Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (September 9, 2020)
Adapted from a novella by Stephen King, 1985’s Silver Bullet takes us to the small Maine town of Tarker’s Mills. Set in the spring of 1976, a series of brutal murders disrupts the quiet community.
While Sheriff Joe Haller (Terry O’Quinn) deals with an investigation, wheelchair-bound young Marty Coslaw (Corey Haim) goes through his own close encounter with the culprit. He manages to inflict harm on the attacker’s eye and he escapes.
Marty claims a werewolf assaulted him, and along with teen sister Jane (Megan Follows), he begins a search for a local with a damaged eye. Marty, Jane and their drunk Uncle Red (Gary Busey) go down a dangerous path as they attempt to stop the brutal violence.
King might’ve written the screenplay and based it on his own work, but Bullet feels like some weird half-assed attempt to make a Spielberg movie. Despite the horror motif, the emphasis on Marty throws off a serious ET the Extra-Terrestrial vibe, for instance.
In addition, expect Bullet to “borrow” massive globs of Jaws. A confrontation between a grieving parent and Sheriff Haller completely rips off the scene between Mrs. Kintner and Brody, and the score even offers hints of John Williams’ legendary theme at times.
Toss in ample reflections of prior werewolf movies and Bullet lacks even a hint of originality. It feels like a loose collection of influences without much real purpose of its own.
If Bullet managed decent entertainment value, I might not mind its derivative nature so much. Unfortunately, this becomes an awkward mix of scenes that feels too campy to scare but not quite campy enough for “so bad it’s good” material.
Though Bullet really does go down the silly side of the street a lot of the time. The choice to make Marty a paraplegic screams “plot device”, and then the decision to give him a turbo-charged wheelchair falls into the same path.
Basically King creates obstacles in the pursuit of tension, but then he finds “outs” for these as well. This feels like tacky storytelling, as those involved can’t be bothered to come up with logical rationales for much of anything.
With Busey in the lead, the adult castmembers overact a storm, whereas the kids underplay their parts too much. The differing styles emphasize the movie's theme that the kids know better than their elders, but the two sides feel too different for them to connect as needed.
There’s nothing wrong with the film’s underlying plot, as the werewolf theme always comes with potential. Too bad the final product offers a goofy, scare-free tale.