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Overall Rating

Awesome: 9.68%
Worth A Look29.03%
Average: 22.58%
Pretty Bad: 19.35%
Total Crap: 19.35%

2 reviews, 19 user ratings

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Silver Bullet
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by Jack Sommersby

"Werewolf Flick That Lacks Bite"
2 stars

I'd like to report that this is one of those successful Stephen King adaptations, but I'd be lyin', no doubt

It's the Spring of '76 in the small Maine town of Tarker's Mills, and a most disagreeable fiend of the Canis lupus variety is wreaking considerable havoc upon the townsfolk. First, a drunken railroad worker finds himself on the unpleasant receiving end of a decapitation; given his well-known fondness for the almighty bottle, his death is written off as an accident (passed out on the tracks, ya know). Next, a pretty blonde woman is mauled to death in her bedroom right before attempting suicide with a handful of pills; after all, her jerk of a beau had brushed her off earlier with the classy statement, "It may be your baby, but it ain't my bun in the oven." Then the town's teen troublemaker is done in while flying his yellow kite in the park; but when we first see him in the film, he runs over a cockroach with his bicycle, so perhaps "what goes around, comes around", huh? After three grisly deaths in a town the size of a postage stamp, you'd think the FBI would descend upon Tarker's Mills like a tick on a june bug; instead, the hapless sheriff and dimwitted deputy are launching an investigation that's assessed as being "about as effective as a submarine with screen doors". Of course, the frustrated citizens who form a non-sanctioned posse aren't any more effective; instead of doing spread-out parallels in the woods, their quaking-in-the-boots selves bump into each other and say things like, "Bob, are you gonna make lemonade in your pants?" Nah, the only ones who stand a chance of ridding Tarker's Mills of this seven-foot-tall hairy varmint is eleven-year-old, wheelchair-bound Marty (played by Corey Haim), his wise-beyond-her-years older sister Jane (Megan Follows), and their thrice-divorced, Wild Turkey-swigging Uncle Red (Gary Busey). Oh, and did I mention the local bartender carries a bat around with him that has "The Peacemaker" etched into it? Didn't think so.

Suffice to say, Silver Bullet isn't meant to be taken seriously as a straight horror tale. Adapated by Stephen King from his novelette Cycle of the Werewolf (which showcased some truly stunning graphics by the renowned Berni Wrightston), it's a ninety-four-minute comedy chiller that elicits more in the way of laughs than palpitations. The director, Daniel Attias, whose theatrical debut this is, displays a decent eye and knack for 'Scope composition, though I suspect a good deal of this is due to the stalwart efforts of cinematographer Armando Nannuzzi, who managed to give some visual prowess even to Stephen King's hoary directorial debut Maximum Overdrive a year later. But he's an absolute zero as a scaremeister. Not only does Attias make perfectly clear a few football fields away who the next ill-fated victim is to be, but he prolongs their upcoming demises with so many unimaginative tracking shots and red herrings that the stock "Boo!" moments punctuating the creature's eventual appearance are rendered obsolete because we're beyond caring and just want the damn scene to be over with already. With an inability to use the camera suggestively and tighten the scenes for maximum suspense, the director's forced to rely way too much on the awful music score by Jay Chattaway, who's done good work with B-movie director William (Maniac) Lustig but whose work here is overstatedly bombastic -- it threatens to lift the roof off the ceiling during the horror moments and send you gagging during the saccharine dramatic ones. Blending horror and comedy into an overall whole is quite a chore for most directors because they fail to understand that both elements have to be fully realized (going fifty percent on each doesn't add up a one-hundred-percent success), which is why the tone in films like Silver Bullet are almost always inconsistent, and why we're afforded a masterpiece like George A. Romero's Creepshow only every decade or so.

As much ragging on the film as one can rightly do (especially in regard to the whodunit angle -- it wasn't wise to cast a sinister-looking actor in the part, even if his character's profession is seemingly disarming), the experience isn't a total wash. For one thing, the scene transitions have been edited with adroitness and snap by Daniel Loewenthal. A shot of several coffins inside a church right after the private justice-seeking citizens have been offed is good for a hearty guffaw. And the performances by Haim, Fellows and Busey are outstanding, especially the latter's. Busey is as ingratiating here as he was menacing as the Psychos 'R Us mercenary in Lethal Weapon; and what's miraculous is that his role is full of trap doors into maudlin depths, and he expertly sidesteps every one. There's a scene where Uncle Red reconsiders taking a nip from his flask during the funeral of Marty's best friend, and another where he's elated over presenting Marty with a custom-built, high-speed motorized wheelchair called the Silver Bullet (hence the film's title), and Busey, a keen and perceptive actor, filters out the mundane and replaces it with a knowingness that seems to be saying, "No, that's exactly what the audience is expecting me to do. Let 'em get a load of this instead." Everything Busey does here is unexpected -- he gives Uncle Red an uninhibited boisterousness that jolts the film with a shot of high-wire energy whenever he's on-screen -- and he sinks his teeth into the film's best dialogue with relish (upon becoming a part of Marty's werewolf-catching scheme at the risk of catching the wrath of his own sister, he quips, "I'm gonna wind up singing soprano in the Vienna Boy's Choir.") Without Busey, the talented Haim and Fellows would still lend Silver Bullet some heart, but not its life force and soul.

I doubt, though, that most people going into Silver Bullet are doing so to appreciate some commendable performances (or some truly atrocious ones as well -- especially the one by Kent Broadhurst, as a grieved father, who can't even say a line "How dare you." without sounding like he's auditioning to the Shakespearean gods). Even creature affectionadoes will come away considerably disappointed, which is a shame in light of the participation of the award-winning special-effects artist Carlo Rambaldi, who copped two Oscars for his extraordinary work in Alien and E.T. The werewolf on dubious display looks more like Smokey the Bear than a blood-thirsty, terrifying beast, and though Attias tries the Ridley Scott/Alien method of not showing too much of it, it still comes off as nothing other than a man in a creature suit. Failing to invoke so much as an iota of primal fear, sounding oddly like Godzilla when it gets POed, and with a pair of hokey glowing red eyes, it's by far the least frightening werewolf I've ever seen. (It's a shame the silver screen, and not just a silver bullet, couldn't do it in.) Gorehounds will be somewhat sated during the film's opening passages, but after that the emphasis switches mostly to cutaways of blood splatters, and they'll probably be asleep by then, anyway, what with all that talkin' going on in between. And sorry to be the ultimate killjoy, but even those seeking out some gratuitous nudity or sex will be sorely let down: the closest sexual reference is when Uncle Red tells Marty he feels like a "virgin on prom night" before presenting him with his new four-wheel get-up-and-go. Bottom line: For a scrumptiously enjoyable Gary Busey performance, check out Silver Bullet; for a fun and scary werewolf film, check out Eric Red's underrated 1996 Bad Moon instead, please.

Not terrible, just terribly predictable.

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originally posted: 05/08/06 08:12:23
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User Comments

8/10/10 action movie fan a good blend of evil,gore and boy who cried werewolf-not great but worth it 4 stars
10/05/09 art A VERY FRIGHTENING FABLE! 3 stars
4/12/08 Colleen Cousineau Back in the day, this was a movie horror fans loved. For me, it still rocks. 5 stars
12/16/06 David Pollastrini a bit slow 3 stars
8/09/06 Dragon The Artist The werewolf was a glob of latex& faux fur w/ plastic eyes; Story line was medieocre. 3 stars
7/17/06 mark slightly maudlin-still a good horror film-gary busely is worth the price of a ticket 4 stars
5/09/06 Carolyn Rathburn It was ok, grafics could have been better, but loved the bullit 4 stars
4/28/06 Sugarfoot I don't know what's scarier, Gary Busey or the Werewold. You be the judge. 4 stars
8/12/05 ES Loved it as a kid, a little dated now but worth the look 4 stars
11/02/04 Lord Durvok 2 Just why does everyone hate this movie? 3 stars
7/31/04 Kim Egan I love Corey Haim and Gary Busey was great. Too bad about the ww effects. :( 4 stars
11/06/03 American Slasher Goddess Strong characters and good acting make up for the bad werewolf F/X. 4 stars
10/12/03 Darryl Not a "horror classic," but it's still pretty darn good!! 5 stars
9/14/03 J It wasn't that bad. It was actually good. 4 stars
5/15/03 Tom Fleeman A bit cheesy at times, but the wheelchair bound nephew and Gary Busey (Uncle) make it work 3 stars
2/05/03 Jack Sommersby Intentionally campy but not terribly good. Busey, however, is outstanding. 3 stars
10/20/02 Charles Tatum Megan Follows can bite me anytime 5 stars
10/23/01 Andrew Carden OK Movie, It Can be Very Scary, but It's Very Dull In It's First Half. 3 stars
2/10/01 KyLe*BrOfLoVsKi FX Aren't that great, but the story's not bad at all. 4 stars
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  02-Oct-1985 (R)
  DVD: 26-Sep-2006



Directed by
  Daniel Attias

Written by
  Stephen King

  Gary Busey
  Everett McGill
  Corey Haim
  Megan Follows
  Lawrence Tierney
  Terry O'Quinn

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