I've been very critical of this film in the past but I still picked it up. You see, I'm a big werewolf movie fan, I even own An American Werewolf In Paris (yes, I know!). Anyway it's a nice surprise to note that the film isn't quite as bad as I had recalled. But I know exactly why I had such a big problem with the film. You see, Silver Bullet's werewolf is on a par with Lon Chaney Jr.'s hairy face and hands or maybe on an unusually good day, the Yorkshire Terrier dog-faced reporter seen at the very end of the Howling. Since Silver Bullet was made in the mid 80's on a $7 million budget, it's pretty shameful and it does badly affect the film. Even the director mentions just how poor those werewolf effects really are on the disc commentary.
The transformation sequences are pretty cool, ditto with the close-ups of the creature's eyes, but the full-blown costume is absolutely abysmal. The special effects are by Carlo Rambaldi who's best known for E.T. and it's surprising that he couldn't deliver here. Attias shows as little of the werewolf as possible and also uses quick inserts to try to combat this, but far too often we still see what looks like Chewbacca the Wookie with your little nephew's werewolf Halloween mask stuck over the top of his head. Oh, and the inserts of the werewolf's walking legs in the film's fireworks scene or the shot of just the werewolf arm swinging the baseball bat up and down are just plain laughable.
That's a real shame 'cause this could have been another 80's werewolf classic. The film's credits attribute the story as being based on a Stephen King novelette but the director states that it was actually based on a calendar where the story unfolded over the course of the year. Perhaps it was in America (at first anyway) but in the UK, the enjoyable short story of "Cycle Of The Werewolf" was printed as a cool glossy paper book with very impressive drawings (presumably from the calendar) accompanying each stage of the tale. But as Silver Bullet's script was penned by King himself, it really is "a Stephen King film" unlike loosely based nonsense such as Children Of The Corn or The Mangler. Mind you, that's not necessarily always a sign of quality is it?
The hero of the story is Marty the wheelchair bound child, who together with his fireworks, sister and uncle, tackles the unusual problem of a werewolf in their small community. Pleasingly, both Marty and his sister Jane are played by two kids who can actually act (George Lucas please take note) and the charismatic hard-drinking uncle is played by the likeable Gary Busey who delivers especially well. The Jay Chattaway score is pretty cool and it sounds great when the Jane character checks every town person's face for damage after the werewolf is injured in a confrontation with Marty. In fact, that's my favourite part of the feature.
Stephen King expanded his far shorter story in an impressive manner and the film has a voiceover which greatly adds to the necessary fairytale nature of the film helping you to forgive some daft scenarios and the often unlikely human or werewolf behaviour. Sadly though, that voiceover then works against the picture when it provides a horribly cheesy and very poor ending in the last 30 seconds. So to sum up, it's a decent enough but not great horror/fantasy film which is well-adapted by Stephen King but it could have been so much better if it wasn't also plagued with Rambaldi's woeful werewolf effects.
This region 2 disc's anamorphic picture quality is outrageously good and well above par. I don't think we'll ever see a better quality print of Silver Bullet than this one provided by Momentum Pictures (or Kinowelt, if you live in Germany). Sadly the disc only has 2.0 sound but we do get a trailer and a director's commentary track by the pleasant sounding Daniel Attias to help make up for that shortcoming. So this is definitely a recommended buy for werewolf fans but I just really wish that someone else had been hired to provide the effects.