“Something inhuman has come to Tarker’s Mills, as unseen as the full moon riding the night sky high above.”Stephen King, Cycle of the Werewolf
When we look to the sky, sometimes abject darkness is a sign of safety. Without it, how could we gaze upon the majestic stars dancing across the night’s canvas. However, a faint light might shine from the moon, but as it grows fuller, so does the call of danger. In 1983, Stephen King released a short horror novel entitled Cycle of the Werewolf, highlighting the very peril brought about during this monthly lunar phenomenon. To this writer in particular, the gambit of lycanthropy-based literature and film has always brought an unshakeable and unspeakable fear to his body. Now, it wasn’t just this 130-page story that caused such a trepidation, but rather it’s 1985 silver-screen adaptation Silver Bullet that led to the countless nights of cowering in his parents’ bedroom. The feeling has slowly but not completely subsided as the years have passed, but this film, the beginning of all my werewolf knowledge, still finds its way to raise the hairs on my arm.
Silver Bullet is a 1985 werewolf classic. The film stars 80s teen heartthrob Corey Haim and regular actor turned complete maniac, Gary Busey. In it, Marty Coslaw (Haim) is a wheelchair-bound 12-year-old living in the sleepy town of Tarker’s Mills Maine, which happens to be the state King chooses for most of his tales. In late spring, a railroad worker is torn apart by some kind of animal, or at least that’s what the local authorities surmise. In conjunction with the monthly appearance of a full moon, the body count begins to rise. From Marty’s kite-obsessed friend Brady to the pregnant Stella Randolph, no citizen of the town is safe from the wrath of the werewolf. Marty’s Uncle Red (Busey) tries to make light of the situation by building a motorized wheelchair for Marty, which in reality, is actually an adapted motor trike, and adds on a bag of fireworks for good measure. Marty’s first interaction with the werewolf occurs on the 4th of July as Marty saves himself from a certain gory death by firing a bottle rocket into the Werewolf’s eye. The resolute Marty enlists his sister and uncle into a final confrontation with the beast, armed with a single silver bullet. As for the outcome of this battle, well, we will leave this spoiler-free.
Now, for most of you, this may seem to be a by-the-numbers Werewolf film, but that is simply not the case. Let’s dissect this all for a minute, similar to how our hairy villain did to his victims. Our pregnant victim was in a second-story bedroom brushing her hair, love-stricken and pining for the man who seemingly did not want any part of what was growing in her belly. Enter the werewolf, through the window, tearing her apart like a pile of tissue paper. Unbeknownst to my young mind, there was an unspoken truce between man and lycanthrope that they do not enter through bedroom windows to kill their victims, but rather stalk their prey out in forests or any outdoor venue. A bedroom is supposed to be a sanctuary, a werewolf-free haven, especially for younger viewers witnessing this sacrilege on their 24-inch Zenith TVs.
As for our youngest victim Brady, whose only crime was flying a kite too late into a summer night, he was repaid with this folly by being decapitated and disembowelled, two d-words most people try and avoid. Again, kids were supposed to be off-limits in scary movies, but alas, there were no such rules in Silver Bullet. Lastly, and most surprising, the Sheriff of Tasker Mills made the fatal mistake of allowing the man who became the monster to become aware that his identity had been figured out by said officer of the law. Of course, he was quickly dispatched with ill regard, this death being the only one committed by the werewolf in his human form. To say these unformulaic or against-the-grain killings were surprising is an understatement, but the real question, is why it is an annual re-watch in my Halloween Horror movie cycle?
The film itself is not great by any standard, as even Roger Ebert thought it was more funny than scary, but that doesn’t stop it from its place in this writer’s heart. Werewolves scare me the most, it’s something I willingly admit to anyone. From the paranormal to the undead, it’s the idea of a hulking bipedal wolf monster that makes my heart race. My normal job requires a 3AM start time and you can bet your ass I sprint to the car the mornings where the Full Moon is still lingering in the sky. Perhaps Silver Bullet did more to create this psyche than any other film, but I’m also aware that it’s the last vestige of a dying reminder of my childhood that I have left. Why must we ‘put away our childish things’, and is not fear still listed amongst those things that adults do not have time for? The concluding thought is that Silver Bullet is just another Werewolf film, no more or less scary than any others, but damn if it isn’t a fun reminder that it’s okay to still have that feeling of dread when the full moon apexes in the sky. Just makes you want to howl.