Jane (narration by Tovah Feldshuh) recalls when there was a death in her old hometown back in 1976 when she was growing up, but the man who died was seen as a drunk who had stumbled onto a railway track and been decapitated. Nobody realised at that stage that there was an evil afoot that had performed the deed, but they began to twig when more deaths occured, each more bloody than the last and on the nights of the full moon, although nobody suspected a supernatural explanation. Jane (Megan Follows) lived with her parents and little brother Marty (Corey Haim), who she resented for getting all the attention - but not all that attention was welcome...
It's fairly well known that when Stephen King wrote his genre overview Danse Macabre that he pointed out werewolves were at that point passé, only to be proven wrong within months of the book's publication as the eighties got underway and werewolves littered the horror movies of the day for years afterwards. So it was only fitting that King should adapt his own wolfman novella (or novelette as the credits here term it) Cycle of the Werewolf for a movie that felt, ironcally, that it had missed the boat for this type of shocker. Still, it did well enough even if it was at the front of no one's mind when discussing the best King flicks.
But then, neither was it counted among the worst, as it was fairly undistinguished as a whole. What it did have to mark it out was an unusual hero in that Marty was disabled, and refreshingly was not portrayed in a patronising, world's best handicapped boy fashion, but as a normal kid mixed up with abnormal events when he encounters the werewolf one night. All right, we didn't really need the scene where he gazes longingly at a group of his peers playing baseball, but otherwise it was a positive characterisation and Haim didn't play to the gallery at all. The Silver Bullet of the title is not simply a manner of despatching a lycanthrope, but the name of Marty's souped up wheelchair as well.
There's more emphasis on character here than in many werewolf movies, but too often King seems to have taken the people here from stock, so there is his usual decent but harrassed sheriff, the local redneck bully who whips up ill-feeling, and the kids coming of age as their fears are tested. In the source this did not matter so much as while it may not have been one of his more notable works, it moved briskly through the seasons - the events of the text take place over the full moons of a whole year - and had a pleasing E.C. Comics style to the plotting, enhanced by some well-crafted illustrations by Berni Wrightson. Here however, the passage from page to screen smoothed out the material's high points.
Marty idolises his Uncle Red (an enthusiastic Gary Busey) without really taking on board how disreputable he is, not corrupting but he drinks too much and introduces the boy to gambling. There are parallels between Red and the identity of the wolfman in that they are both individuals Marty should be looking up to, but are revealed to be lacking in moral fibre. The difference is that Red redeems himself, while the bad guy, lacking personality as he does, accepts his lot in life as what was meant to be. The identity of the werewolf could have been better hidden as there's a dream sequence half an hour in that pretty much gives the whole game away, leaving the manner in which Jane and Marty work out who he is a bit of a letdown as we in the audience already know. The trouble with Silver Bullet was that by 1985, there wasn't much else to do with the werewolf legend; you could argue there still isn't. Music by Jay Chattaway.