Is this adaptation of Stephen King’s novella Cycle of the Werewolf the best lycan pic you can get your hands on? Honestly, no. However, I’ve got five damn good reasons for you to give it ninety-five minutes of your time (again or for the first time), not the least of which is Busey, baby.
5. Have you really looked at the cast?
I’ll get to a pair of the featured players in a moment, but for now I’m going to completely (and willfully) ignore that everyone’s favorite Anne of Green Gables (Megan Follows) or the lesser of the “Corey’s” (Haim) are even in the flick because Terry O’Quinn was his usual, steady self in the role of Sheriff Joe Haller, despite a lack of screen time. And what of the clichéd, small town loud mouth? Every movie like this has to have one, doesn’t it? Right you are, but they aren’t all portrayed by Bill Smitrovich, who played delightful dolt Andy Fairton here (and the grocery store owner who was perplexed by the two-headed monster that was boxes and parsnips in Seth MacFarlane’s Ted.)
And don’t blink or you’ll miss the greatest baseball manager in cinematic history, James Gammon (Lou Brown in Major League) as the beast’s first victim. Not to mention a pre-Reservoir Dogs Lawrence Tierney as the proprietor of Owen’s Bar, who it turns out may have been a bit better at serving his own special brand of lemonade than silver bullets (you see what I did there?) and James A. Baffico, who played the S.W.A.T. officer who lost his shit in the opening scene of George A. Romero’s Dawn of the Dead. Just do me a favor and remember one line until you can get your hands on a Silver Bullet disc — “Oh, that hurts my parts!”
Not a bad supporting cast, Rebel Airplane. Not bad at all.
4. An oversight only a baseball freak would pick up on
Look, if you ever peruse IMDB or any other online movie resource, you’re sure to come across on-screen mistakes such as car models manufactured after the stated year the film took place (which was 1976 if you’re keeping score at home), but I’ve never seen this particular oversight mentioned anywhere else. Ever. Queue Wolf Blitzer in the Situation Room.
After little Marty rockets back to the abode on his wheelchair / dune buggy following his initial wolfie encounter and ill-advised fireworks display, he dreadfully scurries back onto his bed and holes up in the corner. As he makes that trek, however, take a peek at the poster of Hall of Famer Reggie Jackson hanging on his bedroom wall. Now, that a kid would have Mr. October hanging in his quarters in ’76 isn’t what’s out of place. What seems odds is that it’s pretty clear that Jackson was donning an Angels jersey. See, in the year of our Lord nineteen-hundred-and-seventy-six, Reggie wore Halloween colors, the orange and black of Baltimore. He didn’t sign with (then)-California until 1982. Hey, they shot this film in ’84, so it was a much more convenient prop. Besides, what kind of an asshole would point out such a small indiscretion, anyway? Wait…
3. Gary Busey
Do I really need to elaborate? I mean, check the picture that sits atop this post. Look, this was before Busey went off the deep end, so we’re not allowed to forget how fantastic an actor Busey once was or how incredibly entertaining his Uncle Red is throughout this picture.
Just the lines alone: “I feel like a virgin on prom night.” “Do you have a pilot’s license?” “Did you really win a trip for two from Publisher’s Clearing House, Uncle Red?” ‘No, but the moon is full. And your parents are gone. And I did win a subscription to Popular Mechanics.’
And, of course, “I’m a little too old to be playin’ the Hardy Boys meet Reverend WEREWOLF!”
2. “You don’t know what those words mean”
(The scene comes to a close at 4:03)
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What separates Silver Bullet from the congested pack is that despite its campiness, it hits suspense / horror / emotion dead central when it needs to. Example? We got you. The best scene of the flick, which takes place at Owen’s Bar following the funeral of Herb Kincaid’s son is on point in that it accomplishes its intended goal — to jar you emotionally. It’s well written and superbly acted by Kent Broadhurst. It simply evokes raw honesty.
The pain and underlying, seething anger amplified by the dramatic pauses of Broadhurst’s Herb command the screen and thrust themselves upon O’Quinn’s sheriff and the viewer because, the reality is, neither Haller or those watching have the slightest of inklings how that character felt. “You don’t know what those words mean” sets the ball in motion, but when Herb welcomes Haller to “dig up what’s left of my boy, Brady and explain to him about private justice?” Over the course of four minutes, we’re taken on a journey from just another horror flick to the anguish of Broadhurst’s father, executed so perfectly that for the briefest of moments, the story is no longer a fantasy, because the sorrow is too palpable. Viewers are now fully immersed. Not every movie of this nature can make such a proclamation, but thanks to Kent Broadhusrt, Silver Bullet is one of the rare exceptions.
1. Everett McGill crushes the role of Reverend Lowe
I once read that Stephen King lauded Colm Feore for “killing the part of Andre Linoge” in Storm of the Century. In a good way. And though I’m no King, would I be surprised if the master of horror felt the same way about McGill’s good reverend?
That said, you’ll know well ahead of the “reveal” that McGill is the beast, but for the lack of realism that the werewolf costume has throughout, it is the fact that McGill portrays Lowe so authentically that makes this performance, for my money, one of the most menacing and underrated in horror history. The quiet intensity of McGill’s glare, the calm with which he delivers his lines are legitimately unsettling. “I’m very sorry about this, Marty. I don’t know if you believe that or not, but it’s true. I would never willingly hurt a child.” Or better, as a man of God, proclaiming that a character dispatched at his beast’s claws early in the film was actually the moral move because “Our religion teaches that suicide is the greatest sin a man or a woman can commit. Stella was going to commit suicide, and if she had done so, she’d be burning in hell right now. By killing her, I took her physical life, but I saved her life eternal. You see how all things serve the will and the mind of God?” Those may just seem likes words on a screen, but not when Everett McGill offers up the reading.
If you haven’t watched it in years (or ever before), do yourself a favor and grab the DVD and some popcorn and revel in the underappreciated good times that are Silver Bullet. You won’t regret it.