Friday, January 3, 2020

SILVER BULLET (1985) Blu-ray Review

Silver Bullet (1985) d. Daniel Attias (USA) (95 min)

In the small rural Maine community of Tarker’s Mills, a maniacal killer is on the loose, viciously rending its victims to pieces, leaving the townsfolk terrified and the police stumped. But young Marty Coslow (Corey Haim) is convinced that a supernatural shapeshifter stalks among them, a werewolf who only shows its toothy maw every full moon. Problem is, Marty is 13, so no one believes him; worse yet, he’s stuck in a wheelchair, which leaves him vulnerable. With his only allies, sister Jane (Megan Follows) and boozy Uncle Red (Gary Busey), Marty sets out to devise a means of stopping the beast before it homes in on the one person who knows its true identity....

In adapting his own 1983 novelette Cycle of the Werewolf (highlighted by Bernie Wrightson’s breathtaking illustrations), author Stephen King increased his young protagonist’s age from 10 and gave him a motorized wheelchair dubbed “The Silver Bullet” in which to scoot around town. By this point, King and producer Dino De Laurentiis had created a comfortable working relationship, with the studio cranking out adaptations of Firestarter and The Dead Zone (both in 1983), and though King had never produced a feature-length screenplay (his other screen credits at that point being the two anthology films Creepshow and Cat’s Eye, the latter also produced by Laurentiis), the most popular living fiction author in the world was given more creative license than ever.

This led to a bit of a problem, however, when it came to bringing the movie’s central monster to life. Legendary effects man Carlo Rambaldi (E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial, Possession) had been hired to handle the werewolf makeup, following King’s insistence that it be “plain and hard to see,” a complete counterpoint to the game-changing creations of Rob Bottin and Rick Baker on The Howling and An American Werewolf in London, respectively. When the suit was finished, Laurentiis was furious and insisted it be changed, leading to a major dust-up that concluded with original director Don Coscarelli (Beastmaster, Phantasm) exiting the production. First-timer Attias was given the reins (presumably with Laurentiis and wife/producing partner Martha leaning heavily over the young man’s shoulder) and production resumed with the werewolf issue not quite resolved, but definitely leaning in a “more is more” direction.

Unfortunately, Rambaldi’s completed onscreen creation looks rather cheap and uninspired, which also sums up the rest of the production values. All the creative elements serve the turn, but are wanting for inspiration and require a good deal of forgiveness on the part of the viewer. For example, despite the film being explicitly set in 1976, there are numerous historical anachronisms, such as models of cars, TV shows, and soft drinks that did not show up until later. Likewise, the outdoor sets, like the swamp sequence where a group of would-be vigilantes are ambushed by the hairy-handed gent, appear to be shot on television back lots, complete with nocturnal mists that would have looked fake back in 1941.

In his first lead role, Haim exhibits the nascent charm and affability that would later turn him into a teen idol… without the obnoxious cockiness that made him sooooooo very annoying in the years following The Lost Boys. As his beleaguered older sister, Follows is a welcome grounded presence and does the best she can with a thinly drawn character. Busey’s drunken ne’er-do-well gives the picture a nervous, jittery energy, but it’s probably a bad sign that, as rambunctious as he is, Uncle Red is the most realistic adult character on hand.

The rest of the cast are all portrayed as stiff-necked, loud-mouthed, gun-toting melonheads, bellowing and braying or clenching their jaws in counterpoint to the volume. It’s unfortunate, considering the supporting cast contains such usually reliable players as Terry O’Quinn (The Stepfather), Lawrence Tierney (Reservoir Dogs), and Bill Smitrovich (Manhunter). As a conflicted man of the cloth, Everett McGill (Twin Peaks, The People Under the Stairs) does his best in a role that is both over and underwritten – he’s featured too prominently to provide any real sense of mystery but not given anything to do except alternate between glowering silently and keening hysterically.

Over the years, Silver Bullet has grown in popularity with the home-video crowd, fueled more by nostalgia than rediscovered ingenuity. For those loyal fans, Shout! Factory’s late-December high-def release should more than satisfy with its abundant supplements. Upon revisiting, however, I couldn’t help but find myself torn between enjoying its slight merits (Haim and Busey’s natural screen presence and lived-in chemistry, Jay Chattaway’s musical score – his fourth for 1985), but also wishing it was just ever-so-slightly better than it is.


NEW Audio commentary with producer Martha De Laurentiis

Audio commentary with director Daniel Attias

NEW “Cutting To The Bone” with editor Daniel Loewenthal (17 min)

NEW “A Little Private Justice” with actor Kent Broadhurst (12 min)

“The Wolf Within” with actor Everett McGill (16 min)

“Full Moon Fever: The Effects of Silver Bullet” with special effects artists Matthew Mungle and Michael McCracken (21 min)

Isolated score selections and audio interview with composer Jay Chattaway

Theatrical Trailer

TV and Radio Spots

Still Gallery

Silver Bullet is available now on Blu-ray from Shout! Factory and can be ordered HERE:


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