Movie of the Week: Silver Bullet

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In the spring of 1976, a vicious evil comes to the small town of Tarker’s Mills.  On a quiet night in May, under a full moon, a railroad worker gets his head knocked off by something with mean claws and a ferocious appetite.  Seeing as the dead man, Arnie, is better known for his drunk spells than anything else, his death is chalked up to his own bad luck.

Stella Randolph’s death can’t be so easily explained. Newly pregnant from an affair with a married man who wants nothing to do with her or the baby, she is contemplating suicide when something crashes into her bedroom and kills her. She’s no drunk and this was plainly murder.

As the deaths count rises with each month with each full moon, the killer hits close to home for young Marty Coslaw. His friend Tammy’s father becomes a victim. The world is at no great loss to see him go as it’s implied that he’s abusive to Tammy and he is downright hateful to Marty (he calls Marty a cripple and thinks all cripples should be executed or else they’ll all end up on welfare). The next victim is Marty’s best friend, Brady.

With a murderer on the loose, the town not only enacts a curfew, but events, like the Fourth of July, are cancelled (shelter in place, people, shelter in place) . Of course, there are a few members of the community who want to take the law into their own hands. They think the sheriff doesn’t know what he’s doing and isn’t doing all he could do, so they form a vigilante mob to hunt the killer, be it man or beast.

The gung-ho vigilante gentlemen die horrifically.

Things are bad in the town and Marty’s only shred of fun can be found in a visit from his Uncle Red, his mom’s brother. Red is the black sheep of the family. He tends to drink a little too much, he may get a little loud, womanize and he’s working on his third divorce. Where Marty’s mom tends to focus on the wheelchair and his sister thinks he gets coddled and excused for being a paraplegic, Uncle Red treats him no different than anyone else.

To cheer up his nephew on July Fourth, Uncle Red presents Marty with a new, souped-up wheelchair that’s more of a race car. He also gives Marty a bag of fireworks. While shooting off the fireworks in the middle of the night, Marty is attacked by the killer, a werewolf, and wounds him in the eye with a bottle rocket.

Marty survives and is possessed with a determination to stop the monster. He convinces his sister to help him and, after another brush with the killer, Uncle Red comes around to thinking his nephew and niece may not be imagining things.

I’ll be the first to admit I may have some personal bias for Silver Bullet. I cannot watch this movie without thinking of my Uncle Calvin and it’s all because of Gary Busey’s performance as Uncle Red. I think everyone in the world has an Uncle Red and I freely admit I miss mine.

But the movie is great, too. Along with the original The Wolf Man and Dog Soldiers, Silver Bullet rounds out my favorite werewolf films. And if you’re a horror fan of a certain age (where’s all my fellow eighties kids at?), it’s a nice ride down memory lane. Maybe you’ll think of your Uncle Red, too.