If I can be completely honest for a moment, I have to admit that I don’t think I ever saw today’s movie in it’s entirety until I bought it on DVD. Don’t get me wrong, I have seen the movie, but in buts and pieces. Most times, I would come in about half way through the movie and watch it to the end but there were a couple of times where I would watch the beginning of it, but then have to stop and do something else or go somewhere, preventing me from a complete viewing. In spite of this, I had some fond memories of the the times I watched this movie, and laughing at it, so when I saw a DVD on sale for cheap, I quickly picked it up. Now let’s see if that was a mistake as I watch today’s movie, Silver Bullet.
The plot: In the town of Tarker’s Mills, Maine during the Spring of 1976, a railroad worker named Arnie Westrum is working on clearing some debris from the tracks when he notices some tracks in the dirt just before he is decapitated. The townsfolk consider it an accidental death, as Arnie was the town drunk and they believe that he just passed out on the tracks and was decapitated by a train. The next day, there is a town picnic and Jane Coslaw goes to check on her brother Marty, who is a parapalegic, but she falls victim to a prank by Marty’s friend Brady, who scares her with a snake and causes her to fall in the mud. After yelling at them, Jane goes off and hides in some bushes to cry when she overhears an argument between Stella Randolph and another man about Stella being pregnant but the man refuses to believe the baby is his. That night, Marty goes into Jane’s room and gives her some money to replace her pantyhose that were ruined and apologizes for Brady’s prank. Jane accepts the apology and the two then talk about their Uncle Red, who had just gotten a divorce. Meanwhile, Stella is about to commit suicide by overdosing on pills but a werewolf crashes through her window and kills her, leaving her mother to find the body. The next day, Marty is riding his gas powered wheelchair and accompanies his girlfriend Tammy to her house. On the way, they pass by Stella’s house and see all of the police there and Tammy thanks Marty for accompanying her as she was scared to go by there herself. When they get to her house, Tammy mentions that she is afraid of the shed by their house, as she has been hearing noises coming from it but before they can talk anymore, Tammy’s father Milt yells at her to help her mother with the laundry. That night, Red stops by the house and is playing cards with Marty but after Marty’s mom, Nan, sends Marty to bed, she argues with Red about his drinking in front of Marty and the effect he has on him. Meanwhile, Milt is watching wrestling when he hears a noise coming from his shed so he goes to investigate it. Seeing nothing in the shed, he heads into the greenhouse connected to it and ends up being killed by the werewolf. The townsfolk are starting to get worried about the killings, as the police are unable to find any clues about the killings. Marty is flying kites with Brady when Jane comes to get him, as he is late for dinner, and Marty asks if Brady is coming but Brady chooses to stay and keep flying his kite for a while. That night, as tensions flare at the local bar, Brady’s father Herb comes in and asks if anyone there had seen Brady. Sheriff Joe Haller discovers the body and tries to keep Herb from seeing it but Herb shoves him aside, then screams out in anguish at seeing Brady’s body. After Brady’s funeral, Red takes Marty home and they talk about the killer, with Marty thinking that it isn’t a man but it could be a monster like a werewolf. Meanwhile, Andy Fairton, who owns the local hunting store, is organizing the townsfolk into a vigilante mob to find the killer. Sheriff Haller tries to talk them out of it but Herb speaks out and says that he is going to get some private justice and Andy and the others head out after him. As they are leaving, Reverend Lowe tries to stop them but they ignore him, and head out into the woods. As the fog rolls in, Andy and his group hear the monster crying out and realize it is in the fog with them, just as several of the group are killed by the werewolf, while Andy and some of the others escape. Reverend Lowe is woken up from a nightmare, in which he is giving a funeral for the dead townsfolk but the attendees all turn into werewolves and attack him. The next day, Marty is upset that the town has cancelled the fair and fireworks and complains to Red about it. Red cheers him up by showing him The Silver Bullet, the custom wheelchair he built for him. Marty takes the Silver Bullet out for a test drive and is shocked by how fast it goes and Red warns him not to let his mother know how fast it goes. After dinner with the family, Red gives Marty some fireworks as he knows how upset he was that the fireworks display was cancelled and tells him not to leave the house that night but Marty sneaks out anyways. Marty heads to an old bridge and starts setting off the fireworks when he hears something and sees the werewolf at the end of the bridge. As the werewolf approaches him, Marty lights a bottle rocket and shoots the werewolf in the eye, then races back home and climbs into bed, where he huddles up into the corner. Marty tries calling Red and telling him what happened but Red doesn’t believe him. The next day, Marty tells Jane and she believes him and as she goes out collecting bottles and cans for recycling, she looks to see if anyone has a missing eye. After going about town and not seeing anyone missing an eye, she finds herself upset at believing Marty’s story. She heads to the church to turn in her recycling and doesn’t notice that Reverend Lowe is missing his eye. When she places her recycling in the garage, she is scared by a mouse and falls into a stack of cans, where she finds the remains of the barkeeper’s bat “Peacemaker”. When Lowe goes to check on her, she notices his damaged eye and quickly makes an excuse to leave, then tells Marty what she saw. Marty decides to send Lowe an anonymous note, saying he knows who and what he is and that he should commit suicide in order to prevent more killings. After a few days, Marty and Jane tell Red what they had been doing and he is upset about their actions and still doesn’t believe that Lowe is a werewolf. One day, as Marty is riding the Silver Bullet home, Lowe tries to run him off the road but Marty manages to escape. As Lowe continues to chase him, Marty attempts to cross over an old covered bridge but the Silver Bullet runs out of gas. Lowe gets out of his car and approaches Marty, rationalizing his actions as being the work of God and his saving people from committing further sins. Lowe plans on killing Marty but when they see a farmer on his tractor, Marty yells out for help and Lowe is forced to leave the scene. Back at Marty’s house, Marty is telling Jane and Red his story and Red still doesn’t believe him about Lowe being a werewolf but when he sees the damage done to the Silver Bullet and Jane confirms that the paint from the damage matches Lowe’s car, Red believes Marty about Lowe trying to kill him. Red goes to speak with Haller, who thinks it is far fetched but decides to check out Lowe that night. He checks out Lowe’s car and sees the impact damage on it where he hit Marty’s wheelchair, then finds Lowe but as Haller tries to arrest him, Lowe transforms into a werewolf and kills him. The next day, Marty and Jane are telling Red that Haller had disappeared after saying he would check out Lowe, then give him their medallion and crucifix respectively and ask him to make a silver bullet out of them. Red agrees to do it and goes to an old gunsmith to have the bullet fashioned. On the next full moon, Marty’s parents go out of town and Red agrees to watch the kids. He stays up waiting for the werewolf to come but when it doesn’t show up, he starts to feel like an idiot. Jane sees the werewolf in the window, and tries to convince Red what she saw when the lights go out, due to Lowe pulling out the cable to the house. The werewolf breaks through the wall and begins to attack Red, causing him to drop the gun and the silver bullet falls down the air duct. Marty goes after the bullet and has Jane hand him the gun and he shoots the werewolf in the other eye. Marty, Jane, and Red watch as the werewolf transforms back into Lowe and the all sit on the floor next to Marty as the shock of what happened wears off.
Silver Bullet met with mixed results from the critics, holding a 47% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. While there isn’t a critical consensus on the site, most of the critics felt that it was a decent werewolf movie, though some felt that it was on the tame side for a horror movie. Gary Busey did all of his own stunts in the movie, particularly the ones in the final fight at the end of the movie, which involved him jumping on to an (off camera) air-compressed catapult, which would send him flying across the room. The movie was a mild hit at the box office, earning $12.3 million off of a $7 million budget.
This still has some entertaining parts to it, but on the whole I think this movie is best remembered as a fond childhood memory. The acting was ok, with Corey Haim (Marty), Gary Busey (Red) and Megan Follows (Jane) did good job in their roles, but Everett McGill (Lowe) just seemed too stiff and stilted in his performance. The story was good, if toned down from the original book, but there were times it felt like they tried to make the movie too much of a family friendly horror movie. There were a couple of funny moments during the movie, my favorite occurring during the scene where the mob is hunting for the killer. As the bartender is being dragged into the fog by the werewolf, you see him striking out at the werewolf with his bat, then you see the werewolf’s hand holding the bat and hitting him back with it. The special effects regarding the werewolf were actually a little weak and looked a lot cheaper than what I expected out of a big budget picture, even if it was from the 80’s. I mean, the werewolves in The Howling looked better than this and that movie came out 4 years earlier. Not a bad movie, and could be useful as a bridge from PG-13 to R rated horror movies, but the more hardcore horror fans will be left wanting more.
Rating: 2 1/2 out of 5