Color, 1985, 94 mins. 53 secs.
Directed by Daniel Attias
Starring Gary Busey, Corey Haim, Megan Follows, Everett McGill, Robin Groves, Terry O'Quinn
Scream Factory (Blu-ray) (US RA HD), Umbrella (Blu-ray & DVD) (Australia R0 HD/PAL), Koch Media (Blu-ray & DVD) (Germany RB/R2 HD/PAL), Paramount (US R1 NTSC), Momentum (UK R2 PAL) / WS (2.35:1) (16:9)

Though Silver BulletStephen King had dabbled Silver Bulletwith adapting his stories to the screen in films like Creepshow and Cat's Eye, the werewolf saga Silver Bullet found him finally translating a complete, feature-length narrative into script form, albeit with more inconsistent results. Lifting the general storyline of his 1983 novella, Cycle of the Werewolf, while dropping the twelve-month structure and the whodunit angle, King's adaptation focuses on two teen siblings, Jane Coslaw (Anne of Green Gables' Follows) and her wheelchair-bound little brother, Marty (The Lost Boys' Haim). Their small town, Tarker's Mill, is torn about by gruesome monthly deaths in which the victims are found mauled or dismembered. Their alcoholic uncle, Red (Busey), tries to keep the kids under control when Marty expresses a more than passing interest in the crimes, while the sheriff (Terry O'Quinn) and local preacher (Twin Peaks' McGill) cope with the townspeople's mounting hysteria... especially when a hairy beast is seen skulking through the woods.

Some good performances and strong scope photography make Silver Bullet an enjoyable if oddly genteel offering, while some splashy dollops of gore make a valiant attempt to mimic the gruesome tableaux of Bernie Wrightson's illustrations for the original book. The biggest flaw here lies in the fact that King-style dialogue simply doesn't translate well to the screen-- at all. The best adaptations (The Dead Zone, Carrie, etc.) realized this and tailored his characters in a more realistic fashion, but as with Pet Sematary and company, the actors here are saddled with some unworkable lines and situations (not to mention clunky narration). The tonal strangeness carries over to the score by Silver BulletJay Silver BulletChattaway (Maniac), which starts off quite well and works fine on its own but features some aggressive synth riffs that can fight against the screen action at times. On the other hand, the film has a warm, nostalgic glow to it that still works well (similar to films like Something Wicked This Way Comes and Lady in White), and the central family relationship is a clever way to anchor a story that would have seem untranslatable to some screenwriters. A somewhat troubled production, Silver Bullet was part of a spate of King films made by Dino De Laurentiis around his home base of Wilmington, North Carolina, many by his company DEG (De Laurentiis Entertainment Group) and also including Firestarter, Cat's Eye, and Maximum Overdrive. The film was begun by Phantasm's Don Coscarelli and featured a werewolf suit by Carlo Rambaldi, which became a major point of contention and ended up being retained against De Laurentiis' wishes when directorial reins were handed over to first-time director Daniel Attias for what would be his only theatrical feature before a long, busy career in television.

The first U.S. DVD in 2002 from Paramount was the first time home viewers could watch this film in its original 2.35:1 aspect ratio; considering how crucial the widescreen compositions are to the film's effectiveness (particularly a fogbound werewolf hunt), this was a huge improvement over the dreary laserdisc and VHS editions that proved to be major eyesores in the '90s. Unfortunately the solid transfer was about all the disc has going for it, as Paramount evidently didn't Silver Bulletfeel the film was worth any further effort. Silver BulletOn the other hand, the British DVD from Momentum (released slightly earlier in 2001) offers an in-depth commentary track by Attias and the theatrical trailer.

The first Blu-ray edition of this film turned up in 2017 from Germany's Koch Media, first as a mediabook limited edition and then as a standard case version; extras include a newly produced audio commentary with Attias and Michael Felsher running through the whole convoluted production in more organized detail, a gallery, and a trailer, while the transfer supplied by Studio Canal looks excellent given the intentionally soft, dark look of the film, which is also how it looked in theaters. Audio is in LPCM 2.0 English or German options, with subtitles for both languages included. In 2018, Umbrella issued the film on Australian Blu-ray and DVD (the only region-free option in HD) from the same master, retaining the newer Attias commentary, trailer, and gallery while also adding an isolated score track interspersed with interview clips with Chattaway. Also included are a TV spot and a radio spot, but most substantially, you also get three new featurettes: "The Wolf Within" (16m15s) with McGill (which goes into the anguish involved in his character's predicament, his prior relationship with De Laurentiis, and his call to duty for a pivotal extra "role"), "Full Moon Fever" (21m3s) with special effects artists Michael McCracken, Jr. and Matthew Mungle talking about their multiple roles on the film (including makeshift work in a hotel room) and coming in after Stan Winston turned the project down, and "Dino’s Angel Takes on Lycanthropy" (25m34s) with producer Martha De Laurentis.

Silver BulletAt the end of 2019, Scream Factory bowed the film on U.S. Blu-ray as a collector's edition porting over the newer Mattias Silver Bulletcommentary, the Chattaway music/interview track, two of the featurettes ("The Wolf Within" and "Full Moon Fever"), the trailer, TV and radio spots, and gallery (6m20s). The previous Martha De Laurentiis featurette (which was an Umbrella exclusive) is dropped here in favor of a new, more extensive audio commentary with her in conversation with Red Shirt Pictures' Michael Felsher, which goes through her entertainment career starting off at NBC and through her collaborations with Dino (whom she eventually married after being known as Martha Schumacher) and the story behind DEG, the production challenges of this film, and lots more. Two new featurettes are also added, starting off with "Cutting To The Bone" (16m39s) in which editor Daniel Loewenthal goes into his progression to this film after getting his start in adult films and moving to features with Joseph Zito, as well as his memories of the production including his affinity for the family aspects of the story, Dino's involvement, and his call to duty for a key scene with Terry O'Quinn. Then in "A Little Private Justice" (11m51s), actor Kent Broadhurst gives a great account of how he salvaged a troubled scene as a shocked, grieving father (due to an unusable prop involving a murdered young boy). Image quality is identical to the prior two Blu-rays, with a DTS-HD MA English 2.0 stereo track provided with optional English SDH subtitles.


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Updated review on April 5, 2020.