Silver Bullet (1985)

Silver Bullet Artwork

“It’s your oven, but it ain’t my bun ya got bakin’ in there, huh? See ya.”

Based on the Stephen King novel, Cycle of the Werewolf, Silver Bullet (1985) tells the story of tiny Tarker’s Mills and its nightmarish summer. A series of gruesome murders throws the town into a panic, with many of the residents wondering who the maniac is killing their neighbors. A handicapped boy named Marty Coslaw (Cory Haim) learns the horrifying truth: the killer is a werewolf. Nobody believes him.


Marty’s life falls apart around him as the murders continue. His best friend is killed, the town’s fireworks celebration is cancelled, and his insecure, jealous sister, Jane, turns against him. Even his favorite uncle, Red (Gary Busey), begins to think the boy is delusional. When Marty and his sister discover the identity of the werewolf, they must convince Red to believe them. And to melt a piece of jewelry into ammunition: a silver bullet.

Silver Bullet bears a strong resemblance to King’s novel, and it should. King provided the screenplay for Silver Bullet, ensuring his plot would not be turned on its head as it was in Kubrick’s The Shining.

The main characters – Marty, Jane (Megan Follows), Red, and the parents, are true to their characters in Cycle of the Werewolf. Busey, huge teeth and all, steals several scenes as the black sheep uncle, and Haim is sympathetic as a boy bound to his wheelchair. The production quality is strong, the small town setting is both gorgeous and convincing, and yet there seems to be something…missing…from this movie that prevents it from being an 80s classic.

Silver Bullet

Perhaps it’s the film’s pacing. Unlike other King adaptations that maintain a slow burn, ramping up tension until the climactic finale, Silver Bullet tends to be more uneven. The urgency of the werewolf’s attacks contrasts sharply with scenes that feel slightly too long, sometimes detracting from the overall suspense of the story. While the chilling scenes are nail-bitingly tense, the gaps in between feel somewhat bloated, affecting the film’s rhythm.

Moreover, the werewolf transformation scenes, which could have been a real visual spectacle and source of terror, don’t quite match up to the expectations set by other films of the era, like An American Werewolf in London. The special effects, while impressive for their time, come across as a tad dated today. While practical effects can often age better than early computer-generated imagery, they sometimes still feel of their time, especially when compared to other horror classics that managed to achieve timelessness with their effects.

The soundtrack, however, is a standout. Jay Chattaway’s eerie score complements the movie perfectly, creating an atmospheric setting. It underscores the dread that the characters feel and keeps the viewer on edge.

Performance-wise, there’s no doubt that the cast did justice to their roles. Yet, certain secondary characters lack depth and feel somewhat stereotypical of horror films from that period. This might be what stops Silver Bullet from standing shoulder to shoulder with the greats.

One criticism I have for Silver Bullet is that it too often intersperses intentional comedy into scenes which should be pure terror. An example of this is the classic hunt through the fog, when the vigilantes unwittingly run into the werewolf. The camera shows a hunter’s hand holding a baseball bat and beating the werewolf. A second later, the werewolf’s hand emerges from the fog with the bat and turns the tables. I snicker every time I see this scene, as did most of the audience when I saw Silver Bullet in the theater. This scene had the potential to be quite frightening, and for some reason, the direction opted for comic relief.


Another criticism, echoed by many horror fans, is for the werewolf’s costume. Frankly, it doesn’t look “werewolfy” at all; if anything, it looks like a bear costume, so much so that for years I referred to the monster as a bearwolf. Or is it a werebear? Never mind.

But I’m nitpicking. The most important point to make is that Silver Bullet is a good horror movie with plenty of scares. It’s a popcorn-munching fun flick in the same way that Friday the 13th Part 2 is, yet Silver Bullet can be downright terrifying when it wants to be.

If I had to pick a most memorable scene from Silver Bullet, it would be the discovery of the blood-splattered kite after Corey’s friend, Brady, went missing. Just a simple visual, yet so effective. The big climax is full of heart-pounding tension, and even though I know how it turns out, it still creeps me out to this day.

While not an absolute gem, Silver Bullet is pretty darn good horror flick, a relic from a time when horror movies were a lot more fun, and not everything was about misdirection, trendy edits, and torture. We need more werewolves running amok.

Silver Bullet is certainly worth a watch for any fan of Stephen King or 80s horror. While it might not be the pinnacle of werewolf films or King adaptations, it is a solid movie with enough suspense and character development to keep viewers entertained. It’s a testament to King’s storytelling abilities and the talent of the cast that despite its flaws, the film manages to leave a lasting impression.

vampire bloody fangs

“The most terrifying vampire novel since Salem’s Lot”

Silver Bullet vs. Cycle of the Werewolf

Silver Bullet and Cycle of the Werewolf, both rooted in the genius of Stephen King, offer a look into the world of Tarker’s Mills and its terrifying werewolf lore. King’s novella, “Cycle of the Werewolf,” is a concise but impactful exploration of a town’s year-long ordeal with a mysterious werewolf. King employs a unique structure, presenting the story in monthly vignettes that give a snapshot into the horrors of each month. This episodic nature provides a gradual build-up, with each chapter adding a new layer of suspense and depth to the narrative.

In contrast, “Silver Bullet”, given its film medium, takes on a more linear and continuous narrative arc. While it captures the essence of King’s original tale, it streamlines the story for cinematic appeal, focusing on the most potent events, and linking them together in a way that keeps the tension high throughout the film.

Character development, too, differs slightly between the two mediums. The novella, being more succinct, provides a broader perspective of the town’s inhabitants, allowing King to dabble in brief but poignant character sketches, offering insights into their fears, relationships, and eventual fate. Marty, Jane, and Red, though central to the narrative, share the spotlight with the larger community.

In “Silver Bullet,” the focus is narrowed significantly, concentrating on Marty’s perspective and his immediate relationships, especially with his sister Jane and Uncle Red. This shift in focus helps in deepening the bond between the viewer and Marty, creating a more intimate experience and emphasizing the emotional journey of the central characters. The movie adaptation, by necessity of its format, trims and adapts, but in doing so, it delivers a more personal and immediate portrayal of the horror that King originally envisioned.

You can find Silver Bullet on DVD at Amazon.

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