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My Favorite Scary Movie: Silver Bullet (1985)

For the month of October, JoBlo.com staff will be gearing you up for the Halloween season with My Favorite Scary Movie, where we will share our favorite scary flicks, be it gory horror, supernatural thriller or bloody slasher flicks, lending the personal touch for each film and why it stands as one of our all-time favorite spooky flicks of the season.

SILVER BULLET (1985)

What’s it about? Based on the novella "Cycle of the Werewolf" by Stephen King, this is the tale of a werewolf on the rampage in a small Maine town over the course of a year and a young boy who discovers its identity, tasking himself with ending the reign of terror, along with the help of his sister and drunken uncle.

 

Who’s in it? The late Corey Haim plays the lead boy, Marty Coslaw, a wheelchair-bound paraplegic. Megan Follows plays his sister, Jane Coslaw, while Gary Busey plays their Uncle Red. Other familiar faces include Terry O'Quinn (Lost) as the Sheriff, Lawrence Tierney (RESERVOIR DOGS) as Owen Knopfler, James Gammon as Arnie Westrum and Everett McGill (DUNE, LICENSE TO KILL) as the Reverend Lowe.

 

Who made it? The film began production with Don Coscarelli (PHANTASM, THE BEASTMASTER, BUBBA HO TEP) at the helm, but numerous creative differences with producer Dino de Laurentiis caused him to leave the film, with TV director Daniel Attias stepping in to tackle the job. It's the only feature film from Attias, who has worked extensively in TV since. Based on Stephen King's novella "Cycle of the Werewolf", which features illustrations by legendary horror artist Bernie Wrightson, King also wrote the screenplay and was heavily involved in the production, fighting for the use of the werewolf design by Carlo Rambaldi, which de Laurentiis hated.

Why it’s my favorite scary movie: It's hard to pinpoint what it is about SILVER BULLET that's stuck with me for so many years. I originally saw this on VHS and was about the same age as Corey Haim's Marty in the film. Having a kid as the protagonist made it easier to relate to, but somehow also enhanced the fear. Marty was already vulnerable as a paraplegic and being a kid to boot was more than enough to stack the deck against him in fighting a werewolf. While Haim's life took on a sad turn of tragedy later in life, as a kid he lit up the screen, particularly in films like LUCAS, THE LOST BOYS, LICENSE TO DRIVE and SILVER BULLET. I think this played a huge role in making SILVER BULLET not only a scary film, but also one that connected me to the protagonist in a way that would've been squandered had it been an adult. It's also a movie my late father really enjoyed and I remember him talking excitedly about it before he showed it to me and my brother, who were at the edge of our seats based on his sales pitch prior to hitting play on the VCR.

Werewolves have always fascinated me. Not that I particularly believe in them, but the shock and horror of seeing someone transform into a literal beast that goes on a murderous rampage leaves a scar on the psyche that lingers on my brain. While there are plenty of films to choose from in this genre, SILVER BULLET always felt the most realistic. I know that sounds a little silly given the subject, but it's not so much that the werewolf looks exceptionally great (although I'd argue he looks more real than scary...which actually makes him MORE scary) or that the gore is particularly spectacular or even that the film is a well-shot body of work. No, the thing that makes SILVER BULLET shine is the human drama tied to it, coupled with a more mysterious, slow roll toward a full reveal that keeps the whole thing cloaked in what feels like something you can put yourself into, rather than distance yourself from. Essentially, it's grounded, real-world approach make it a far more frightening tale than it's given credit for. Toss in Gary Busey as an ad-libbing Uncle Red (in another terrific performance from his early 80's heydays), Megan Follows as the caring sister and Everett McGill as the conflicted Reverend Lowe and you've got a beautiful slice of undiscovered and underappreciated 80's horror.

Now that the 80's are "a thing" and the nostalgia for the era is all the rage, I noticed something about SILVER BULLET that I hadn't previously; it's a picture perfect standard for everything everyone is trying to recapture about the era and the genre in things like Stranger Things, etc. From the cheesy lines, synth score, mysterious aura and staple characters (including a Sheriff, a Reverend, a Drunk, etc.), this is the kind of film that set the stage for what many are trying to recreate now. SILVER BULLET exists in an awesome time capsule; a film that failed at the box office and mostly for critics (minus Roger Ebert, who saw it in a very different light than most), it has garnered a large cult following since, with people rallying behind what was initially dismissed. While it certainly has its problems and is in no way a refined horror classic, it's absolutely ripe with nostalgic potency and retains some genuine terror when the beast shows up. The humans, however, sell everything; Marty, bound to a wheelchair and watching kids play baseball, Uncle Red's bond with Marty, including a leap of faith when confronted with Marty's werewolf story, Reverend Lowe's confliction over what he's become and all the other small bits we get to know about all the people in the small town make them not just throwaway victims, but people you actually care about.

There's so much to love about SILVER BULLET that I find it hard pressed to believe anyone could watch it and not have a good time. Even if it doesn't frighten you, there's just no way you can't find things about it that stick with you, even if it's just Gary Busey being Gary Busey or reminiscing with Corey Haim before everything went to shit for him. Or, hell, maybe you just love werewolves and enjoy seeing them whenever you can on film. It's an oft-forgotten gem of the genre, so if you're just discovering it, I envy your first watch. As Stephen King enjoys a resurgence of quality remakes and new series' based on his work, particularly with IT and IT: CHAPTER TWO and the forthcoming PET SEMATARY, I can't help but wonder what a refined and updated version of SILVER BULLET would look like. I'm sure it's a tale that Hollywood won't be in a hurry to adapt again, but, man, there's so much potential here! Even if we never get such an updated adaptation, I'll alway savor SILVER BULLET as a scary movie that's stood the test of time and haunts me every Halloween when I know I'll inevitably watch it, wondering if I'll still feel the same jumps, terror and nostalgia that I have ever since that first VHS viewing.

Scariest Part: While the ending of the film is certainly the moment that you'll be waiting for by the time the rest of the events unfold, the moment that really brings the terror for me is the scene where Marty is on the bridge firing off fireworks given to him by Uncle Red, since the 4th of July festival was canceled. It's shot in a way the exudes that cringe-inducing anxiety that makes you want to yell at the screen for the unknowing protagonist to get out of harm's way. The perspective of the shots makes you feel like you're toggling between Marty and the Werewolf's POV and it's equally frightening in both views.

 

Best Lines:

 

Older Jane (voice over): “The last full moon of that Spring came a little more than a month before school let out for Summer vacation. Our town's long nightmare began that night."

 

Uncle Red: "I mean, uh, what the heck you gonna shoot a .44 bullet at anyway... made out of silver?"

Mac: "How about a werewolf?"

Uncle Red: "I feel like a virgin on prom night."

 

Uncle Red: "There are no such things as werewolves!"

 

Herb Kincaid: "MY SON WAS TORN TO PIECES! You come in here and talk to these men about private justice? You dare to do that? Why don't you go out to Harmony Hill, Sheriff Haller, and dig up what's left of my boy, Brady, and explain to him about private justice. Would you want to do that? As for me, I'm gonna go out and hunt up a little private justice."

Jane Coslaw:  "In the made-up stories, the guy who's the werewolf only changes when the moon is full, but maybe he's like this almost all the time, only as the moon gets fuller..."

Marty Coslaw: "...the guy gets wolfier."

Uncle Red: "I'm too old to be playing The Hardy Boys meets Reverend Werewolf!"

Gore and Nudity: The gore is more subdued here than anything, although that's not to say there aren't some genuinely bloody moments. There's a beheading via a blow from the werewolf, a woman clawed to death, a man beaten to death with a baseball bat, a man impaled by a board and of course, the inevitable use of the silver bullet. No nudity to speak of, however.

 

Sequels, Spinoffs or Follow Ups: There's never been a sequel or continuation of SILVER BULLET, as it's a very self-contained story. Corey Haim went on to be in many more films before falling prey to addiction and dying at a young age. Gary Busey continues to make films, although much less these days, having his own battle with addiction and a life-changing motorcycle accident. Director Dan Attias went on to a prolific career in TV, directing everything from The Wire, Six Feet Under, True Blood, Entourage, The Americans, Homeland and, most recently, Stephen King's Castle Rock. Everett McGill is still around as well, having recently appeared in the Twin Peaks revival. Stephen King continues to churn out novel after novel, while seeing his books turned into films and TV shows twice over.

 

"I know that a case can be made for how bad "Silver Bullet" is. I agree. It's bad. But it's not routinely bad. It is bad in its own awesomely tasteless and bubble-brained way--so bad, I think every laugh was put in lovingly, by hand. Most horror movies are exercises in unrelieved vulgarity, occasionally interrupted by perfunctory murders. This movie, to borrow an immortal comment by Mel Brooks, "rises below vulgarity." If you are sick up to here of horror movies in general and Steven King in particular, this is the movie for you." - Roger Ebert, from his three-star review of the film.

Scare-O-Meter Score: SILVER BULLET likely won't scare your standard horror fan. I'd daresay that many newcomers to the film that don't have early nostalgia for it will probably view it as cheesy. However, when you add in the sincerity of the human element and toss in the supernatural into their world, I think you can find some genuine suspense and terror in this small-town tale. The scares fit perfectly in the '80s era of horror and I still approach watching this with equal parts dread and excitement each and every time. (7/10)

 

 

READ MORE:

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Source: JoBlo.com

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