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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 David Hollands

"A laughable, putrid adaptation of an enjoyable Stephen King novella."
1 stars

Stephen King is an author who has a lot to complain about. When watching the film adaptations to his novels, you just can't help but feel the sorrow that King must have felt when he watched those adaptations for the first time. Sometimes you can blame King for the botches; he scripted the insipid film version of his terrifying Pet Sematary, AND he directed Maximum fricken' Overdrive. When I saw Silver Bullet, I wanted to feel sorry for King. But, as with Pet Sematary, he is the one who scripted this mess.

One evening with a full moon high in the sky, a train-track worker drunk to high heaven heads to the outskirts of town for a repair job. From the bushes, something watches him. The worker dismisses ominous crunching leaf noises. Unfortunately, his stupidity and drunkenness results in his cruel demise. And so begins the story of a small town terrorized by a werewolf that looks like a Care Bear on steroids. The only ones able to stop it are a young wheelchair-bound boy named Marty, his sister Jane, and their Uncle Red.

The story -- which is pretty solid and potentially entertaining -- just never gels. One reason is the film's strange tone. Perhaps it was the screenplay -- or the music, or perhaps even the actors -- but there is just something undeniably and unpleasantly cheery about this affair. Every scene in the film is free of tension, and appears more like a director trying to capture the faux-halcyon days of childhood. Thus, not one iota of suspense is created...ever. Perhaps this can be attributed to Danial Attias’ breezy direction, which renders many of the more serious aspects of the story false and hokey.

Attias’ compositions are also part of the problem. Shot in the widest of widescreen -- the great 2.35:1 aspect ratio -- every single shot makes the film look like a TV movie of the week. A sequence which features victims getting picked off in a fog bank is handled without even the most rudimentary sense of how to use framing to create visual tension. The camera focuses directly on the person being killed for far too long, so there is never a surprise as to who will meet their maker and when. It doesn’t help matters that there are major continuity errors as well: one of the victims changes hat colours before he dies, making one wonder where this other character suddenly came from.

Another problem is the overall stupid nature of the kills themselves. After the opening sequence, a character who was going to die anyway -- she deliberately swallows a bunch of sleeping pills to avoid having to appear in any possible sequel to this movie -- is attacked when the werewolf climbs through her bedroom window. The kill sequence, though it could have been shocking, is completely screwed up by bad editing and dumb close-ups. In this sequence alone, there are at least a thousand continuity errors. The victim screams and there is hardly any blood on her, yet the previous shot showed her back, chest and legs getting torn to shreds. And why did the director have her constantly scream into the lens without emotion as her flesh was being torn apart? That really does NOT help the scene's sense of verisimilitude.

As mentioned before, this is perhaps one of the worst edited films I've ever seen. Scenes of supposed dramatic impact are lifeless, moments of supposed suspense come off as obvious, and a later sequence in which Jane searches for the werewolf (by means of her knowledge that the creature in human form only has one eye) couldn't have been filmed and cut in a more obvious fashion. Why did Attias feel the need to pound us over the heads with nauseating close-ups of peoples' eyes whenever Jane talks to someone? And why does he present the reveal of the werewolf in human form as if it were a surprising one, when he had just shown us who the werewolf was a few scenes earlier? But even if Attias didn't reveal the creature in human form at that point in the plot, beforehand he all but sticks a huge billboard with a neon arrow pointing down floating above the character. The surprise would be ruined in any case.

The cinematography by Armando Nannuzzi is extremely poor, creating not even the slightest sense of menace. The entire film is extremely soft, having an almost dreamlike quality that doesn’t go along very well with the movie’s dark nature. When it is implied that a poor little boy was just ripped to shreds, watching this implication in happy, bright colours, light, and soft focus can really create severe tonal problems. It is most likely Nannuzzi’s cinematography that contributes to the film's extremely tonally unbalanced feeling.

Even more problems: Stephen King’s screenplay is filled with faux-meaningful dialogue and dumb situations. Take, for example, a cop who gets the word that the werewolf threatened Marty’s life when in human form. The cop then goes to arrest the individual in the dead of night. Hmm, I realise the guy's from a small town, but still... Another ignorant part comes when Uncle Red, knowing that there’s a serial killer running around doing people in, tells Marty to have his own little fireworks party in, once again, the dead of night. Mind you, he does tell Marty to stay near the house, but did he forget that one of the victims had been murdered in her own room? Unbelievably hilarious, however, is that after an evening of the town's people becoming furious and trying to hunt for what they believe is a serial killer responsible for the murders, they very next day they seem to forget all about the killings and return to their normal lives. The town-hunting-the-killer subplot is thrown away after it provides the opportunity to kill off a few people. It just seems kind of funny to me for an entire town to just forget about a series of brutal murders, especially one of a young boy who was ripped apart, and go back to their normal lives as if nothing happened.

King’s screenplay also makes a fatal mistake in the very first scene: it employs a narrator. This narrator is Marty’s sister Jane, and her adult voice does pop up from time to time to add some pretty hokey seriousness to the film. In fact, much of the narration is used very cheaply to get the film from one plot point to the next, and it also ruins any suspense the film may once have had. If a film is narrated by one of the characters, and the audience knows this, suspense is immediately lost because the audience knows that the characters had to have survived, since they are the ones narrating this. This narration pops up only a few times throughout the film to either move the action along horrendously, or to have a bad joke thrown in, such as the one in which the older Jane says: "We told Uncle Red what we had been up to and his reaction was less than serene." Cut to, of course, Uncle Red providing an un-serene reaction. Indeed, by having Jane as the narrator, a serious number of inner logic flaws suddenly pop up. One has to wonder just how Jane knew every single thing Marty was doing when she wasn’t around. For the first part of the movie, she’s hardly in any of the scenes, and yet she’s supposed to be narrating the story. Unless there was a deleted scene somewhere that revealed that she may have been a psychic, I don’t see how this could be possible.

As wheelchair bound Marty, Corey Haim is completely unable to pull off the role. Never once in the movie did I ever believe that this kid couldn’t walk, since there are moments when Haim’s legs clearly move when they should be paralysed. And I wonder just how he is able to make it out of his bedroom window without dragging himself across the floor, just one of the many cheats this film shamefully tries to get away with. Meagan Follows is just plain bored for much of the film, prompting many yawns in my mind. She just isn’t able to get into a scene, isn’t able to appear in any way scared or effected by something supposedly frightening that happens, and doesn’t even sound convincing when she swears. Hearing her say things like "You f*cker!" or "That little a*shole" just sounds stupid. As for the antagonist Reverend Lowe (and, yes, our trusty werewolf), Everett McGill unfortunately makes a very big mistake. Basically, the guy's just crazy. And I mean goofy-crazy, the kind you’d probably find in German Expressionist films. A scene in which he confronts Marty and tells him why his killing is considered just in the eyes of God features line delivery that is unbelievably bad. It could qualify as even worse than Anthony Hopkins' Hannibal Lector from Silence of the Lambs.

Gary Busey, however, proves that even the most mediocre of movies won’t suppress his talent. As Uncle Red, the guy is a joy to watch. King wisely gives Uncle Red all the good lines. As a result, Busey is able to turn them into something uplifting and enjoyable. And even when the character says ridiculous things like "Holy jumped-up bald-headed Jesus palomino," Busey still somehow makes such lines work. And Busey actually has very good chemistry with co-star Haim, which lets the audience truly believe that Busey is Marty’s uncle. There was never a doubt in my mind that Uncle Red loved Marty, because Busey pulled off that love admirably and without condescending to the audience.

Jay Chattaway's score is pretty darn bad. Stealing, at least it would seem, from Harry Manfredini’s jarring stinger music from Friday the 13th, Chattaway was obviously only picking up a pay-check here. The score is comprised simply of synthesisers, and it sounds pretty ugly. During the many shock stinger moments, the music becomes extremely predictable, making it easy to decipher exactly when something is going to pop up. Chattaway also screws up the stinger moments by choosing to score the movie in an extremely B-movie-ish way that is very hard to describe. During moments leading up to an obvious shock stinger, the music repeats the same two notes over and over again, with a small jingle (believe it or not) in the background for added “effect.” When the shock moment actually does happen, the audience is already put off too much by the stupid music to jump.

In the third act, Chattaway composes soft and flowing music, probably to resemble child-like innocence. The ploy doesn’t work, mainly because the music in this section sounds terrible, like what one may find in a cheap video game. There is a potentially exciting chase in Silver Bullet, one which is, surprise surprise, completely screwed up by Chattaway. During this chase, the composer in his infinite wisdom uses weird disco music to increase the tension. The chase I’m mentioning is when Marty first spots the werewolf and barely escapes. The disco music turns this sequence into something dumbfounding, since disco beats typically do not inspire fear. I was bobbing my head with a smile on my face, however, since I actually do have an affinity for disco.

Carlo Rambaldi, who designed the creature effects for this film, is apparently a three-time Oscar winner. And he deserves those Oscars, because his work is, on the whole, incredible. Though after watching this film, I don't think it's too far off to assume Rambaldi must have been too busy polishing his awards to even notice the effects work being photographed. The werewolf transformations are the only positives aspects of the effects. They are always clean and effective. Occasionally, the transformations can be quite startling. The werewolf itself, however, is an absolute mess. Rambaldi has created a werewolf that looks like a skinny guy in a Speedo covered in hair rather than an actual creature. The facial design of the monster is embarrassing; the “werewolf” looks more like an infant grisly bear...Heck, a teddy bear would be a better description. The eyes of the creature are almost always still, and cross-eyed. And for some reason, director Attias felt that funny red lights underneath those eyes would heighten their "impact." He's completely wrong, but I'll still pat him on the head for trying.

The gore work is also pretty clumsy. Blood does look real. It’s just the puppet heads that never convince. Take a moment when the monster pulls a helpless victim down into a heavy fog. The guy soon emerges with one side of his face torn to shreds. The guy’s head looks like an enlarged Ken Doll's face, only looking as if a bit of the plastic had melted off. The guy’s eyes aren’t even properly inserted into the fake head. Scratch that actually, they almost appear painted on. At this point, it's safe to assume why the body of a mutilated boy isn't shown when almost every other piece of gore work is fully on display: the effect must have been so bad, that it sent test audiences running to the bathrooms to urinate due to uncontrollable laughter.

I really don’t know what’s left to say about Silver Bullet. It is a plodding and pointless effort, full of implausibility and utter stupidity. I'm beginning to think that maybe King doesn't have the right to feel so bad about his adaptations. He wrote the script for this terrible film, and handed it over to a director who must have had his thumb up his butt for the entire shoot. And frankly, after gracing the viewing public with Maximum Overdrive, maybe he deserves to see his novels destroyed.

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originally posted: 04/07/08 03:54:29
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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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