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Silver Bullet

review by Anthony D.

 

 

Rated: R

Running Time: 94 Minutes

Starring: Gary Busey, Corey Haim, Everett McGill, Megan Fellows and Tovah Feldshuh

Written by: Stephen King

Directed by: Daniel Attias

 

Studio: Paramount

Retail Price: $24.99

Features: None

Specs: 2.35:1 Anamorphic Widescreen, English Mono, Fench Mono, English Subtitles, English Closed Captions, Scene Selection (11 Scenes)

Released: May 28th, 2002

 

 

Call me a fool, but I love werewolf movies. Always have, ever since that first viewing of the Universal classic, "The Wolf Man." Give me a werewolf howling at the moon and I'm happy. "An American Werewolf in London" - love it. "The Howling" - yessir, that's a mighty fine film. "Brotherhood of the Wolf" - last year's French take on lycanthrapy and kung fu, mais oui! And there's the grand-daddy of them all, the utterly atmospheric "Werewolf of London" (starring the vastly underappreciated Henry Hull) from 1935. So, it should come as no surprise that I was totally entranced by Stephen King's "Silver Bullet."

It began life as a long short story, a novella by King called, "The Cycle of the Werewolf." I'll admit to not having read the novella, but I plan to check it out soon. For "Silver Bullet" is not only a quote-unquote werewolf movie, it is a charming coming-of-age tale, owing a lot to Harper Lee's (and Robert Mulligan's) "To Kill a Mockingbird." Both are stories about siblings growing up in small towns at a time when fantastic incidents will alter their lives. While "To Kill a Mockingbird's" major event (a compelling court case) is rooted in reality, "Silver Bullet" takes the lunar cycles and their effect on the community to build a strong character-dominated piece of horror. Simply put, a werewolf is on the prowl in the small town of Tarker's Mill (which any King-phile can tell you, is also the home of a certain group of textile mill dwelling killer rats - "Graveyard Shift"). In King's screenplay for "Silver Bullet," however, the misdeeds of the werewolf are secondary to the intensely realistic relationship between a crippled thirteen year old and his not-so-doting older sister. As played by "Anne of Green Gables' " Megan Follows and former teen-heart throb Corey Haim (the blond Corey, not to be confused with the other Corey, Feldman) we can see a relationship grow from simple sibling peevishness into a relationship of trust and devotion. Jane and Marty Coslaw, once they join forces, are indeed a duo to be reckoned with. Their story is the framework which holds "Silver Bullet" together, making for a fine character driven tale, although, not a typical horror story.

The horror acts only as a catalyst to bring the often sparring Coslaw family together. King's screenplay, however, building up on the blood quotient from its opening decapitation scene (followed by a train-track bug squashing) seems at times too schizophenic to make a higher grade; almost defeating itself. Scenes on a fog-shrouded forest set, with a vigilante group of citizens tracking down the werewolf try to add atmosphere to the procedings, but since not one of the vigilantes is a truly established character, we feel nothing for their plight when they are cornered by the monster. Much more menacing, and far more interesting, are the scenes taking place in Tarker's Mills' church. "Twin Peaks" and "The People Under the Stairs" Everett McGill gets a chance to shine as Prostestant Minister Loewe, again, a character that is carefully drawn out by the screenplay and the actor; Loewe's sermon and his funereal eulogies are fine examples of the writing that King is sometimes capable of. McGill's countenance is perfect for his role, and his calm, reassuring demeanor in times of trouble is everything that a minister should be, and more. The character of Loewe is a fully-fleshed character, who must, unfortunately, come to antagonist terms with the undauntable Marty. Is this some sort of New English thing, that the fear of religion is symbolic of the fear of the unknown? Whatever you make of it, it is this fear that gives "Silver Bullet" a spine on which to build its horrific tale. Commendable is the fact, that with so few uses of religion in contemporary story-telling ("The Exorcist" is quite the exception), without mocking the conventions of religion, nor debasing its followers; "Silver Bullet" choses to take religiosity seriously.

With "Silver Bullet" you don't necessarily get what is advertised - the cover art suggests a more moody, nearly noir take on the werewolf mythology - but once past the R-rated gore elements, there is a charming, heart-stopping story of a girl, a boy and his bike; the latter being the titular object, as well as it obvious play on the only cure for lycanthropia. "Silver Bullet's" ninety-four minutes speed by, involving the viewer with the lives of its central figures. This is a side of Stephen King which we haven't seen on screen in quite some time; for me, Sissy Spacek's Carrie White was the last central King figure whose plight I actually CARED about, and it's a refreshing change of pace. Haim and Follows are both very strong actors, but like many people, I have to ask, "Whatever happened to Haim?" Gary Busey provides some solid moments as a caring uncle, though his drunkenness seems to be a plot device not fully developed; and certainly not worthy of top-billing! I adored McGill's Reverand Loewe, literally. His performance contains some very fine, nuanced work, and left me wondering why he hasn't been better served on film; his role on television's "Twin Peaks" certainly utilized his vast acting range. Veteran actress Tovah Feldshuh provides the haunting, melancholic narration.

Now, onto the bad news. Yes, this is not entirely a good review of the film (and just wait'll we get to the video transfer!), for "Silver Bullet" contains some of the worst special effects I have seen in quite a while. They're not as bad as some 1950's sci-fi flicks, but, these so-called special effects were designed by the Oscar winning special effects wizard, Carlo Rimbaldi. This must have been Rimbaldi on a bad day. Carlo has done some mighty fine film work: he's the man responsible for "E.T.," yet he's also the man responsible for remaking "King Kong" as well as the sometimes shabby sandworms of David Lynch's "Dune." Rimbaldi's werewolf design, fortunately shown only in detail in the film's final sequence, though glimpsed in an earlier dream scene) is quite bottom-of-the-barrel. It's a shame, really, since "Silver Bullet" maintained my interest from the start, and I felt very letdown by the final images of the werewolf.

 

Stephen King's "Silver Bullet" takes an old, reliable theme and tosses in a few new twists, making for a unique entry in the werewolf genre. Though the violence level is a little high for family entertainment, at the film's center lies a fine family portrait. With a monster that is ultimately not as frightening as the screenplay's mood wants it to be. Paramount has priced "Silver Bullet" out of most fan's price range, without even adding a trailer. With a lackluster transfer, but a story that is well-told, "Silver Bullet" should be seen by fans of the horror genre, but with that price tag, it should be a well-rented investment.

 

A firmly centered Dolby Digital mono soundtrack seems wanting. I didn't notice a Dolby trademark during the credits, but, I felt that the film experience would have benefitted greatly from at the very least a surround track. The track serves its purpose, giving the dialogue a precision, but lacking in strength in both the high and the low ranges.

 

Not even a trailer.

 

Stephen King's "Silver Bullet" takes an old, reliable theme and tosses in a few new twists, making for a unique entry in the werewolf genre. Though the violence level is a little high for family entertainment, at the film's center lies a fine family portrait. With a monster that is ultimately not as frightening as the screenplay's mood wants it to be. Paramount has priced "Silver Bullet" out of most fan's price range, without even adding a trailer. With a lackluster transfer, but a story that is well-told, "Silver Bullet" should be seen by fans of the horror genre, but with that price tag, it should be a well-rented investment.