Release Date(s)1985 (January 12, 2018)
Studio(s)Paramount Pictures (Umbrella Entertainment)
- Film/Program Grade: B
- Video Grade: A-
- Audio Grade: B+
- Extras Grade: B
Growing up in the 1980s, Stephen King was one of your mainstays if your were a horror fan. Few of his books drew you in quite as powerfully as “Cycle of the Werewolf”, a short novella featuring fantastic artwork by the late, great Bernie Wrightson. On the flipside there was Silver Bullet, the Dino De Laurentiis film adaptation, which many young horror fans also grew up with. The story of a small town in which a werewolf is killing its citizens, leaving only a wheelchair-bound young boy, his sister, and his uncle to stop it managed to earn cult status over the course of its lifetime, but wasn’t well-received by critics initially.
As you probably know, throughout the 1970s and 1980s, a number of Stephen King adaptations were made, many of which started out with different directors attached to them. John Carpenter was attached to Firestarter while George A. Romero was set to make Pet Sematary, among others. In the case of Silver Bullet, Don Coscarelli, who was fresh off The Beastmaster at the time, began the project but left early on during its development due to creative differences. Newcomer Dan Attais stepped in and took the project over, making it his own. Notable members of the cast include a young Corey Haim, Gary Busey, Terry O’Quinn, Megan Follows, Everett McGill, Bill Smitrovich, and Lawrence Tierney.
What I like about Silver Bullet, besides its performances, is its unwillingness to compromise. This is a movie about a werewolf that will kill anybody, including pregnant women and kids, making the threat of it all the more severe. The werewolf effects, although dated for their time, are some of the best of their type. Unfortunately, the werewolf itself just isn’t that effective in appearance. Corey Haim is quite believable in his role as a crippled young boy just trying to do the right thing in a world full of people standing over him, not mention having to deal with a werewolf. Then there’s Gary Busey, who I would say gives one of the best performances in the movie, bringing substance to his role, more so than just his manic persona. All in all, Silver Bullet is fine horror film that’s mostly light-hearted, but never fails to go for the jugular when necessary.
Umbrella Entertainment’s Region Free Blu-ray release of the film features an excellent transfer, which upon first glance is not much different from its DVD counterpart in terms of framing and color reproduction. However, the crispness and higher levels of detail are distinctly noticeable. There are a few moments when grain tends to spike, but for the most, it’s well-rendered and even from scene to scene. Black levels sometimes suffer for it, but are otherwise deep. It’s also an extremely clean and clear presentation with only occasional speckling or scratches, as well as strong color reproduction and natural skin tones. Well-tuned contrast appropriately brightens things up without going overboard. The only real blemish I noticed occurred at around the 01:14:24 mark. At the top of the edge of the frame, a weak edge of the original element is visible, but it’s fleeting – lasting less than a second. The audio is presented on an English 2.0 DTS-HD track with optional English subtitles. Not an overly stereophonic track, there isn’t much in terms of speaker to speaker activity. Ambient moments, however, do crop up, specifically those taking place in the forest at night with crickets chirping in the background. It’s not exactly a flat, narrow track either as there’s plenty of fidelity to be had, as well as strong dialogue reproduction and a potent score. Overall, a wonderful presentation.
The most exciting aspect of this release for fans will be its extras, which aren’t numerous, but feature plenty of entertaining new material (mostly by Red Shirt Pictures) to delve into. First up is an audio commentary with director Daniel Attias, moderated by Michael Felsher, which goes over much of Attais’ involvement with the production, as well as his other film and TV work. Next is Dino’s Angel Takes on Lycanthropy: Martha De Laurentiis Remembers Silver Bullet, in which she goes into lots of background detail about the making of the film and her experiences with it. Next is an additional audio track featuring isolated score selections and an audio interview with composer Jay Chattaway, also by Michael Felsher. The Wolf Within, an interview with Everett McGill features the actor revealing his trepidations about the film and the fans of it that continue to ask him about it. Full Moon Fever: The Effects of Silver Bullet interviews special effects artists Michael McCracken, Jr. and Matthew Mungle, both of which tell some great behind the scenes stories. The rest of the extras include the film’s original theatrical trailer in HD (which is an obvious reconstruction); a TV spot; a radio spot; and an animated still gallery with 73 images.
Like many horror films of the 1980s, Silver Bullet has its fan who continue to adore it over thirty years after its initial release. Thanks to repeated cable viewings and numerous VHS rentals, it grew on many folks who were initially skeptical about it. Although it was released on Blu-ray elsewhere in the world a couple of years ago, this is the kind of release that fans have been clamoring for. With an excellent transfer and quality extras, it’s definitely one you’ll want to pick up.
- Tim Salmons