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One of the worst things about horror are adaptations of Stephen King books, short stories, and novellas. No one really gets it right, and while I don’t think that there is a definitive greatest Stephen King movie list, I think that Silver Bullet is a strong contender for one of the better adaptations, even if I’m alone in thing this sort of thing. Stephen King’s Silver Bullet is a scary werewolf movie, even if you’re not a fan of the execution of this film.
The movie revolves around a small town, and a new string of murders that are plaguing the area. These murders are often covered up by the coroner and are never truly revealed as happenings of a Werewolf…until a kid discovers a deep dark secret, and then things go into high gear!
Here is a trailer for Stephen King’s Silver Bullet:
One of Gary Busey’s less psychotic roles, playing a good intentioned, unbelieving uncle (who happens to be an alcoholic), he actually looks young and sane. The rest of the cast play their roles well and I enjoyed it on an entertainment level. The initial set up takes some time to play out, however it isn’t really scary at first. We are introduced to the cast of characters with ease, as the murders play out as a back drop, you suspect a few people before the story turns on a dime and shows you who the culprit really is. I don’t know if you will catch it right away, but it is not exactly something that I was expecting, at least not the first time I saw it.
The main protagonist is bound to a wheelchair. One cool scene, that has nothing to do with horror, is that the kid gets an awesome upgrade thanks to his uncle. He gets this sweet looking, super wheel chair! That’s right, it’s awesome, and something that was most likely inspired by the imagination of a young child, rather than an adult, but then again, this film was made in the 80’s and these outlandish paleo-future ideas were the norm amongst Hollywood writers and director’s at the time. (Main example, Back to the Future and the hover-board)
The antagonist of this film is a werewolf, but who is the wolf? That’s the crux of these types of movies, and it’s not something that is done in movies often. Usually the occult is the vocal point of animalistic rage, or monster movies in general. If the occult is not named right away, it is implied through various sequences, and this film relies on a Judeo-Christian tinge to frighten viewers, and proclaim that people should watch out, lest wolves truly be in sheep’s clothing!
Just like in “The Howling” we get a combination of first person action and third person action. As a fan of video games and even online bingo at poshbingo, I really love the first person shots from the werewolf’s perspective where the hands are extended and the action is being followed through your television. It’s really a cryptic and weird camera perspective, and is done well for the time.
As far as its place in history, this film came out in 1985, meanwhile “The Howling” came out in 1981, and the camera angles and sequences seem stolen here. However, there aren’t a lot of scholars of horror that argue the intricacies of such a notion. Wes Craven’s “Cursed” and the Jack Nicholson movie “Wolf” also borrow subtle motions from the 1981 cult classic, but it can easily be said that they are all borrowing elements from MGM’s “The Wolf Man” from 1941 or dare I even say 1920’s? Or even the John Landis film “An American Werewolf in London”, which is regarded as one of the better werewolf movies since it was one of the first movies to film a long form transformation scene.
While on the topic of visuals, the formation of the silver bullet is done in quite the throwback to professional iron working, or maybe I’m just giving it too much credit. There are also great plays with the shadows as we see the main antagonist rise from beneath them, almost romanticizing the werewolf as a sexual predator, as we are seeing an abuse of power.
Why Silver Bullet is scary: Stephen King has been noted as being somewhat religious, and if not religious completely at least well versed in religious iconography and notion. In his novels he uses Christianity as the focal point to his villains madness (The Shining, The Stand, Misery), and in this film he really pushes the envelope to the extreme. The scary part of this film is not just the usual that no one believes the kid about the werewolves, but more over the fact that the most trusting person is the villain and the most obvious villain is not the villain!
Ok, let me settle down a little. Gary Busey plays a drunk. He shouldn’t be trusted, and he uses the drink as a crutch to somehow muster up enough courage to fight off the werewolf. However, the fight is not just his own, as Marty gets in on the action and we get a very exciting final fight of sorts. Seriously, the final fight is teased for so much of the film that when it finally goes down you get into it, if not initially, then definitely when Gary Busey gets thrown through a book shelf, creating a stand out point to get up and yell at your screen!
In regards to scary notions, this movie presents a Pastor as the villain. The Pastor is well trusted and the community is not quick to believe that he is doing anything wrong, let alone being a Werewolf. This is timely in many ways. We hear stories from victims of child abuse ranging from Catholic Priests to Youth Pastors, and that’s just religious sectors. Abuse is a sad thing, and this movie plays up the religious leader role to a tee, and if you’re reading into this a lot more than usual (like me) you’ll notice that this film sometimes parallels the notion that religious leaders are not only sometimes involved in criminal acts, but when accused, they aren’t always found guilty by the community or the leaders. I know, I’m reaching far for this one, but it seems to me that Stephen King has made a somewhat cautionary tale about abuse of power and how scary it is that those that we have trusted have caused so much pain our lives and the lives of others.
If that’s not scary, and it just seems too outlandish. Then the Cryptozoology aspect of the werewolf mythos is scary enough for you. Sure, I’m not exactly too scared about wolves coming to get me. However, we can all relate to the idea that sometimes the most trusted people screw you over the most.
I admit, Silver Bullet is not the greatest werewolf movie in the world. In fact, for some, Corey Haim’s over acting, Gary Busey’s under acting and Stephen King’s obvious jab at religious figures is just not the makings for a great horror film. Stephen King’s Silver Bullet offers a good enough thrill and scare for fans of Stephen King adaptations, but might be a little shallow in the true horror department. This movie is not gorey, doesn’t really have a lot of sexuality, and really swings the pendulum between disbelief between the notions of who is more righteous: the drunk uncle or the Baptist minister. I would recommend Silver Bullet to some fans, but not everyone is going to enjoy the obvious meddling with werewolf traditions and some blatant rip-offs of previous werewolf films like “The Howling”, but maybe I just like that film too much. I’m not sure.
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