Saturday, May 15, 2021

The Cycle of the Werewolf

Film: Silver Bullet
Format: DVD from Cortland Public Library on basement television.

Years ago, I read a lot of Stephen King. One of my brothers and one of my sisters were also King fans, and we used to trade books with each other. A new King comes out, someone gets it as a gift or just because and then passes it along. And so it goes. I did that with a lot of King books with them. The Cycle of the Werewolf was the loan exception. That one was mine and mine alone. Cycle was essentially a series of twelve short stories about a werewolf, one story per month. The werewolf manages to last a year, and the story is over at Christmas. It was a beautiful book, though, and illustrated by Bernie Wrightson. Not a shock that it was turned into a movie, albeit with the name changed to Silver Bullet.

The conceit of the book was that many of the months had full moons land on or around a specific holiday in that month—Valentine’s Day, Fourth of July, Halloween, etc, with everything winding up on Christmas. Moon cycles don’t work like that, of course, but it doesn’t really matter, and it was a fun way to look at each of the 12 chapters.

The movie isn’t going to do that. We’re going to start in late spring and end on Halloween. It’s more a summer of a werewolf, although a lot of the broad strokes of the story have remained. Our main character is wheelchair-bound Marty (Corey Haim), who will eventually be the one to susses out the reality of the werewolf and its human identity. Marty will be assisted by his sister Jane (Megan Follows) and his uncle Red (Gary Busey). There’s really only one person who can be the werewolf in this, but I’ll throw some possibilities into the mix for you. The sheriff (Terry O’Quinn) seems unable to solve the sudden spate of violent murders in the town. The local preacher (Everett McGill) has a massive upturn in business from this. Eventually, Marty will wound the beast, and we’ll learn the creature’s human identity shortly thereafter.

The truth is that Silver Bullet is a relatively tight little werewolf story. It doesn’t go anywhere too strange and doesn’t mess with the mythology at all. It’s very straightforward—the town is plagued by a werewolf for some reason, it goes on for several months, and then things get resolved the way that they’re supposed to with this kind of movie.

The truth is that there’s nothing really wrong with Silver Bullet aside from it being a bit simplistic. It doesn’t mess with the myths, but uses them well enough. It’s smart enough to give us a few scares and a bit of violence before wrapping everything up. The werewolf looks good enough, Corey Haim is surprisingly not that annoying, and Gary Busey is the right level of crazy. It’s perhaps a bit innocuous in that respect. It’s not bad, but that’s just it—it’s just not bad.

The biggest complaint I have is just how much this deviates from the source material. The entire point of the original book was to give us a werewolf story that took place over the course of a year, with the calendar essentially playing a part in the story actively. It was an affectation, but it was a god one, and one that worked. Silver Bullet cuts half of that, and except for the Fourth of July and Halloween, removes all of the holiday connections as well. The broad strokes of the story are here—Marty wounding the creature, the person who is infected, some semblance of the final battle, as well as the scene where the werewolf has a terrifying nightmare. This is good, but there are some great elements from the book left out.

Truthfully, Silver Bullet isn’t going to rewrite the werewolf movie, but it’s also not trying to. It’s entertaining enough to be worth a watch, which is more or less enough for any movie most of the time. I probably won’t watch this again, but it was fine to watch once. I do want to go find The Cycle of the Werewolf, though, and read it again.

Why to watch Silver Bullet: A fun werewolf story.
Why not to watch: Man, does this mess with the source material.


  1. There was a brief period where I read everything Stephen King-running between Salem's Lot through Firestarter (I did back up and read Carrie somewhere in there as well and The Stand remains one of my favorite books) but then a sameness crept in and except for Cujo and Christine I haven't read a word of his since.

    Cycle of the Werewolf fell outside of that group so I'm not familiar with the text but I did find Silver Bullet silly fun the one time I watched it. That Gary Busey is one crazy box of crackerjacks! With very few exceptions you always know what you're going to get with him. Subtlety is not his strong suit, but in this sort of enterprise that worked well.

    1. The joy of The Cycle o the Werewolf is that you can read it in maybe 90 minutes or so. If you can find a copy, it's worth reading, or at least worth looking at, because the art is tremendous.

      You're right about this being silly fun. Sometimes, that's enough.

  2. Eh, I can take Busey or leave him. I'm saddened sometimes by how much talent and potential he wasted--he was genuinely great at one point, as The Buddy Holly Story demonstrated.