Genre films are beloved around the globe, and several countries have home video labels celebrating that love with solid releases of our favorite movies. The UK birthed Arrow and Indicator, the US has Scream Factory and Synapse, and Australia has the wonderful folks at Umbrella Entertainment. They’ve recently brought Stephen King‘s Silver Bullet (1985) to Blu-ray, and we couldn’t resist giving it a spin.
The small town of Tarker’s Mills was like every other American community in the 70s until murder came calling. Now it’s like every other American community these days. Someone, or something, has begun tearing citizens apart in the darkness of the night, and only young, wheelchair-bound Marty (Corey Haim) suspects the truth. He knows it’s a werewolf, and the only chance he has at stopping the beast starts by convincing his sister (Megan Follows) and uncle (Gary Busey) that he’s not full of shit.
When it comes to werewolf movies of the 80s only two names dominate the conversation. An American Werewolf in London and The Howling are both varying degrees of great, but there’s more than enough room to fit Silver Bullet into the chatter too. Sure it lacks their cachet and mesmerizing transformation sequences, but the damn thing is still a four-wheeled and furry bundle of fun.
Director Daniel Attias and a script by King himself (adapted from his novella “Cycle of the Werewolf”) bring a charming playfulness to the film, and while it never gets overly cheeky it allows room for goofy humor and casual nostalgia in between the slaughter. As King has done before, most notably with The Mist, he also tackles the easy danger of small-town mob mentalities as a fearful populace takes up arms. It’s ultimately an effective balance that appreciates and critiques this particular slice of Americana.
Haim is the right mix of innocent and sassy, and the supporting cast is filled out with always reliable veterans like Terry O’Quinn, Bill Smitrovich, and Lawrence Tierney, but it’s Busey and Everett McGill who steal the show performance-wise. Busey is plays a fun uncle with all the energy, irresponsibility, and recklessness of the best fun uncles. McGill takes the opposite tact as the town’s straight-laced and serious pastor with a secret, and while he’s a study in restraint throughout he gets a few moments to shine. The best among them, and a real standout in the film as a whole, is a dream sequence that sees the pastor’s entire congregation transforming into werewolves during his sermon. It’s a fantastic set-piece.
The werewolf effects aren’t exactly a highlight, but they’re fine all things considered. The makeup effects come into their own more so with the bloodletting and gore. It all works well enough to create an entertaining creature feature with moments of real suspense and mild terror.
King’s filmography is fairly epic and understandably filled with winners, losers, and mediocrities in between. Silver Bullet sits somewhere in the upper third and is more than deserving of a reappraisal for movie fans who’ve only heard it discussed disparagingly. Umbrella’s new Blu-ray is the ideal way to do that too thanks to a strong presentation and some informative and interesting extras.
- *NEW* Commentary with director Daniel Attias and moderator Michael Felsher
- *NEW* Dino’s Angel Takes on Lycanthropy: Martha De Laurentiis Remembers Silver Bullet [25:34] – The late Dino De Laurentiis’ wife recalls her time working with the famed producer as well as providing some info on this production.
- *NEW* Isolated score and audio interview with composer Jay Chattaway
- *NEW* The Wolf Within: An Interview with Everett McGill [16:16] – The Twin Peaks veteran discusses his performance, preparation, and the production experience itself. His thoughts on the makeup and hanging with Gary Busey are some of the highlights.
- *NEW* Full Moon Fever: Interviews with special effects artists Michael McCracken Jr and Matthew Mungle [21:04]
Umbrella Entertainment’s Silver Bullet is available as an import and is playable on US Blu-ray players.
Related Topics: Home Video