Silver Bullet

celebrate the silver bullet!

O.K. folks, to catch you up to SILVER BULLET speed, here’s the dealio: While reviewing the werewolf movie BAD MOON yours ghouly made a statement that sorta suggested that there was only a paw-full of decent werewolf flicks out there and I named the usual suspects. One film I didn’t mention was SILVER BULLET because I never really gave the movie much thought. Well, the Kindertrauma Castle was stormed by angry protesters and the hills ran red with the blood of children and animals… well, not exactly… and I kinda stole that “Hills ran red” thing from HALLOWEEN 3, but you get the picture. Anyhow, it was decided to let the fans of SILVER BULLET state their case and what we ended up with were some very convincing testimonials. First up, your dear Aunt John‘s personal and unbiased opinion followed by the won’t-be-silenced, howling voices of the defenders of SILVER BULLET!

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silver bullet aunt john

Bathed in the eerie glow of the last full moon of spring, the sleepy town of Tarker’s Mill is shaken by a string of grizzly murders. The decapitation death of the town’s drunken railroad worker is ruled as an accident; however, the bedroom slashing/near disembowelment of a suicidal pregnant woman forces the Sheriff Haller (TERRY O’QUINN) to consider the possibility that there is some sort of lunatic on the loose. Of course, we all know this ain’t the handiwork of a psycho killer (qu’est-ce que c’est); Tarker’s Mill appears to have a werewolf living in its midst. Enter the Koslows, an unlikely pair of heroic siblings consisting of pre-teen paraplegic Marty (COREY HAIM) and his burdened older sister Jane (MEGAN FOLLOWS). Perpetually plastered Uncle Red (GARY BUSEY) soon shows up to provide Marty with some much-needed donkey jokes and a tricked-out wheelchair dubbed the Silver Bullet. After the town decides to enforce a curfew and cancel its annual fireworks display, young Marty sneaks out after dark to ignite a brown bag bounty of bottle rockets, spinners and Roman Candles provided by Uncle Red. Drawn in by the nocturnal illuminations, the werewolf happens by and Marty welcomes him with bottle rocket to the eye. The next day Marty tells Jane of his big night on the bridge and sends her out on a double-secret mission to spy which townie is missing an eye under the guise of collecting recyclable bottles. Jane pounds the pavements and no empty bottle goes unreturned to the church garage where she finally discovers the only one-eyed person in all of Tarker’s Mills is none other than… wait for it…(umm, did anyone else see this one coming?) … Sweet Baby Jesus… it’s Reverend Lowe (EVERETT McGILL)!!! Rev. Lowe tries to silence Marty by running him off the road, and then a bridge, and then he turns around and tries again on the same bridge, and then another road; however, a Chevy Impala is really no match for a plucky boy with feathered-hair and the insane horsepower of a custom wheelchair lovingly designed by Uncle Red. Our film climaxes with a house call from the Reverend in full-blown werewolf mode and those resourceful Koslows’ are ready to rumble.

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Based on his novella Cycle of the Werewolf, Kinder-fave STEPHEN KING also penned the SILVER BULLET screenplay. While the film differs on from the story on numerous plot points, your Aunt John has to commend KING and director DANIEL ATTIAS for rendering a pretty solid monster movie. Granted, the special effects seem dated, and were never really on par with those of AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON, but that insane church nightmare freak-out where all the townies turn into werewolves is still super creepy. The bratty-little-brother/older-sister antagonistic interactions between HAIM and FOLLOWS are as believable as the tender moments they share (e.g. Marty coughs up the cash for her torn stockings) and the two actors keep it from dissolving into an ADVENTURES IN BABYSITTING cheese-fest. Force of nature BUSEY, naturally, owns every scene he’s in, which could also explain why the werewolf doesn’t look that imposing. My biggest complaint is that opening credits state that the movie is set in 1976, but you’d never know this from looking at the costumes, props and facial hair. Where was the Bicentennial-themed décor, the flared pants, and the awesome sideburns (granted, the gun shop owner did sport some impressive mutton chops, but they were way too cleanly groomed to have come from the seventies)? Also, HAIM should have worn Hush Puppies, not Docksides. Call me a purist, but when it comes to period pieces, your Aunt John demands nothing less than authenticity in the footwear department.

indelible scenes

  • Drunken railman’s head goes flying
  • Blood on the smiley face kite
  • I spy a werewolf with a bottle rocket in his eye
  • The aforementioned werewolf mass nightmare
  • The uncomfortably awkward interaction between Jane & the Reverend in the garage
  • The Silver Bullet craps out on the covered bridge
  • Any and all scenes featuring BUSEY!
  • Honestly, if I had a dime for every time I got an anonymous letter in the mail that said, “I know who you are. I know what you are. Why don’t you kill yourself?” your Aunt John would be one rich bitch

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Irving Wallace:

The first time I watched STEPHEN KING‘s SILVER BULLET, I think I was about 6 years old. My lasting memory of the film until I saw it later in life was of the Dad screaming about his dead son who was flying a kite and was found mangled with the bloody kite in a gazebo. He goes into the bar where the mob is forming to kill whatever is out there in the woods, he holds up a photo of his son and starts yelling at them. That scene is just amazing, still when I watch it now.

Not to mention the awesome story, thanks to STEPHEN KING with his voiceovers from the future reflecting on the past. The wheelchair is rad. I wanted one so bad when I was a kid.
And a drunk GARY BUSEY supplying fireworks to the kid to fight off the werewolf at the end (who turns out to be the priest, which is ultra cool, he even dons an eye patch after the first run in with the kid and his fireworks). The montage of the making of the silver bullet out of their jewelry is also a really great part. The werewolf looks awesome, very well done makeup job. The first breakthrough the window attack is perfect.

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Mr. Canacorn:

Ahhhh, SILVER BULLET. Nowhere near as cool as THE HOWLING or AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON, but it has its charms. First off, it’s based on the STEPHEN KING novella, Cycle of the Werewolf…get it, Cycle? As in motorcycle…as in the totally rad-tastic motorcycle-wheelchair hybrid super cool Uncle Red builds for his paraplegic nephew, Marty. I know, I know, it would be cooler if the werewolf was riding the motorcycle, but you can’t have your cake and eat it too (Unless you’re watching WEREWOLVES ON WHEELS). Second, the werewolf uses a baseball bat to kill a man. Yep, you heard me, ol’ furface gets all Baseball Furies on TERRY O’QUINN in an inspired scene of awesomeness. And last but not least, drunken psychopath (and would be SEINFELD-stabber) LAWRENCE TIERNEY is in it…and he’s way scarier than any old mangy werewolf any day of the week.

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Paul @ FEWDIO:

So I spent my Saturday night watching a little SILVER BULLET.

Over all I like the film because the ‘80s had a lot of werewolf love for most of the decade. Mostly started because of AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON I would venture to guess. I was and still am a huge werewolf fan, but in 1985, the SILVER BULLET film, which was based on the wicked cool novella by STEPHEN KING Cycle of the Werewolf” was just to good to resist.

I loved “Cycle of the Werewolf.” So much so, that when I was at comic-con last, I purchased a SILVER BULLET and “Cycle of the Werewolf” paperback with both screenplay and original story in one book. One of the best parts of the book is the great Berni Wrightson’s illustrations of the werewolf and images in the story. They are truly brilliant. I was lucky enough to get Mr. Wrightson to sign it for me as well. BUT the book has little to do with the movie in a lot of ways. The book is more of a skeleton to the film really. This link has a great comparison between the book and the movie.

But we’re here to talk about love of the film. I think the casting of EVERETT McGILL is a big part of why this movie works so well for me. He truly scared the living crap of me in this movie with his slow delivery and the madness that seems to be going on behind his eyes. To me they did a great job of building tension with WHO the monster was really well. The Reverend MacGuffin worked well. I always thought it helped keep the viewer off track and the conflict of the character is reveled through action rather then dialog.

Of course the film is given to cult ‘80s status due to COREY HAIM as Marty. He does a fine job in the film, but the sister played by MEGAN FOLLOWS does a great job for me here as the over-protective and over-burdened sister. She plays an angry, frustrated sister who could have been just a device, but comes across as real and three dimensional. It’s her struggles with frustration over being her brother’s caretaker that ground her for me. Where COREY is sappy, she is sincere.

Of course, the person who you really cheer for and love is the flawed but like-able anti-hero GARY BUSEY as Uncle Red. He is the perfect actor to play the down and out Red who gets involved in a bit more then he expected while staying with his niece and nephew. Even at the end of the film were he finally stops believing in Marty only to be shown the truth, by a werewolf crashing through the wall! (THE WALL! Not the two windows! The wall!) He gets his heroic moment fighting off the Beast to keep it away from Marty and his sister until Marty can get the bullet (from the vent in the floor!) and finish off the monster.

This climactic moment in the film is also a good example of what is wrong with SILVER BULLET. There is a lot of heavy-handed work showing the audience moments that make you ask why someone would do that. Like Uncle Red taking the silver bullet out of the gun at the end of the movie. Or slow shots of people looking at the woods edge with concern, then a shot of the wolf’s eyes then the person going back to what they were doing. It gets old quick. Director DANIEL ATTIAS does have to take the heat; he tries to hide the Beast in some of the action shots by just shooting the monster’s eyes or actions, however it’s done too much.

You have to read a bit between the lines a lot in this film to fill in some of the emotional weight. However, you almost get the sense that the eyes of the monster were part of a choice to humanize the suffering of the wolf. Only the creature effects were never really great at showing the emotions of the wolf. They just feel like “Close up of monsters eyes! Oooo there scary and mean looking! Ooooo! Scary! Mean!”

For me there are a few really great scenes:

The kid getting killed in the park is really well done for never seeing the death. It truly ups the brutality of the killings and that no one is safe. This plot point builds to a great scene were you see the Reverend try and stop the villagers from going out for some vigilant justice. But not so they don’t hurt someone else; but so that the Beast won’t kill them. I do wish they stuck to the book here and didn’t make the villagers so weak and silly. I think it’s moments like this that undercut the movie by making the townsfolk dumb or playing clichés for characters. Like the drunk a-hole who dies in his flower house.

Marty meeting with the Beast on the bridge where he hits it in the eye with a rocket. I loved the tension built here. I admit it’s hokey and we could have used a shot from afar to see the beast closing in on Marty, but I liked the confrontation for what it was. He is face-to-face with a werewolf and keeps his head just long enough to survive! Granted it has one of the biggest logic leaps, Marty knows that a kid was killed and that the monster is out there in the woods, but the desire to shoot off fireworks is just to great to resist so he still goes out into woods anyways.

Also, I really like some of the transformations in the film; the one in front of the deputy is good. This also points out how great the bludgeoning attacks were. Even the final reverse transformation at the very end. I thought it was great. The slow reveal to the truth and the final scare. Again a bit hokey but the image was great. The Reverend’s white body with no eyes, a “see no evil” image laying limp and weak. The film has some good kills in it even if we get a couple of those shots where someone off camera throws the prop head into the air in front of the lens.

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Kelly Ann:

Ok, this movie is kinda lame, but when I saw it for the first time at age 12, I had to wonder if there wasn’t some kind of subliminal message to kids out there about the dangers of “sinning”. For example in the first scene, a chronic drunk gets his head sliced off and sent flying through the air. That was enough to keep me off the sauce (Back then, anyway).

And then the kid who stays out to fly his kite gets turned into foie gras by the werewolf, and you wonder if the director was saying: “This is what happens to kids who break curfew!” (Side note: I’ve actually talked with JOE WRIGHT, who played Brady via the wonderful world of My Space, he’s a very nice guy)

The list goes on and on: an unwed pregnant lady: Sliced. A Marijuana farmer: Diced. A BARNEY FIFE-ish inept sheriff: Julianned. (Thankfully TERRY O’QUINN would be reborn as John Locke 20 years later).

And the biggest lesson of all: That a resourceful handicapped kid and his deadbeat uncle could be the only ones to save a small town from extinction, and they succeed gloriously. So, all though SILVER BULLET was labeled as a horror film, I think it can also be seen as a 90-minute After School Special. All that is missing is a somber COREY HAIM giving the number to an 800-werewolf “crisis help line” at the end.

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SILVER BULLET is a fun movie. A werewolf preacher and BUSEY, what more could a person want? COREY HAIM before he became a drugged out loser, need I say more? Okay, how about a disabled pre-teen in a motorized wheelchair kicking werewolf ass. GARY BUSEY playing the drunk, loser Uncle Red to COREY HAIM and MEGAN FOLLOWS is really in his element here (some might argue that BUSEY is actually drunk and not just acting). As I recall, he is the one that built the cool, motorized wheelchair and armed HAIM with the fireworks that saved him from the werewolf. Is it the greatest werewolf film ever? Of course not, but it is a lot of fun. There are some truly creepy moments too. For example, when MEGAN FOLLOWS realizes that the Reverend is the werewolf and when the Reverend traps HAIM on the covered bridge. However, it is definitely the comic relief supplied by dear old Uncle Red that makes SILVER BULLET stand out as a fun werewolf movie for the Mickster.

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Professor Von Whiskerson:

Any movie where comic book great Bernie Wrightson designs the creatures is alright by me! Plus it’s probably the best implementation of KING’s “small-town-vibe” on film so far.

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I was a huge fan of the Cycle of the Werewolf novella, the incredible Bernie Wrightson illustrations being of course a major factor, but then they changed the name and made it into a really sub-par movie. Of course I haven’t seen it since its initial release in ’85 so possibly it’s aged better, or not.

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Well kids, that’s it and that’s gotta be the finest tribute we’ve ever posted here and it’s all thanks to you guys. To everyone who participated in this experiment, my deepest gratitude. SILVER BULLET is such a Kindertrauma-type movie that your Unkle Lancifer has always felt a bit guilty for his ambivalence toward it. Was I not the right age when I saw it for the first time? Not in the right mood? I gotta admit, there’s an underlying sweetness to the film that I probably would have balked at in certain times of my life. I wish I could say that my feelings have not changed toward the movie to, you know, pretend to have some kind of journalistic integrity or something like that, but that would be a laugh-out-loud joke. Sure, I’ll never get the inconsistent narration or the less than climactic ending, but trust me; I know I adore lesser films than this. The important thing is that now I do have a very good memory associated with this movie. This whole experience reminded me what Kindertrauma was all about it in the first place. It’s not really about critiquing and dissecting movies at all. It’s a place where nice folks like yourselves can come together and connect over the films that really had an effect on you while you were growing up. I guess our relationships with the movies in our lives are a lot like our relationships with other people. Sometimes they are unexplainable to others and they are hopefully always immune to popular consensus. In any case, I cannot deny the truth any longer; any movie that can get folks to rally like this is obviously pretty cool. Thanks again for doing what I could never do as well; give SILVER BULLET the tribute it apparently deserves.

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Jeff Allard
13 years ago

Wow – these rememberances are all outstanding! I was a late comer to the Silver Bullet party myself, having felt it was a pretty inferior piece of work at the time (why couldn’t they make a movie that looked as good as Berni Wrightson’s illustrations, I wondered). But over the years I’ve come to appreciate it as a imperfect but fun movie. Thanks for posting the excellent tribute!

13 years ago

Yes Yes, I concur! When I saw this movie as a teen I was left with a sort of “meh” feeling: It was not the BEST movie I ever saw but it was not the WORST either. I am not a Big Believer in giving movies a Second Chance but this movie has definately aged well (or maybe its ME who has aged well as I now view things differently: I dont need a gory slash-em-up teens having sex in the woods head-on-a-pike movie anymore. I like to sit back and MARINATE in my movies more – Sometimes you have to watch these things as a Grown Up to “catch” stuff that went flying past you when you were a kid, back when you wanted Instant Gratification!) I feel this way about the CREEPSHOW movies too: I didn’t think they were satisfying as a kid, but I do now. So for anyone who might’ve dismissed SILVER BULLET as a kid maybe you owe it a Second Chance.

By the way – GINGER SNAPS was a good werewof movie too!

unkle lancifer
13 years ago

Kids, make sure you check out Jeff Allard’s knowledgeable review and personal memories about SILVER BULLET over at
DINNER WITH MAX JENKE it’s a fine SILVER desert after this big BULLET meal!