Retro Cinema: Stephen King's Silver Bullet - Reviewed

Based on Stephen King's Cycle of the Werewolf, Daniel Attias's first feature film is a mature offering into the over saturated 80's cinematic trend of children confronting the supernatural. Featuring a handful of uncharacteristically strong performances, amazing practical effects, and a surprisingly deft script, Silver Bullet is a cult classic that remains a solid horror film three decades later.

King's screenplay eschews the traditional lycanthrope origin story and focuses on the nature of living with the lunar curse. The motivations behind the film's grizzly killings are interwoven with the battle between the primal beast and the guilt ridden conscious. In lesser hands, these concepts would be overshadowed by pointless gore and jump scares, but King keeps the inner conflict at the center of the narrative, playing it out through the lens of the protagonist, a wheelchair bound Corey Haim. His insatiable curiosity and magical belief system reflect the small town myths that are the fabric of New England, while his ingenuity to overcome his paralysis is the counter to the killer's justification for their acts of violence.

Haim is supported by Gary Busey, who delivers one of the strongest performances of his unconventional resume. His entirely ad-libbed portrayal of Haim's drunkard uncle Red slingshots between welcomed parody and heartbreaking emulation, peeling the layers away from the "fun uncle" cliché to expose a ruined man desperate for approval from his youthful compatriots, realizing both the destruction he has caused and risking everything to support the possibly imagined beliefs of a child.

Armando Nannuzzi's cinematography, aided by creative lighting effects and the spitfire editing of Tommy Dorsett presents the typical "town with secrets" motif in a blend of muted fall colors and deep black, simulating not only the devious machinations of the townsfolk but the omens of things to come. Carlo Rambaldi's werewolf design impressed Attias and King so much that they battled producer Dino De Laurentis for months to ensure that the suit was the creature's final incarnation, which is never fully revealed to viewer. This is a barebones, gritty film, made during a time when auteurs had the latitude to experiment. The result is a self-contained shocker that organically presents the monster in hiding, gruesome killings, and the inevitable townsfolk lynch squad in a linear format that never deviates from its predictable eventuality. The magic is in the various pieces used to assemble it.

Werewolves are big meanies!

Available now on Amazon Prime, Silver Bullet is one of the better werewolf films of the 80's. While its colleagues used extreme violence, campy excess, and political maneuvering; Silver Bullet stays comfortably within the lines of the fairy tale chiller. If you're interested in revisiting the forbidden VHS aisle of your youth or if you're a first time viewer, this is the perfect horror film for the winter season, wearing the entirety of its complexity on its furry sleeve.

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-Kyle Jonathan