Welcome to Tarker’s Mills, Maine. A simple Rockwellian town in summer where doors are left unlocked, block parties are a common occurrence and everybody seems to know everybody. But this summer will be different. Curfews are enforced, dead bolts keep doors secure and shotguns stand ready. What once was a peaceful community is now ravaged with fear. People are dying and know one can determine what or who is the cause. Will these deaths keep spreading or will the cycle of slaughter be stopped?
Silver Bullet is a 1985 horror film directed by Dan Attias. It stars Corey Haim, Gary Busey, Everett McGill and Megan Follows. It is based on Stephen Kings short story titled Cycle of The Werewolf. Don Coscarelli who brought us the Phantasm franchise, started the film but grew frustrated with the direction and depictions of the werewolf. Coscarelli was forced to shoot the film without any idea of how the werewolf would look. Stephen King believed the film should show less of the monster as possible so it didn’t matter that it wasn’t ready or even looked good. Coscarelli grew frustrated with the way the picture was going and resigned, being replaced by Dan Attias. Even then the picture was almost cancelled due to disagreements. Everett McGill ended up playing the both rolls as Reverend Lowe and the werewolf.
Stephen King is a master of writing and I’ve been a huge fan of his for quite some time. I’ve read many of his books and love the world that he’s created. I’ve read IT twice and literally cried during the last chapter of his crazy story. To have a marathon without one of his film adaptations would be blasphemy and incomplete. Silver Bullet is honestly my most favorite werewolf film. I’ve also read the his short story Cycle of The Werewolf and feel it’s given me a deeper appreciation for the film.
Silver Bullet follows a young boy named Marty. He’s a great kid that happens to not have any movement in his legs so he’s completely bound to his wheel chair. Even though he’s very independent, his parents still over care for him. Often forcing his older sister Jane to care and take responsibility for Marty’s mischievous actions. As summer begins and the murders take place, the town goes on full lock down and it’s only Marty that suspects something much foul. Marty begins to piece together all the clues and discovers a monster is running loose in his little town of Tarker’s Mills.
Yo-ho! Spoilers Ahead!
It may not be the most well crafted film ever made but it is delightful. A monster movie with a good sense of mystery and tension. Giving us a monster that slaughters people but also a chance to determine who the monster really is adds a more complex and drawn out sense of terror. How many of us as kids didn’t flip when we found out Reverend Lowe was the monster? That shot of Jane wheeling those glass bottles and complaining about her brother because he told her he shot the wolfs eye out with a rocket. So she helps him find out who the monster is by looking for a one eyed person! She sees every person in town and determines her brother is a little shit that lies. She’s at her last stop of delivering those bottles to the church. She’s tired and pissed and thinking about going home to break her brothers legs! It doesn’t matter, he can’t feel it. Then the camera pans to Reverend Lowe facing away from her and having that patch over his eye! HOLY DONKEY SHIT! THE PASTOR IS THE MONSTER! GET OUT OF THERE JANE!
Such a cool way to turn the tables. We’d all expect some terrible guy that beats his wife or parties to hard but not the pastor! He’s the one shining beacon in a peaceful loving community! The one thing that the town looks to as the source of it’s pride and compassion for each other! Now he’s this terrifying monster that kills by night? Not only that, this guy has accepted it and has gone full blown psycho! Usually a werewolf is only scary when it’s dark and the moon is out. But this one is scary because the guy that is the monster is a madman and will kill anyone that discovers his secret. Even an innocent kid in a wheel chair! I’ve never seen that approach before and it’s a much different take on most werewolf films.
Larry Talbot and David Kessler were two fearful chumps, completely dreading the next transformation. Yet in Silver Bullet, Reverend Lowe believes by becoming a werewolf and killing certain people; gives them immediate salvation and freed from the burning depths of hell! While most films explore the curse of the monster, this one explores the idea that it’s a blessing, a way to institute a certain zealous belief. Gosh what I wouldn’t give for a prequel film of Reverend Lowe coming to terms with his curse! Maybe he’s in seminary and gets bit by a wolf and starts showing signs of being a werewolf. Then one day he’s reading a religious text in the library and determines God bestowed upon him this gift as a means to kill those that are destined for damnation. Or he has a professor that guides him on these concepts and eventually becomes Lowe’s very first victim. My word, I think I’m going to write a prequel! This could make a fantastic graphic novel!
A Cool Concept
It’s a cool concept of an invading creature tearing apart a once well bonded community. As like most of Kings stories, he really highlights how a peaceful community is just a facade that covers the real dark sides of mankind. Everything isn’t perfect and those Rockwell paintings don’t capture the true underbelly of the town. Tarker’s Mills citizens may go to church on Sunday and sing together in unison. They have their events of togetherness but it’s all a bandage that can be ripped away with a good gust of wind. It’s why I believe the town going out to hunt down the killer as a mob is a good example of this. They all jumped at going after and giving “private justice” to the killer like it was an itch that couldn’t be reached. I love that concept and believe it reigns truths of today’s culture. We’re all just one step closer to becoming that lynch mob and torching everything to the ground. Just look at those antifa jackasses! They’re out there claiming to be anti-fascists yet using fascist tactics! They’re ok with hurting people and doing stuff that Hitler actually did! They’re all just a bunch of race horses biting at the bit for that gun to go off so they can be first out of the gates!
Silver Bullet is a favorite of mine and will always be one of those films I will watch on television every time it’s on. I love Gary Busey as Uncle Red. He always delivers these one liners that literally make me laugh out loud. With his awesome beer gut, raspy voice and ability to guzzle whiskey in front of his nephew; he’s just this awesome character that adds a brilliant comedic presence to the film. Although Uncle Red loves Marty, he’s an adult with his own doubts and grown up pre-conceived notions about monsters. He won’t believe Marty but is willing to play along with him. Eventually being proven at the last minute that Marty was right all along. That his views on Marty being more than a kid in a wheel chair are precise. Marty and Janes relationship as brother and sister is the true heart of the film. Know one believes Marty except for Jane and it’s a testament that sometimes your siblings are the only ones you can count on. In the beginning Jane is bitter towards her brother but through this nightmare, she develops a more sincere appreciation for her little brother. It’s a beautiful story and a reason I think this film delivers more than just scares and gore. It’s a complete package that can give everyone watching a certain sense of entertainment.
The overall look of the werewolf is campy and dull. I can accept that and will be the first to admit it. I mean he kind of looks like Jimmy Durante in this picture. They could have at least had one moment where the wolfman looks at Marty and says “Ha cha cha cha!” Because of this, I think Stephen King was right in showing very little of the creature. It creates a better sense of terror as you don’t really get to see what the monster looks like until the end. We get shots of his foot, hands or shoulder. Always insinuating that it is infact a monster in the shot, a typical horror convention which works. I like that and it maintains the rule of never showing the monster until that nice climax of the movie.
We’re held from seeing the wolf in full form and it is awesome because the showdown between the werewolf and Marty is intense and satisfying. When I was a kid, I almost pissed myself as Uncle Red, Marty and Jane are waiting for the monster to arrive. Such wonderful tension and build up to one glorious triumphant victory for our protagonist. Marty is laying there after shooting Lowe through the other eye with a silver bullet. Everyone is crying and in disbelief. But not Marty, he is sitting there calm and like a total bad ass. When asked if he’s hurt he quickly makes a joke that he can’t move his legs! I love that kid! He never lets his disability get the better of him.
If you can get past the cheap special effects then I think this movie is enjoyable. It’s a classic Bronze Age movie that has a certain campy feel to it. The gore element accompanied by the eerie music, solving a mystery and message of a siblings bond is a great blend for a horror movie. It’s always on television during October, which is good because I think it’s finally getting the recognition it’s always deserveed. There are a few werewolf films that take on different approaches to the werewolf saga and I think Silver Bullet is one of the best because of that approach. This is why Silver Bullet is chosen for day twenty one on Horror Movie Marathon 2018.
Note – does anyone else notice how Marty’s wheel chair is called Silver Bullet. The thing that helps him evade the werewolf on that bridge. Then in IT Big Bill Denbrough’s bike is called Silver in which he uses to get away from the werewolf after investigating the Neibolt house with Richie!? HOLY CRAP THIS IS HUGE! It’s like Stephen King does this stuff on purpose!