’Silver Bullet’ is one of a number of Stephen King adaptions, which hit theaters in the mid ’80s. And like so many of those films, it fails to capture the spirit of King’s literary work. ’Silver Bullet’ begins by introducing two divergent storylines, both of which take place in the small town of Tarker’s Mills in 1976. For starters, a series of grisly murders has been taking place in town, in which the victims are torn to shreds. The townspeople demand that Sherrif Joe Haller (Terry O’Quinn) do something and the quick. The other storyline deals with teenager Jane Coslaw (Megan Follows) and her younger brother Marty (Corey Haim). Jane resents having to always look after Marty, who is confined to a wheelchair (which is called the ’Silver Bullet’, as it is motorized). The two plotlines converge when Marty is attacked by the killer, who is revealed to be a werewolf. Following the attack, Marty becomes convinced that he can identify the werewolf, so enlists Jane and their alcoholic Uncle Red (Gary Busey) for help. However, the human carrying the lycanthropic curse is aware of Marty as well, which leads to a climactic showdown.
’Silver Bullet’ is based on King’s novella ’Cycle of the Werewolf’. The book takes place over the span of a year, with each chapter representing one month, as the wolf only comes out during the full moon. This creates a real sense of time and suspense. With the film, which King adapted himself, the action seems to take place in the space of a week. Also, in the book, we know from the outset that it’s a werewolf, while the film uses the old Hollywood trick of hiding the monster (which isn’t surprising, as it looks like a skinny, pissed-off bear). Hiding the creature transforms this monster movie into something that resembles a very routine serial-killer film. (Trivia: For the werewolf crowd scene, gymnasts from the University of North Carolina were used.) Also, the sub-plot of a grieving parent and an angry mob is lifted straight out of ’Jaws’. The finale is slightly exciting, but the rest of the film is a real snoozer.
Paramount Home Video unleashes ’Silver Bullet’ for its DVD debut. The film is presented in an anamorphic widescreen, and is letterboxed at 2.35:1. The image is very sharp and clear here, showing virtually no grain, and only some very minor defects from the source print, in the form of black spots. There is no distortion to the image and the framing appears to be accurate. During some of the action sequences, there is some minor artifacting noticeable, but this does not detract from the viewing experience. Obviously, great care was put into this new transfer. The DVD offers a Dolby Digital mono audio track, which provides clear dialogue, music, and sound effects, with no distortion or hissing. This track is adequate, but one can’t help but wish for a surround or at least stereo track, especially during the finale. There are no extras on this DVD.