Silver Bullet (film)
| ||This article consists almost entirely of a plot summary and it should be expanded to provide more balanced coverage that includes real-world context. (May 2009)|
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Daniel Attias|
|Produced by||Dino De Laurentiis|
|Written by||Stephen King|
|Narrated by||Tovah Feldshuh|
|Starring||Corey Haim |
|Music by||Jay Chattaway|
|Editing by||Daniel Loewenthal|
|Distributed by||Paramount Pictures|
|Release date(s)|| |
|Running time||95 minutes|
|Box office||$12,361,563 (USA)|
Silver Bullet is a 1985 horror film based on the Stephen King novella Cycle of the Werewolf. It stars Gary Busey, Everett McGill, Megan Follows, Corey Haim, Terry O'Quinn, Lawrence Tierney, Bill Smitrovich, Kent Broadhurst, David Hart, and James Gammon. The film is directed by Dan Attias and produced by Dino De Laurentiis.
Jane Coslaw (Follows), the narrator of the film, is the oldest sister in a dysfunctional family of four. Her narration centers on her strained relationship with her younger, paraplegic brother Marty (Haim) and their parents Nan and Bob. Their rocky relationship changes after a series of murders in their small rural town of Tarker's Mills, Maine.
First, a railroad worker, Arnie Westrum (Gammon), is killed by a werewolf. The county coroner believes that Arnie passed out on the railroad tracks and was run over by a train. Soon after, a local woman, Stella Randolph (Wendy Walker), prepares to commit suicide because she is unmarried and pregnant. Before she can act, she is murdered. This murder goes unsolved and the townsfolk become worried. The next victim, Milt Sturmfuller (James A. Baffico), whose daughter is Marty's girlfriend, hears a racket in his shed. Believing teenagers are making mischief, Sturmfuller plans to scare them off with a shotgun. Instead, he encounters the werewolf and is killed. His family leaves town. Next to die is teenager Brady Kincaid (Joe Wright), Marty's best friend, who stayed out too late one night while flying a kite.
After Brady's, citizens led by local gun shop owner Andy Fairton (Smitrovich) form a vigilante justice group. Although local Sheriff Joe Haller (O'Quinn) and his lone deputy (Hart) attempt to stop the citizens, the officers relent after being berated by Brady's father (Broadhurst). In the middle of the melee, Baptist Reverend Lester Lowe (McGill) attempts to prevent the townsfolk from causing further bloodshed. After the vigilantes go out hunting for the killer, several are attacked and killed, including Owen Knopfler (Tierney). The survivors later deny seeing anything unusual. After the vigilantes are attacked, Reverend Lowe dreams that he is presiding over a mass funeral when his congregation—including the bodies in the caskets—begins to transform into werewolves before his eyes and attack him. He awakens screaming and asks God to "let it end."
As a result of the mounting unsolved murders, curfews are put in place and the annual fair and fireworks show is canceled. The Coslaws decide to have their own backyard party and invite Nan's alcoholic black sheep brother, Uncle Red (Busey). Red builds a wheelchair/motorcycle for his nephew, which he nicknames the "Silver Bullet". He also gives Marty a pile of fireworks so that he can have his own celebration. Marty uses the Silver Bullet to go out in the middle of the night to a small bridge where he lights the fireworks. Marty is confronted by the werewolf and barely escapes with his life by launching a rocket into the left eye of the creature.
Marty enlists Jane's help to look for someone with a newly injured or missing left eye. The search is conducted under the cover of the church's bottle drive, so as not to arouse suspicion. When Jane turns her bottles in, she discovers that Reverend Lowe is missing his left eye. Realizing that no adult would believe his fantastic story, Marty begins sending anonymous notes to Reverend Lowe telling him that he knows who he is, what he is, and that he should commit suicide in order to stop the killings. A cat-and-mouse chase ensues between the Reverend and the siblings. At one point Lowe tries to run Marty, who is driving the Silver Bullet, off the road with his car. When Marty is trapped under a closed covered bridge, Lowe, who has more or less gone insane, uses Judeo-Christian logic to rationalize the murders he has committed: he cites Randolph's murder during her suicide attempt as his effort to save her soul (and as rationalization for not killing himself); Westrum was a severe alcoholic; he implies that Sturmfuller was abusing his wife and possibly his daughter (this is made explicit in the novel); and the vigilantes intended to murder someone in cold blood (Lowe's logic cannot explain Brady's murder, however). Lowe then apologizes and tells Marty that he is going to drown him in the river when Marty is unwittingly saved by local farmer Elmer Zinneman.
The siblings tell Red about their letter-writing campaign to Reverend Lowe. After calming down the furious Red, they manage to convince him that Lowe is connected to the murders and attempted to kill Marty: The Silver Bullet has dents and a scrape of blue paint that matches Lowe's car. Unable to deny the evidence in front of him, Red heads straight to Sheriff Haller. Although Red admits that he has his doubts, and Haller does not believe Lowe to be a killer, Red nonetheless persuades the sheriff to investigate. That night, Haller, still skeptical but desperate to find the killer, is shocked to discover evidence that at least some of Marty's story may be true. Haller finds Lowe, who has locked himself in his garage, but before Haller can arrest him, Lowe transforms and kills Haller by striking him numerous times on the head with the broken baseball bat.
Marty and Jane both know that with Haller out of the way, the werewolf now has an easy path to come after them. Desperate and running out of options, they convince Red to take Jane's silver cross and Marty's silver medallion to someone who can melt it down into a silver bullet. Under the guise of Marty having just "discovered the Lone Ranger", Red has a local gunsmith make the bullet, after which, when Red asks an offhand question, "… what the heck are you gonna shoot a forty-four bullet at anyway? …" the gunsmith replies, "How bout a werewolf?".
On Halloween, Red shows up at the Coslaws with some fortuitous news: He has won a romantic getaway to New York, but since he separated from his wife," he gives the tickets to Nan and Bob. Questioned by Marty and Jane, Red reveals that he bought the tickets as a ruse to get their parents to safety. With the now full moon in the sky, they head inside to wait for the werewolf. Despite their best efforts, the three fall asleep and are startled awake when Red (who has fallen asleep with a lit cigarette in his fingers), burns himself , jumps up and drops the gun, nearly setting it off. Red begins to doubt that the werewolf is real, much less going to show up, and orders Marty and Jane to bed. Jane suddenly screams in horror as she sees the werewolf looking at her from the living room window, although when Red looks he finds nothing. Red starts to think that he is being fooled by the children and unloads the pistol. At that moment the werewolf tears the power cables out of the box and cuts the power to the house, leaving the trio with only the light from the fireplace. The werewolf then smashes through the wall of the house, attacking them. Despite Red's best efforts he is tossed around like a rag doll and Jane is suspended in midair. Marty manages to retrieve the cartridge (which was tossed around in the melee and had fallen down the radiator) and shoots the werewolf in the right eye with the silver bullet. The corpse turns back into Reverend Lowe and has one last spasm before dying. Afterwards Marty and Jane both say, "I love you" and the narrator then says that she too can now say it.
- Gary Busey as Uncle Red
- Everett McGill as Reverend Lester Lowe/Werewolf
- Corey Haim as Marty Coslaw
- Megan Follows as Jane Coslaw
- Terry O'Quinn as Sheriff Joe Haller
- Robin Groves as Nan Coslaw, Marty's mother
- Leon Russom as Bob Coslaw, Marty's father
- Bill Smitrovich as Andy Fairton
- Lawrence Tierney as Owen Knopfler
- Kent Broadhurst as Herb Kincaid, Brady's father
- James Gammon as Arnie Westrum
- Wendy Walker as Stella Randolph
- James A. Baffico as Milt Sturmfuller
- Joe Wright as Brady Kincaid, Marty's best friend.
- David Hart as Pete Maxwell, deputy Sheriff
- Herb Harton as Elmer Zinneman
- Michael Lague as Stella's Boyfriend
Deviations from the novella 
Character omissions and alterations 
Several characters in the novella had their names changed for the film: Jane Coslaw was named Kate in the novella; Bob Coslaw was named Herman; Uncle Red was Uncle Al; Sheriff Haller was a constable in the novella named Lander Neary. Additionally in the novella there was a character named Alfie Knopfler who owned the only diner in the town. In the film the Knopfler character was changed to the owner of the town's only bar as more action took place in the bar than in the diner and the character was deemed too important to cut or diminish. His first name was changed to Owen and the name of the bar was Owen's Bar. This was done in reference to King's son Owen.
Additionally, two characters are omitted from the film: The Drifter and Clyde Corliss.
Plot differences 
Some elements of the story are changed from the novella:
- Main amongst them is the fact that in the novella the murders start in January and end in December, spanning almost a full year. In the film, the murders start in the Spring and end on Halloween.
- Additionally, the murders in the novel each coincide with a specific holiday that month i.e. New Years Day, St. Valentines Day, April Fool's Day, etc. No such importance is given to the murders in the film.
- Arnie Westrum is killed in the Spring of 1976, presumably May (Jane's voice-over mentions that school is about to let out). In the novella he is killed on New Years Day.
- Stella Randolph is killed by the werewolf in order to prevent her from committing suicide. In the novella the character is a virginal seamstress who seems to be suffering from delusions. She sees the werewolf watching her from outside her window on Valentines Day and lets it in, imagining that it is her secret lover come to visit her. The werewolf promptly pounces on her and kills her in her bed.
- In between Stella and Brady Kincaid's deaths, in the novella a drifter is killed in March while passing through Tarker's Mill. Wolf prints are found near his corpse. His death is completely omitted from the film.
- In between Brady and Owen Knopfler/the vigilantes' deaths, Clyde Corliss, a janitor at Reverend Lowe's church, is found disemboweled on the church's altar. His death is completely omitted from the film.
- As stated above, Owen Knopfler is named Alfie Knopfler in the novella. He owns and runs the town diner, and is killed after High School Graduation in June in his diner. He sees a patron (later revealed to be Reverend Lowe) transform into the werewolf in front of him before he’s killed.
- In the film a vigilante mob goes after the then-unknown killer in the woods. In the novella, there is reference to a vigilante group heading out to the woods, but Reverend Lowe drives to Portland, Maine in order to avoid them (and instead runs into Milt Sturmfuller).
- While Sheriff Haller is killed confronting Reverend Lowe in his garage, Constable Neary is killed in August while drinking in his parked truck. He has his face ripped off by the werewolf (similarly to the vigilante who has his face ripped off in the woods in the film).
- Milt Sturmfuller in the film is killed while investigating strange noises in his shed. In the novella, it is revealed that Strumfuller is a wife-beater (a point that is merely implied in the film). He leaves for Portland, Maine in December to meet his mistress and is confronted by the werewolf, who decapitates him. Unlike the film, in the novella Sturmfuller is not considered to be one of the murder victims by the town since he was killed in another vicinity.
- Elmer Zinneman inadvertently saves Marty from Reverend Lowe in the film when Marty calls out to him while trapped in the covered bridge. In the novella Zinneman is a local farmer who hears a commotion on his farm one night and decides to investigate with his rifle. He hears a bloodcurdling wolf howl and cowers in his house with his wife. The following morning he finds that his pigs have been slaughtered, with wolf tracks all around the pen. His brother-in-law tells him that it's obvious that a werewolf was responsible, and that the residents of Tarker's Mill are in denial because he lives two counties over and they all know what it is.
- On Halloween Red, Marty and Jane confront the werewolf. In the novella, Marty goes trick-or-treating on Halloween in search of the werewolf's identity and is shocked when he sees Reverend Lowe wearing an eyepatch (it is explained that the Coslaws are devout Catholics and that Lowe is a Baptist; as a result Marty never runs into Lowe until nearly 4 months later since they worship at different churches).
- In the film, Marty shoots out the werewolf's eye with a firework in October, when the town fair and fireworks are canceled. In the novella, the maiming occurs on Independence Day.
- In the film, Reverend Lowe knows that it was Marty who injured him in his werewolf form. In the novella, Lowe does not remember what happens when he transforms; all he knows is that he wakes up the following morning with scratches and bruises on his body, and with crusted blood on his lips and fingernails. As a result, when Marty injures him (in werewolf form), he awakens the following morning with his eye blown out but with no recollection about how it occurred.
- Marty sends Reverend Lowe anonymous letters indicating that he knows who and what he is, and that he (Lowe) should commit suicide in order to stop killing people. In the film, despite the anonymous nature of the letters, Lowe knows that Marty is responsible; in the novella, Lowe decides to go into town and listen to gossip in order to find out who was attacked on July 4 (the day his eye was blown out). Marty signs the last letter with his name, letting Lowe know who was responsible for his maiming.
Filming began in October, 1984 and took about two-and-a-half months to complete, finishing shortly before Christmas. In the novella the werewolf was said to snarl in nearly human words and the werewolf was supposed to speak in the original screenplay, although this was eliminated after a rewrite. Gary Busey felt a certain kinship with the Uncle Red character and was allowed to ad lib all of his lines in certain takes of each scene in which he appeared. Although he read the lines as scripted in most of the takes, Stephen King and Daniel Attias liked the ad lib scenes better and decided to include most of Busey's ad lib scenes in the final cut of the film.
King asked that the werewolf be ambiguous, plain, and hard to see, in contrast to the hulking monsters seen in other werewolf films and books in the early-to-mid-1980s, with the end result being a creature which looked more like a black bear than anything else and did not really have any identifying characteristics. After seeing Carlo Rambaldi's design, per King's request, producer Dino de Laurentiis was very unhappy and demanded a change, which both King and Rambaldi refused. Eventually pre-production fell behind schedule and director Don Coscarelli opted to start filming the non-werewolf scenes without knowing what would happen with the werewolf suit. After completing the non-werewolf scenes and not having any clear picture about what would happen with the film Coscarelli resigned as director and was replaced with Attias. When pressured to either cancel the film or accept the design de Laurentiis relented and allowed filming to continue with Rambaldi's werewolf suit. A modern dance actor was hired to perform the stunts inside the suit but de Laurentiis was also unhappy with his performance and demanded a change. As a result Everett McGill, who played Revered Lester Lowe in human form, wound up acting out most of the scenes in the werewolf suit and was credited with a dual role.
The main theme of the film is the duality of man. Many characters are seen as pillars of the community but are revealed to have reprehensible characteristics. Andy Fairton is a gun shop owner and leader but also an alcoholic who disdains authority and clumsily leads the vigilantes into a massacre before eventually denying the existence of the werewolf. Haller is well liked and a community leader but knuckles under to the mob justice of the vigilantes when pressured. Revered Lester Lowe is also seen as a great community leader but is also the werewolf. This theme was also present throughout the novel. In addition, Lowe's curse and the duality of man theme was likely taken from the werewolf priest folk tale.
Another theme is imperfection. The primary protagonist is an 11-year-old boy who uses a wheelchair. Busey plays a drunken womanizer who seems to have given up on having any kind of a life. Lowe makes efforts to prevent himself from killing someone frequently, by hiding in secluded areas in the woods on three occasions, in Sturmfuller's shed once, and by locking himself in his garage once, but fails in every effort.
The film, like many other King works (and the novella on which the film is based), is set in a small fictional town in Maine. Filmed in 1985 and set in 1976, the film makes no reference to its New England setting. No type of New England slang is used in the film.
None of the characters speak in any kind of a New England accent. Perhaps the only reference to the Maine setting is the inclusion of the Maine State Police in the film's plot. The film begins in spring and ends on Halloween - spanning a typical baseball season - although the Boston Red Sox are never mentioned nor is any Red Sox apparel seen. The film also doesn't include music which was popular in the area at the time.(Only a John Travolta poster in Jane's room gives any indication of the era.) None of the surrounding towns, counties, or highways are mentioned.
The film was not heavily anticipated when it was released and received mixed reviews, garnering a 50% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
Roger Ebert gave the film three stars out of four, saying that the film "is either the worst movie ever made from a Stephen King story, or the funniest." Ebert admitted that he thought that the film was a parody of the novella and of King's work in general but said that he enjoyed the film. Felix Vasquez Jr. of Film Threat called Silver Bullet "a great horror film."
The film had its equal amount of detractors however. James Kendrick of Q Network Film Desk said that the film "feels episodic and slight, little more than a slasher film in which the slasher is a lycanthrope." Scott Weinberg of DVDTalk.com called the film "[a] horror flick for young fans who aren't quite prepared for the really scary stuff."