Silver Bullet (1985)

Silver Bullet (1985), directed by Daniel Attias.

Without warning, residents of a peaceful little town are being murdered in a savage fashion. The kid in the motorized wheelchair figures it out first: werewolf. How to convince the others? Soon they know the identity of the cursed being. Now what to do?

This seems like a "date" horror film, something like Carpenter's The Fog (1980): a few scary moments but not terribly gruesome. The director -- on his first job -- said he did not care for horror films and tried to put in more humor and human interest, hoping for a PG13 rating. Producer Dino De Laurentiis and writer Stephen King had other ideas and it is in fact "R".

The werewolf effects are rudimentary and we mostly get glimpses. For some reason effective wolf-beast-man creatures are hard to present. Carlo Rambaldi is credited as "werewolf suit creator"; he had no time or budget.

The young people are very good. Corey Haim is just excellent as a happy kid in a wheelchair without a trace of self-pity. He gets one quiet moment watching the other kids playing baseball and we understand that it's not all good times.

Megan Follows is very natural as his over-burdened big sister. Love in the large, but much irritation day by day.

Then we have Gary Busey as Uncle Red, a big kid himself. He has his own disability -- booze -- and the parallel he draws between the brother/sister and he and his own sister (the mom) eventually comes home to him. The director wanted Busey for the role, but says he was high maintenance, requiring more time than both kids put together.

Great ensemble of loved character actors: Terry O'Quinn and Bill Smitrovich (who would both be in the Millennium TV series a decade later), and James Gammon as the first victim. I mostly know Everett McGill from Twin Peaks, but also remember him from Dune (1984) and Heartbreak Ridge (1986).

I recall a pair of TV critics finding this really vile for putting a wheelchair kid in peril. Not Siskel and Ebert; must have been the other guys.

Available on Blu-ray on an all-region import from Umbrella in Australia. Quality is just fair.

Several extras and two commentary tracks: a conversation with the director and another with the composer.