never would have expected: a variation of Jaws without ever leaving solid ground.

Silver Bullet DVD

Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
Languages English
Subtitles English
DistributorParamount Home Video
Release DateMay 28, 2002
SRP$24.95

VIDEO
2.35:1 (Anamorphic)
This is the first time Silver Bullet has been presented on home video in its intended aspect ratio, and the wider frame makes a significant different. Scenes that had appeared overly chaotic in the truncated pan-and-scan versions (particularly the last five minutes) are much more coherent now. The quality of the image is generally good, with only the slightest hints of fading and a bit of grain in the darker sequences. The image is clean overall, although understandably a bit dated in its look.

AUDIO
English Dolby 1.0 Monaural
The original monaural soundtrack gets the job done, but not much else. The soundtrack is clean of any ambient hiss, and Jay Chattaway's heavily synthesized score delivers a bit of punch when needed.

SUPPLEMENTS
No supplements are included.

Overall Rating: (2)




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