“The last full moon of that spring came a little more than a month before school let out for summer vacation. Our town’s long nightmare began that night” – Silver Bullet (1985)
We have once again passed a change of the season. I have always indulged in a lot of horror films during the summer months (an activity that involves indoors and air conditioning, the only way I enjoy summer). With the Fourth of July coming up, I was reminded once more of the iconic scene in Silver Bullet, when protagonist Marty (Corey Haim) defends himself with a firework against the werewolf terrorizing his hometown. Based on the 1983 novella “Cycle of the Werewolf” by Stephen King, Silver Bullet follows a small Maine town’s recurring horror with a strange new presence and how some unlikely heroes take the lead in destroying it.
Silver Bullet is set in 1976, in a fictional town called Tarker’s Mills. The movie begins with the first killing, which involves a town drunk losing his head (literally) to a werewolf at the train tracks. This first slaying is disregarded as this victim’s own doing…until more killings occur each full moon. Marty Coslaw, a preteen boy who uses a wheelchair, sees what the adults do not. When his best friend is killed, Marty proposes that what the town faces is a monster. His suspicions are confirmed when he is attacked by the beast while setting off fireworks one night. He wards the werewolf off with a firework to an eye. He manages to escape in his motorized wheelchair.
Marty recounts the incident to his sister, Jane. While on the lookout for a townsperson missing an eye, Jane comes across one person who fits Marty’s description: Reverend Lowe. Eventually, Marty convinces his sister and uncle that the string of attacks is something beyond the world they know. Now a target of the werewolf, Marty must use his wit and determination to save himself and the people of Tarker’s Mills.
Werewolf stories are often morality tales, and Silver Bullet goes all in on this trope. Not only is the werewolf the town reverend, but Lowe also justifies his killings by arguing that his victims were wicked and would have been doomed without him. He believes he was chosen by a higher power to enforce morality. Another theme in Silver Bullet is this: things are not always as they seem. The least likely person to cause harm turned out to be the monster. Marty, who most characters underestimate due to his age and condition, is the one who leads to the monster’s destruction.
Silver Bullet is a movie I have shared with people in my life time and time again. It is just spooky enough for monster movie night. More than anything, it is so campy and hilarious that everyone enjoys watching it from beginning to end. This was one of the first 1980s horror films I ever watched, and it should be on everyone’s list. This is one of the very few werewolf stories Stephen King has written, and it is perfect in so many ways. “Cycle of the Werewolf” is not the easiest book to track down, but it is worth it to try. If nothing else, make sure to watch Silver Bullet if you have not enjoyed it already.
Until next time,