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SILVER BULLET

Review by Gordon Justesen

Stars: Gary Busey, Everett McGill, Corey Haim, Megan Follows
Director: Daniel Attias
Audio: English Mono, French Mono
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 2.35:1
Studio: Paramount
Features: None
Length: 94 Minutes
Release Date: May 28, 2002

Film ***

Having just experienced the wretched Graveyard Shift, I soon revisited an old horror favorite, also based on a short story by Stephen King, by the name of Silver Bullet. Ever since I first saw it, I wasted no time in not taking the film seriously. I thought to myself that either a desperate to scare, all out horror picture, or an inspired parody of your basic Stephen King formula, in which a quiet American town is invaded by unspeakable horrors.

The movie takes place in 1976, in one of King's patented little American towns. A narrator talks about how quiet and sleepy things used to be—and then, after a few shots of Main Street, we see what really goes on. The town's social life centers around the bar, where mean drunks sit around looking hostile. A decapitated body is found down by the tracks. We meet a local family (named the "Coslaws"—a nice touch, especially if the Potato Salads live next door). One of the kids in the family is in a motorized wheelchair. His uncle is an alcoholic. Worst of all, when the full moon shines, a werewolf breaks into people's homes and rips them to shreds.

Who is the werewolf? I was able to guess almost the moment he walks onscreen. See how you do. As the werewolf continues his raids, the story centers around the typical family, and especially around the crippled kid, little Marty (Corey Haim), whose legs are paralyzed but who is able to use his arms to climb trees and sneak out of the house at night. Marty therefore doesn't need a motorized wheelchair, but the movie goes for some sick jokes as the kid pulls into a gas station to fill his tank. 

And then Uncle Red (Gary Busey) gives the kid a great present. A customized, souped-up, hot rod wheelchair named the Silver Bullet (it kills werewolves—get it?). The kid takes off at sixty miles per hour, doing wheelies down the highway, and eventually the movie treats us to the extraordinary sight of the local clergyman in his car, trying to run down the kid in the hot rod wheelchair. This is not an image the movies have previously offered us.

There are all sorts of sly satiric touches in the film. For example, the narrator turns out to be little Marty's sister, Jane Coslaw (Megan Follows). Her voice on the sound track sounds mature and middle-aged, and yet this movie takes place in 1976, when she's about nine, so she can't be more than eighteen.

The town's local characters are broadly drawn—real broadly. When they form a vigilante posse and go out looking for the werewolf, one guy is scared, and his wife says, "Are you going to make lemonade in your pants?" Later, three vigilantes wander into a clearing where the fog is waist-high, and the werewolf strikes from under the fog, dragging them down one at a time.

I know that a case can be made for how bad Silver Bullet might seem. This is exploitive filmmaking at its rare best. It is bad in its own awesomely tasteless and bubble-brained way. Most horror movies are exercises in unrelieved vulgarity, occasionally interrupted by perfunctory murders. This movie rises below vulgarity.

Video ***

Quite a pleasant surprise following Paramount’s mostly dreadful presentation of Graveyard Shift. Since Silver Bullet has a bit more age to it, I was immediately surprised by how nicely rendered the image turned out to be. A great deal of the movie takes place at night, and for the most part, these darkly lit scenes transfer most clearly, with hardly any flaws. The presentation does have its share of softness and slight bits of grain, but this disc gets a little extra credit for showing signs that any film from the 80s can still shine in this format.

Audio **1/2

Presented in only a Mono track, Paramount seems to have put a little more effort into this particular audio track than most studios have done for any Mono mix. The scenes of the werewolf attacking its victims are the best parts of the presentation, as loud roars and bites seem to deliver quite impressively. Again, this is only a mono audio track, but one of the better ones I’ve heard.

Features (Zero Stars)

Nothing.

Summary:

Silver Bullet is good for both a nice scare or two and good load of intentional laughs, somewhat in the spirit of the Evil Dead movies. It’s one of those movies that simply cannot be taken seriously for whatever reason. It’s virtually impossible.