|Steven King's Silver Bullet|
|Written by Abbie Bernstein|
|Tuesday, 28 May 2002|
Writer Stephen King gets his name slapped on an awful lot of product that sometimes bears little resemblance to his source material. However, the title inclusion of his name in "Stephen King’s Silver Bullet" is fair use, as King not only wrote the novelette "Cycle of the Werewolf," but also penned the screenplay. The movie is sort of endearing in its schlock mid-‘80s way, with a pretty uncongealed mixture of horror, coming-of-age drama and black comedy.
For some reason, "Silver Bullet" is set in 1976 and narrated in hindsight by Jane (played as a teen by Megan Follows, with Tovah Feldshuh providing the adult voiceover), older sister of wheelchair-bound young hero Marty (Corey Haim). Jane and Marty live in the small New England town of Tarker’s Mills, where something begins to prey on the townsfolk in bloody fashion. Marty starts to believe the culprit may be of a supernatural nature, but he has a hard time getting any adults – or Jane – to agree with him. The only grown-up who takes Marty even partly seriously is his Uncle Red (Gary Busey), an alcoholic who is nevertheless the most supportive figure in Marty’s young life.
In his novels, King is an acknowledged master of mingling extremely recognizable, day-to-day aspects of life with things that go bump in the night. Screen adaptations of his work have a rockier track record, in part because that combination, while hard on the page, becomes practically impossible on film. "Silver Bullet" plays partly like an Afterschool Special, examining the bond between physically disabled nephew and emotionally crippled uncle, and partly like full-tilt schlock horror that doesn’t know if it wants to go for camp, terror or both. King gets in the occasional good dialogue exchange, but they feel more like riffs than anything that propels the plot, which has surprisingly few twists. Not much is made of people doubting Marty – eventually, when people are asked to look into his suspicions, they comply.
Director Daniel Attias gets in one genuinely nightmarish sequence in Chapter 9, where a variety of werewolf makeups are employed to create a hellish tableau (even if it owes a lot to Neil Jordan’s "The Company of Wolves"). However, the main lycanthrope has a look that was dated even at the time of "Bullet’s" release, let alone now – the makeup just isn’t scary. The werewolf’s facial mechanisms operate smoothly, but it lacks the epic malevolence required to fulfill the story’s needs. Indeed, the werewolf, for all the mess it makes, doesn’t have too many impressive moves – the Tarker’s Mills beast must be the only one of its kind ever to beat anyone to death with a baseball bat. There also aren’t too many moments that provide good, solid jolts, something the genre demands. The decision to have Jane’s character narrate is especially peculiar, as it doesn’t serve to increase our comprehension of the story but only tells us that she’ll live to tell the tale, which further undercuts any sense of suspense.
Then again, "Silver Bullet" doesn’t qualify as a dog. Follows and Haim both give good performances, Busey is amiable and Terry O’Quinn has some nice scenes as the tentative local sheriff. Everett McGill as the local reverend reveals a deep voice that is imposing even in the 2.0 mono track. The storyline is logical as far as it goes and the characterizations have internal consistency.
Needless to say (but we’ll say it anyway), 2.0 mono means that there are no directional sound effects. As sound does not seem to be used as a primary means of generating tension, it’s unclear whether a surround mix would make much difference to the overall effect. Print quality is excellent, though the film has the look of a TV movie, lit and designed without adornment.
People with a fondness for monster movies that aren’t scary but nevertheless faithfully deliver said monster confronted by a small band of dedicated misfits will find a place in their hearts for "Stephen King’s Silver Bullet." People in search of scares should look elsewhere.